RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – Rep. Jon Hardister’s bill to clear up a conflict about who will serve District 3 on the Guilford County Board of Education took on some other bills as it passed through the Senate Redistricting and Elections Committee on Wednesday.

House Bill 88, introduced by Hardister (R-Whitsett) and passed by the House on a voice vote last week, was pitched to the committee by Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) and then amended by committee co-chair Warren Daniel (R-Buncombe) to include Senate Bill 103 for Henderson, SB 150 for McDowell County and SB 59 for Maysville and Pollocksville. Those first two bills would make those boards of education partisan and the other clears up two election schedules.

State Sen. Phil Berger (R-Eden) pitches House Bill 88 at the meeting of the NC Senate Redistricting and Elections Committee. (WGHP)

“[We want to] consolidate all those policy provisions into one vehicle,” Daniel said in making his motion, which passed unanimously.

Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Alleghany) chaired the meeting and brought these four local bills under the umbrella of HB 88, which will head to the Rules Committee before a floor vote in the Senate.

Assuming it clears that floor vote, this amended bill would have to go back to the House for final approval. There is no veto option for Gov. Roy Cooper.

This consolidation did not include House Bill 27, which was brought by the request of the Thomasville City Council to create an election to fill the Thomasville City School Board. The council currently appoints the board’s five members.

Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitset)

Berger said HB 88 “clarifies how vacancies are filled on the Guilford County Board of Education.” He described the steps for replacing a vacancy through nomination by the executive committee of the party that controls the seat that became vacant.

But he pointed out that in District 3 of the Guilford County Board of Education, “the majority has refused to take the ‘ministerial act’ they are required to take and vote to seat the person.”

Guilford County Board of Education candidate Michael Logan (WGHP)

The school board since November has declined to seat teacher Michael Logan, who was nominated by the Republican members from District 3 to fill out the term of Patrick Tillman, who in November was elected to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners.

There have been three votes along party lines, with only the two Republicans supporting Logan, an automotive instructor at Southern Guilford High School who has been an outspoken critic of the board during public comments and on social media.

The board is not scheduled to meet again until March 14, when the opening in District 3 presumably would be on the agenda.

Hardister said he and Rep. John Faircloth (R-High Point) introduced this local bill to correct “errors made by staff” with two paragraphs that address general statute GS 115c-37.1. Hardister said that statute was undermined by language in the local bill that former state Sen. Trudy Wade (R-High Point) pushed through the General Assembly in 2013.

The six Democrats who have voted against Logan, with Chair Deena Hayes as their leader, on Sunday published a cosigned letter in the News & Record in which they cited a litany of issues they had with the way Logan has conducted himself and asked Republicans to submit the name of a different candidate.

‘Technical correction’

During Wednesday’s debate of the bill, state Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Greensboro) reiterated that he opposed boards of education being partisan “because I don’t like politics entering the classroom.” He read into the record some of the language used by Logan in social media posts that the school board members had delineated in their published letter.

“I don’t know about you, but these kinds of opinions and how you feel about other people don’t belong in public service,” Garrett said. “The board has heard from a lot of parents.”

He said HB 88 was “more than technical correction,” as Hardister has called it.

“This is a dispute between the board and the party,” Garrett said. “We have a judicial branch for that. …. We are wading into that. The board is open to a selection of other names.”

Berger responded to questions from committee members about the possibility of changing the process and having special elections to fill out terms. He said the proposal was consistent with how many other boards are filled. He also discarded Garrett’s suggestion of a legal dispute.

“It would be a total waste of taxpayer dollars to hire a lawyer for a lawsuit you are going to lose,” he said. “This is a way to clean that situation up and let folks get on with life.”

Logan has had the complete support of Guilford County GOP Chair David Gleeson, who also has discussed legal action. Logan has resigned from his teaching position, as is required to serve on the board, and he has said he would run for the seat when it comes up for election in 2024.

About ‘bigotry’

Board members in their letter were clear that their complaint was about Logan’s actions and not him as a person or the Republican Party.

“We want to convey our rationale, and the stand we are taking, for it is not against a man or political party but against bigotry and racial prejudice and their attendant violence that we believe are represented in Mr. Logan’s candidacy,” the letter stated.

“There are many other Republicans who have not engaged in racially prejudiced writing, who seek to embody the values a Board of Education member should hold, and who have expressed an interest in representing District 3. It seems to us that the perfect solution is for the Republican Party to put forward one of them. And we would welcome them.”

Thomasville changes

There were neither objections nor nay votes for House Bill 27, pitched by Rep. Sam Watford (R-Thomasville), about changing the Thomasville City School Board. He said the city council had requested the change and that the election would be on the same cycle as the council’s.

The bill calls for a nonpartisan to be conducted on a plurality basis in odd-numbered years. The seats would be rotated every two years.

The bill calls for two people to be elected this November to serve 2-year terms and three people to be selected for 4-year terms. There would be an election in 2025 to convert those 2-year seats to 4-year rotations.

The bill advances to the Rules Committee, and Sen. Steve Jarvis (R-Lexington) will see that it through to the floor vote.