GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Barring another unexpected motion to delay, the Guilford County Board of Education on Tuesday night will consider for a third time the nomination of a candidate to fill its open seat in District 3.
The board twice has rejected Michael Logan, an automotive instructor at Southern Guilford High School, as the Republican nominee to fill the unexpired term of Patrick Tillman, who in November was elected to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners. The item is on the agenda for the board’s regular meeting, which gets underway at 6 p.m.
The board had been scheduled to take that third vote during a work session on Jan. 27, but District 2 representative Crissy Pratt moved to delay until Tuesday night’s meeting, an action that drew unanimous support.
“I made the motion to table the vote so that it could be addressed at a full board meeting rather than a work session,” Pratt said in an email after the meeting. The board hears public comments during its regular meetings but not during a work session.
This continues a controversial standoff between Logan, a longtime critic of the board’s actions, and the Democratic majority that has kept him from taking the seat Republicans want him to have.
The GOP is responsible for nominating its candidate from the district – Logan was chosen from two suggestions, Guilford County GOP Chair David Gleeson has said – and school board attorney Jill Wilson has indicated that the appointment of the person to fill the seat must be approved by a majority of the existing board.
Gleeson, who in December said legal action could be possible, reaffirmed Monday that “Michael Logan is our nominee.” He also said he was hopeful that recent comments by elected leaders in Guilford County would help in that process.
Return to nonpartisan?
Gleeson was referring to a comment by state Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitsett), who told the News & Record that he hoped the two sides could work out their differences. “If they don’t, the General Assembly is going to have to consider getting involved,” he told the newspaper.
That presumably would include addressing the language of the statute that lawmakers passed in 2013 to make Guilford County’s school board partisan, a move that pertained only to Guilford County and was not state law.
But in 2019 Hardister, state Reps. John Faircloth (R-High Point), Amos Quick (D-Greensboro) and Ashton Clemmons (D-Greensboro) filed House Bill 182 in a move to return the school board to nonpartisan.
Hardister and Clemmons did not respond immediately to a query from WGHP about whether the situation involving Logan could prompt a refiling of that bill.
But, when they filed, Hardister said that “many teachers, parents and students have suggested that we revert these elections to non-partisan. While partisan politics is a natural element of our society, we don’t need partisan labels on our school board races. Members of the school board should focus on improving education outcomes for children and preparing them for the future.”
A spokesperson for the North Carolina Board of Elections and the elections director for Guilford County have said this ongoing standoff is not about an elections rule or process and that their offices have no continuing roles in the vote.
Votes against Logan
Logan, who has said he will be a candidate for the seat when it comes up for election in 2024, twice has been refused the position in resounding votes along partisan lines, first late last year, 5-2, and then in a 6-2 vote on Jan. 10.
Those board members who have opposed Logan in some cases cited the fact that he was a teacher or that he had made derogatory posts about board members on social media. He has been called “divisive.” Logan has submitted his resignation pending his appointment.
“There are no changes that I know of,” Logan told WGHP via email on Monday afternoon. “I will be at the board meeting again tomorrow. Unfortunately, I think partisan politics will still be in play.”
Democrats Deena Hayes (board chair, District 8), Bettye Jenkins (vice chair, District 7), T. Dianne Bellamy-Small (District 1), Deborah Napper (District 5), Khem Irby (District 6) and Alan Sherouse (at-large) have voted against Logan’s nomination, and Republicans Pratt and Linda Welborn (District 4) have supported him. Bellamy-Small was absent for the first vote.
‘A view that sends a message’
WGHP reached out via e-mail to every member of the board and to Wilson with a series of questions about whether there could be a change in the vote for Tuesday’s meeting.
Only two, Bellamy-Small and Irby, responded with even a “no comment.” Bellamy-Small said simply that she would “follow the process.”
Irby, who in November was elected to a second term on the board, addressed each of the handful of questions and was very clear on how she viewed Logan’s candidacy.
“I have paid attention to many of his public comments and feel that his interest is not representative of District 3, considering I worked in a school there [Pearce Elementary] prior to being elected, and the family dynamics were diverse,” Irby, president of Parents Across America, wrote to WGHP.
“I also believe that board members must represent a view that sends a message to all families that we are inclusive and [that] we see them.”
Irby said she had listened to public comments about Logan during board meetings and “received a call from a former student asking for us not to allow him to serve based on his vocal bias regarding LGBTQI+ students.”
Welborn told the News & Record in Greensboro that she thought commenters during meetings were “nitpicking.” “The person I have seen is nothing but dedicated to his students,” she told the newspaper.
Some of the issues
Logan has supported candidates – Pratt and Welborn among them – who had been backed by a now-defunct support group called “Take Back Our Schools,” which said on its website that it is part of a “movement taking place” nationally and shared on social media the sort of controversial claims that have turned school board meetings elsewhere into shouting matches and even death threats.
Logan also told WGHP in January that “board members up for re-election in 2024 will have to stand by their votes of allowing pornographic material being presented and allowed for children at the schools. I have seen children punished for printing out what GCS schools now allows to be checked out in the media center.
“We have internet software that would block online pornography but not what a student can check out of the media center,” he said.
He said later that he was talking about a book called “Life Is Funny” that was discussed at a special board meeting on Dec. 8, which he said he attended. The book had been brought up by a parent at Northern High School and also in Alamance County.
“No I have not read the book, but parents did, and they made a point to contact me over it. The meeting [when the board discussed the book] was held in the middle of the day when most parents are working,” Logan said.
Logan also has been criticized by at least one fellow teacher for attacks by Logan that he described as “divisive.”
“Any time a teacher does something perceived as part of the ‘liberal/progressive agenda’ – such as myself showing solidarity with LGBTQ+ students with a door sign, or an English teacher wearing a sweatshirt reading ‘Ban bigots not books’ – he makes comments to people in the hallway, posts disparaging messages on social media and generally sows discord for discord’s sake,” Corbin Duncan, a chorus teacher at Southern Guilford High School, told WGHP. “This undermines any community-building efforts the rest of us engage in, making it difficult for us to unite across our differences.”