Mike Stone lays out his platform for D-3 race

The image “https://i0.wp.com/gcms0004.co.guilford.nc.us/elections_cms/images/static/cmslogo2.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. I said a while back here that I invite any candidate, whether they are running in the at-large race or any district race, to feel free to use this forum. We have the audience (at an average daily readership of 200+), we have the voters, and we have the pulse of the local media at our fingertips here.

I’m proud that we run a non-biased, unrestricted, open forum here and no matter what side of the fence you fall on, we respect differences here, primarily because we can learn from them.

That being said, we have obtained a copy of GCS Board Dist. 3 challenger Mike Stone’s platform and position paper. Not only have we verified its authenticity, his campaign wants us to broadcast it. And you may be surprised at what he says.

We’ve announced our support early on for incumbent Darlene Garrett. But in fairness, Stone wants to get his message out and wants voters to know just why he is challenging Garrett. Also in fairness, we will reach out to Garrett to see if she would like to respond to what you’re about to read.

In a rematch of the 2000 District 3 race, Stone will face Garrett on the November ballot and will participate in the April 15 forum at Northern Guilford H.S.

Here, in his own words…Mike Stone:

I had made the comment that a big difference between Darlene and me was
that I am more assertive in creating actions and addressing issues,
while Darlene tends to want to get along with as many folks as possible
(not rock the boat). In the 2/28 edition of the Rhino Times, Darlene
clearly demonstrated this very point.

Darlene states that, “teachers and principals need to have input into
decisions, rather than having decisions forced on them.” I totally
agree. However, she’s been in a position to correct or address this for
8 years. Don’t ask – tell the BOE that a committee of board members,
teachers, and principals needs to be commissioned to address decisions
put upon them and to come up with workable solutions. Their consensus
and reports would become recommendations to the BOE to discuss and vote
upon on a regular basis. If members of the school board balk and vote
against the teachers and principals – well at least you’ve got it on
record and on TV. Again, it’s a lack of leadership and assertiveness
that’s holding us back from achieving excellence.

Darlene states that “we need more funding.” I totally agree, but we
differ on how to achieve this critical goal. She and the rest of the
BOE want to antagonize and berate their funding body – the County
Commissioners. Yeah – that’ll just make ’em open up the county piggy
bank. How about this – let’s find the waste and eliminate it from the
school system. There is no way – NO WAY – that a school system this
size doesn’t have waste in its operations. If we demonstrate fiscal
responsibility and show that we are working towards a very lean system
of operations, then I believe that the CC’s will be more receptive to
funding requests. By the way, Darlene’s vote to support the BOE having
taxing authority IS NOT fiscally responsible or prudent.

Darlene is on record in this article stating that “the school board
needs to look closely at discipline in the schools.” Excuse me???
She’s ON the school board. If this needs to be done, make a motion or
at the very least start the discussion at every board meeting. She has
had an opportunity every meeting to bring up topics for discussion – for
8 years. The public doesn’t have that luxury and opportunity, and she’s
wasting it. I agree with her that discipline/violence is an issue, but
I have ideas on how to address it. What I don’t have is a seat and
voice on the BOE. Darlene has the seat and voice, but doesn’t use it,
and she evidently doesn’t have an idea on where to start this process.

Darlene states that, “the exit of School Superintendent Terry Grier is a
big opportunity for the school board to make changes.” No, that’s the
situation that the board has to deal with. The “opportunity” has
existed for years, but the school board chose to follow rather than lead
the superintendent and his administration. Dr. Grier created discontent
and grief for a long time. Remember how they handled Dr. Grier’s bad
decisions in the past? Darlene and the rest of the BOE extended his
contract. The BOE sent a clear message to the citizens that Dr. Grier
is right and he has our total support. All Darlene or any other BOE
member had to do is make a motion to go into closed session to discuss a
personnel matter. Then, after returning to open session make a motion
to dismiss Terry Grier. Pass or fail, the clear message has been sent
and the Supt. and the administration is on notice to get on board and
stop wreaking havoc on the citizens. This “opportunity” Darlene speaks
of is really her “way out”. She doesn’t have to ruffle feathers, she
doesn’t have to create waves, and she doesn’t have to assert herself for
the betterment of the community. Once again, I agree with her
statement, but her lack of action is where we differ.

In 2000, Darlene and I both ran for the open seat. Our goals and
objectives were very similar. Let’s look at the record she’s build over
the past 8 years compared to our agreed upon goals…

Citizen Involvement: We both noted that the BOE must involve all
citizens in the community in the decision-making process for education.
At that time, the BOE was in their “circle the wagons” mode and
resistant to hearing from the communities. The avoided any outside
involvement and influence from the citizens that they represented. The
cities and county governments have citizens committees that are advisory
teams to the councils and commissioners. This provides opportunities
for improvement and involvement. It also puts more emphasis on
community participation rather than the BOE making decisions in a
vacuum. Now that was 2000. What’s changed? Have you heard Darlene or
any member of the BOE looking for input from the community? Are there
any advisory committees? Any place where regular Joes and Janes can
contribute or plug in? Nope. The BOE want to do it all themselves with
only the input of the administration. The truth be know, it’s probably
the administration that doesn’t want community involvement, and the BOE
is complying with their requirements and directions.

Community Response: This is actually part of the community involvement,
but both Darlene and I agreed that it is unconscionable for the BOE to
sit stoic and quiet during the citizens comment portion of the BOE
meetings. These people expect a response or reaction to their concerns.
While the board can’t openly address every issue at that time, they can
assign department heads or other individuals to gather information from
the citizen and report back to the board. It might take a little
longer, but we owe it to the citizens to address their concerns. Of
course, it’s 8 years later and the same process is still being used and
there’s no indication that Darlene will ever stand up and say it needs
to change.

School Superintendent: Hot off of the departure of Jerry Weast, Darlene
and I agreed that the new school superintendent needed to avoid the
media and prevent himself from becoming a political lightning rod. What
happened? Terry Grier loved the media attention and was the most
powerful non-elected person in the county. We ended up in this mess
because they repeated the failure of hiring an outside firm to search
for a superintendent. Now the BOE is poised to do the exact same thing
yet again. Why is it in a school system this large that there’s not a
single person developed and prepared to assume this position? The
reality is that there are highly qualified and dedicated people ready
and willing to step in, but the BOE will never give them a chance. We
need a Supt. that’s “home grown” and understands school operations – not
administration. Give me our best principal, and he/she will be a better
Supt. than anyone you can find outside our system.

Fiscal Accountability: I could write a book on the lack of openness,
problems with information availability, and questionable decisions on
school funding and spending. We discussed a lot of these issues and you
and I have the same concerns today that Darlene and I had in 2000. Oh
by the way, just a reminder that Darlene voted to give the BOE taxing
authority.

School Discipline: In 2000 the problem was “bullying”. Today, it’s
gravitated to talks of “gangs”. Since we didn’t do diddly-squat about
the bullies, are they today’s gang members? In school suspension is a
joke. SCALE doesn’t work. While it’s not popular, some of the kids
need to be suspended – out of the school. Let the parents deal with
them instead of a teacher. School violence is under-reported based on
evidence from the News 2 investigation, yet the BOE sticks its
collective heads in the sand and wants to pretend that it’s all in how
you define “violence”. Teachers and principals tell me they won’t
jeopardize their careers by rocking the boat on this one. The BOE needs
to demonstrate LEADERSHIP. Tell Anthony Scales that he’d better find a
way to get EVERY incident of violence reported to him. Then, he will be
responsible for deciding what gets reported to DPI. If he under-reports
the violence reported from the schools, it’ll cost him his career. At
the very least, the BOE would have two individuals to direct all these
issues – the school safety director and the school supt.

School Bonds and Construction: We both agree that there’s a better way
to build schools than a ½ billion dollar bond. We can also build good
schools (not monuments to the BOE) for less per square foot. The models
are in Mecklenburg and Forsyth Counties. Same issue that we had in
2000, but Darlene has supported and promoted ever single bond referendum
that’s been proposed and has yet to find any fault with the bond or
construction process.

Here’s another idea I proposed in 2000 – we need to have one single
design for the elementary school, one for middle, and one for the high
school. Pay an architect to provide all the specs and details. Pay for
it one time. When we need to build a high school, go to the drawer,
pull out the design and start building. There’s a huge time and money
saver. So what if all the schools look the same. In most people’s eyes
that eliminate the disparities they see in the system.

Waste in the Administration: Both Darlene and I believed that there
were positions within the administration that were waste. We believed
that there was waste in how departments were operated. We believed that
there was duplication in functions and activities within the system.
Since 2000, I still see the waste. Darlene has done nothing in 8 years
to address or eliminate it. In fact, at a recent board meeting that was
discussing the budget she actually stated that the BOE couldn’t get rid
of administration personnel because most have contracts. First, that
doesn’t mean they can’t be reassigned until their contracts are up for
renewal. Second, why are we giving any administrator a contract longer
than a single school year? Teachers don’t get 5 year contracts. Why
should anyone else?

Greensboro is in the process of trimming 49 positions from their roles
without cutting services. Can anyone honestly assume that the Guilford
County School system (larger entity that the City of Greensboro) doesn’t
have the same opportunity?

Some people are afraid of change. I’m more afraid of what will happen
if we don’t change. 8 years is a long time to show no positive results.

*********************

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E.C. )

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11 Responses

  1. “Darlene is on record in this article stating that “the school board needs to look closely at discipline in the schools.” Excuse me??? She’s ON the school board. If this needs to be done, make a motion or at the very least start the discussion”

    I believe that, in response to a question from Ms. Garrett at the 12/19/2005 BOE meeting, the district is to gather statistics on ‘frequent flyers’ and report back to the BOE.

    http://www.gcsnc.com/boe/2006/1_10/minutes12_19.htm

    “Balanced Scorecard Update – Suspension Data

    Dr. Eric Becoats, Chief of Staff, updated the Board on the long- and short-term suspension data across the district for the months of September and October 2005. He reported that the total number of students suspended has decreased as compared to September and October 2004 with the greatest decrease at the high school level. However, he noted that African American students continue to be suspended at a higher rate than other students.

    The Board expressed their concerns regarding the high level of African American students being suspended and asked Dr. Becoats to keep them updated.”

    http://www.gcsnc.com/boe/board_summary/05december19.html

    “Balanced Scorecard Update – Suspension Data
    Dr. Eric Becoats, chief of staff, presented to the Board long-and short-term suspension data across the district. The Board requested data to illustrate which teachers are suspending students and a strategic plan to address the issue. “

  2. EC,

    Thanks for posting this information on your website. Again you offer excellent public service.

    I wonder how Mike Stone feels about busing. I wonder if he would have been as supportive to the Northern High Point families as Darlene was?

    I wonder if he would have driven out to the schools in North High Pont time after time when parents had issues in the schools? These aren’t issues that were in the public’s eye.

    There are many, many former North High Pointers now living in the NW part of the county.

  3. I like the sound of Mike Stone.

  4. Friend,
    Let me answer your questions directly. I don’t like busing – never have and probably never will. I assume you’re referring to the HP “Choice” plan. The HP process was a bust from the start and caused more problems than it could have ever solved.

    Would I drive out to a school time after time when parents have issues? Yes. I don’t know how to respond to that question any other way. Yes.

    Yes, there are many former HP folks in the NW area. Many moved here because of the problems in the HP area schools that they are trying to escape. How sad, but true.

  5. Parent2,
    Thank you for the kind words.

    Just as an aside, I was born and raised in nothwest Guilford County. I was educated in the Guilford County School system and graduated from Western Guilford HS when it was a “county school” (pre-merger). My kids attended and graduated from the Guilford County Schools (also WGHS alumni). I’ve been involved in school activities since the day my son went to his first day of kindergarden. I don’t think I’ve yet to lose any of the passion for the schools and for education.

  6. Mr. Stone,

    You appear to be a fine candidate for the school board, but it is my opinion that you are in the wrong race. Darlene Garrett has served her constituents in NW Guilford very well. She may have been less aggressive than others might have been, but then no one was there, but her. We can criticize her and say what we would have done different, but she was the one that had to walk the walk, often as a coalition of one on that school board. Time after time, she has been a vote of one, when the others were voting the wrong way. Darlene is thought of quite highly in this area. As I said, perhaps, you would have been better served running in the At-large race. Of course, you would have had to run against Mr. Huey. It’s shame that we have so many members of this board that could use some competition from a quality candidate, but will not get it.

  7. Stormy,
    Thank you for your kind words and your honest feedback. I’m running in District 3 because I’ve lived here most of my life. My heart and home are in this area. I appreciate Darlene’s service and her dedication, and I have been supportive of her in the past.

    Yes, at times she has been “a coalition of one”, but so have many other board members. The difference is that these other board members are assertive enough to get actions and responses to issues that impact their districts. Anita Sharpe is the fiscal conservative that has stood alone on many budgetary issues for years. Amos Quick stands alone on some social and disciplinary issues. And Garth Hebert – what a guy – seems to be in a room alone on many issues that are most important to citizens without kids in the schools as well as parents. All of these folks have stated their positions, proposed changes, and stayed on the administration and other BOE members until things got done.

    Yes, Darlene is thought of very highly. Very few would disagree. However, I truly believe that it is time that our district move into a leadership role and make sure that our area is represented with someone that will take positive, assertive steps to support and champion our district and its citizens.

    Finally, I could not agree more with your final statement. Competition and change in some of these BOE races would have a tremendous impact on the quality of education in Guilford County.

  8. Friends,

    My family and I have very close ties to Greensboro and Guilford County, I was raised here my father was raised here, my grandfather was raised here, and my children have been raised here.

    Mike raises some very interesting questions; we should all spend some time thinking about these issues prior to casting our ballot in November.

    I personally have never met Ms. Darlene Garrett. However as an avid supporter of public education I have followed the decisions of our board very closely. Often times I would find myself sitting in the board room on Eugene Street, or watching the meeting from the comfort of my home on television. Listening to the line of discussion I would often hear myself saying “this is a board of education?” and about that time, Ms. Garrett would pipe up and say exactly what needed to be said. Whether it was standing up for teachers, parents, or heaven forbid the students, Ms. Garrett was always on the right side of the issue in my opinion.

    I could not disagree with you more Mike that Ms. Garrett has not provided this community with leadership. I find her leadership refreshing, respectful, and effective. Does that mean that I think GCS is perfect? Heavens no! However I recognize that Ms. Garrett is only one person, as you are Mr. Stone. I do not know you so I cannot speak to your approach and your effectiveness. That being said I do know through my years I have found that the “bull in the china cabinet” approach does not seem to serve my interests well. I can only imagine what it must be like trying to build a coalition on that board. So yes, often Ms. Garrett is a coalition of one, the right one.

    In my opinion, Ms. Garrett always seems to approach an issue with an open mind, consider all sides, and evaluate which decision provides the best future for our children. That is true leadership my friend, and that’s why I am supporting Darlene Garrett.

    It is unfortunate that many people cannot see all the good work Darlene has provided to our community. I personally have many friends that have worked one on one with Darlene on issues from student re-assignments to being bullied in school, and everything in between. Everyone that I know who has worked with her has nothing but praise for the service she is providing to Guilford County. Imagine an elected official that actually serves the constituents… What a novel idea.

    P. Cone

  9. Mike, you sound like a great candidate. I just wish you weren’t in the same district as Darlene Garrett. She’s has served her district and the people of Guilford County well — and she’ll be hard to beat.

    Sadly, there are other, far less effective, board members who run without competition time and time again.

  10. PSCone,
    We both agree that Darlene’s votes (in most instances) have been in line with the folks here in the NW area. I can’t support her decision to support the BOE having taxing authority. She does have an open mind and is an independent thinker that works to serve her constituents.

    No, a bull in the china shop isn’t going to serve too many people very well, but neither will a mouse in a steel mill. That analogy probably doesn’t work, but I hope you understand my point. Being on the right side of an issue is great, but if you can’t stand up and defend it and if you can’t sway other BOE members to your view, then you’ll always be a voice of one. Being right and not getting a majority of the board to vote with you is still a loss in my view.

    I respect your views and appreciate your comments and feedback. I can assure you that if elected, I will earn your trust and support just as Darlene has done.

  11. just saying,
    Thank you for for the kind words. I encouraged Darlene to move from the district, but she was opposed to that idea for some reason. JUST KIDDING !!! 🙂

    I couldn’t agree more. There are far less effective BOE members that don’t have competition. What a shame. And you’re right – Darlene will be hard to beat.

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