Grier’s send-off (Rhino Times)

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The Rhino Times story of the week goes to the “inside coverage” of Dr. Grier’s secret send-off at the new Northern Guilford H.S. last week.

And what a bash it was.

The article speaks for itself.

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Secret School Superintendent Soiree Held
by Paul Clark
Staff Writer

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Ten members of the Guilford County Board of Education were present at Northern Guilford High School on Thursday, March 6, and all 10 spoke from the podium about school business, in this case departing School Superintendent Terry Grier. Despite that, and the fact that the schools prepared an agenda for the event, school administrators said this was not a meeting and tried to keep the public and press from attending.

Guilford County Schools must not want The Rhino to print nice things about Grier.

That’s all we can figure.

You’d think having reporters at the celebratory bash for Grier at Northern would be a no-brainer, from a publicity standpoint.

The image “http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:_WtN8Y_x7o3Q5M:http://aasa.files.cms-plus.com/images/SA/June2006/pro_Grier.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. After all, here was an event at which about 200 people would gather to say nice things about Grier, who is leaving March 14 to take the superintendent’s job in San Diego, and Guilford County Schools in general.

It’s not as if the event was likely to generate controversy. It was an orchestrated love-fest at which members of the Guilford County Board of Education and others could get up and tell a sympathetic crowd, over hors d’oeuvres, that Grier is a fine chap, kind to animals and small children, and that the schools are in great shape.

Like we said, a PR no-brainer.

When we called Haley Miller, the schools’ redoubtable program director for communications, however, to get the details on the party, the line went quiet.

Uh … it’s a private event, by invitation only, Miller said, finally, in that embarrassed tone people use when you accidentally hear about a party that they just know you are way too uncool to get into.

But seriously, Haley, what time’s the party?

No, Miller insisted, a hoedown for the school board, most of the senior staff of Guilford County Schools, the United Way of Greater Greensboro, hordes of local politicians and pretty much anyone else who likes teriyaki chicken and those tiny little meatballs in gravy, held in the soaring atrium of a spanking-new, $42 million high school the schools want to show off as a model for future construction, is a private event. No public or press allowed.

Go figure.

We went back and looked at the agenda of the event distributed to staff and school board members. Sure enough, despite being labeled “AGENDA” in really big letters, all caps, the schedule for the two-hour event bore the words, “Agenda’s [sic] will not be printed/distributed.”

Apparently the event was top secret after all. Not a well-kept, CIA-type, if-I-told-you-I’d-have-to-kill-you kind of secret, since the school board members had discussed the event publicly on television. More like an Animal House, double-secret-probation level secret.

Miller knows her business best. But The Rhino knows the news business, and telling reporters they can’t possibly go somewhere is the surest way we know, short of an open bar, to make sure they show up.

So at 5 p.m. we parked at Northern and joined the scores of well-dressed partygoers gathering in the atrium.

The image “https://i1.wp.com/www.gcsnc.com/schools/images/S.%20Conway.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Sonya Conway, the Guilford County Schools chief district relations officer, who is leaving the same day as Grier to take a PR job with American Express, spotted us.

“You do realize this isn’t a public event?” Conway said, without much hope. “It’s by invitation only.”

So we hear.

When we showed no sign of leaving, Conway seemed perplexed. We could picture “Suspicious Schools Soiree Held Secretly” headlines running through her head as she considered the possible repercussions of ejecting the working press from what was, by any rational definition, a public event.

Eventually, Conway sighed and motioned to Miller. If we wouldn’t leave, we should at least be clearly marked, she told Miller. We guess you don’t want one of those politicos letting something slip over meatballs to a member of the press who looks like a civilian.

There was no way to put a bell around our neck, so Miller dug up a name badge.

Thus it was that The Rhino reporter, alone among the revelers, wound up wearing a large purple Northern High nametag. Ours bore the letters RHINO MEDIA. We know how to do all caps, too.

The image “http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:UuPfFYD_g7-PtM:http://www.ncleg.net/House/pictures/93.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Circulating through the crowd, we stopped to talked to District 59 State Rep. Maggie Jeffus, who said the school was beautiful, and – sorry, Haley, but we have to report it or we’d lose our hard-hitting journalist credentials – said nice things about Grier.

“I think Dr. Grier will be missed,” Jeffus said.

We can see why the schools wouldn’t want that in print.

Miller materialized again.

The two buffet tables, and the dessert table, were paid for with private funds, she assured us.

That’s fine, Haley, but we didn’t ask. Now that you bring it up, though, who paid for them?

I don’t know, Miller said, and retreated, looking flustered.

Go figure.

The image “http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:1_BU5QBCBcWHkM:http://www.gcsnc.com/boe/images/sharpe.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. We found school board member Anita Sharpe by the stage, looking relaxed, as befits a longtime public official who has decided not to run for reelection and can, for once, just enjoy the ride.

What do you think of the party, we asked her.

“It’s paid for” (wait for it …) “by private funds,” Sharpe said.

Err … so we hear, but we didn’t ask. We didn’t show up with the idea of writing an investigative series on meatballs.

“That’s something you would write,” Sharpe said.

Thanks, we guess.

The image “http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:YAOkmnRgOSGI2M:http://www.gcsnc.com/images/cooke1.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. School board member Kris Cooke, for one, was refreshingly undefensive about the event.

“This is something we should do when a superintendent has been here for eight years,” Cooke said.

Having spiked the guns of the Guilford County Schools communications department, The Rhino can exclusively reveal to its readers around the world that the school board members think Grier is, well, a pretty nice guy.

The image “http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:8WIUzvbOvh2sfM:http://www.gcsnc.com/boe/images/hebert.JPG” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Of the 11 school board members, only Garth Hebert didn’t attend. He had something else to do, he said.

The rest lined up to compliment Grier and his wife, Nancy. School board Chairman Alan Duncan presented Mrs. Grier with flowers, and Neil Belenky, the outgoing president of the United Way of Greater Greensboro, presented Grier with a plaque.

Belenky lauded Grier for his work with the community outside the schools. Grier worked hard to help after Hurricane Katrina, he said.

“He truly made the school system and the community one,” Belenky said.

The school board members, one by one, came to the microphone to say nice things about Grier. Most of them used at least part of their time, however, to mention how much they, at various times, had disagreed with him.

The image “http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:3sietlTf1Y_ALM:http://www.gcsnc.com/images/kearns1.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. “None of us has agreed with everything Dr. Grier has suggested, and I know he hasn’t agreed with everything we suggested,” said school board member Dot Kearns, perhaps Grier’s strongest supporter on the board.

Cooke, who sat next to Grier at school board meetings, said she kicked him during meetings to prevent him from getting upset. “I think he started kicking me, in the end,” Cooke said.

The image “http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:qBrmE_FJ9jZIdM:http://www.gcsnc.com/images/hayes.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. School board member Deena Hayes followed with a humorous attack on Cooke that drew loud but somewhat shocked laughter from those present, who were expecting nothing but good vibes.

“After being on the receiving end of Kris’ votes, I wish he would have kicked her harder,” Hayes said.

Hayes praised Grier’s business acumen, his social conviction, and, alone among the school board members, his sense of fashion.

School board member Nancy Routh said that, when Grier arrived, she didn’t expect to agree with him on much. Despite that, he led the schools in a good direction, she said.

The image “http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:R-k8P1SwiyWlQM:http://www.gcsnc.com/images/garrett1.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. School board member Darlene Garrett said she and Grier hadn’t always agreed on everything, but complimented him for lowering dropout rates and for starting the schools’ middle college program. “I’m going to miss you,” she said.

School board member Jeff Belton said he had learned from Grier how to talk to adversaries and praised Grier’s work ethic, citing an email he had gotten from Grier on a school issue at 4:45 a.m.

“I won’t talk about those things we didn’t agree on, because we do have somewhere to go tonight,” Belton said.

The image “http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:XykYJA9P4vqruM:http://www.gcsnc.com/images/duncan1.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Duncan presented Grier with framed prints of three historic buildings in Greensboro, High Point and Oak Ridge.

Duncan described the superintendent slot as “the hardest job in any county,” and said that a new superintendent will be attacked from his first day on the job, if only for his pay.

“Your salary is in the paper every year, and whatever it is, people think it’s too much,” Duncan said.

The Rhino runs an annual roundup of salaries of school officials. Grier now makes $372,000 in salary and benefits.

Duncan said that school board members who opposed Grier’s hiring – the board hired him on a 6-to-5 vote – ended up supporting him. He praised Grier for the middle colleges and for the Mission Possible program, which pays highly qualified teachers bonuses to teach in low-performing schools.

Duncan, too, said he had not always agreed with Grier, but said that was the nature of the superintendent’s job. “Even if you are doing your very best, you will draw lightning to the rod,” Duncan said.

For his part, Grier said he was humbled and honored by all the praise. In a flight of rhetoric worthy of an Academy Awards ceremony, Grier said that superintendents, even if they draw lightning, shouldn’t just weather the storm.

“I think you’re better served if you can learn how to dance in the rain,” Grier said.

Go figure.

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E.C. )

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4 Responses

  1. God Bless the Rhino, for only they can produce the facts and make me laugh at the same time.

    I’m very curious now who donated the chicken and meatballs. Maybe that same person/organization would be willing to donate some toilet paper to my child’s school?

    This double, secret probation event makes it crystal clear that our Superintendent was not liked by most of the county. The fact that they (BOE, administration and the few others that were invited) fear the public and press speaks for itself.

    One or two “Get Terry Grier Outta Here” signs would not have ruined the evening. In fact, I wonder if Terry would like one for a keepsake?

    Kudos to Garth for not attending the secret love-fest.

  2. They knew that if it had been public knowledge there would have been some yellow signs out there.

  3. “Hide the truth”, that should be Guilford County School’s motto. Every chance they get they skew numbers, hide kids across town, hide money and pull it out when needed, hide maps in their back pockets and pull it out when needed, and now this–hide the former Superintendent so we don’t hurt his feelings as we escort him to the curb. They’re all a bunch of cowards. They have only one task to do and they can’t manage to do it. (Educate kids)

  4. He’s an idiot. Personally I know that I will not let him rest just because he’s on the west coast.

    Have any of you ever seen Terry Grier’s curriculum vitae? If so, have you ever noted that he spells out each district and the white to minority percentages on each school district he’s been a superintendent in?

    Would anyone know why anyone would put white to minority school district ratios on their cirriculum vitae?

    Actually the whole thing is interesting and many of the awards he’s received are really very questionable, especially in regard to the hell GCS has had to endure.

    The investigation into that vitae will be very interesting for anyone who would like a true accounting for who he really is and exactly what he’s been up to in this and many other districts.

    It becomes clear how he’s done what he’s done and will continue to do until finally he’s exposed. If you would go through and actually look up all of the organizations he’s been a “member” of, if you would go deeper, all of the puzzle pieces begin to fit together.

    Just because he’s gone doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.

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