RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – The bill state Rep. Jon Hardister filed to clear up a confrontation about filling a seat on the Guilford County Board of Education is headed back to the House for a final review.

House Bill 88, introduced by Hardister (R-Whitsett) and passed by the House on a voice vote two weeks ago, was approved by the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 27-18, with Democrats voting against the bill because they oppose partisan school boards.

The vote came after yet another amendment, introduced by Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Buncombe), to clarify that a person appointed to fill a seat in a single-member district must live in that district. That amendment passed unanimously.

All this came after the bill was amended last week 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)

Because of those amendments the House must hear and vote on concurrence of the bill before it can become law. It’s unclear when that might be scheduled. The House has no voting sessions on the calendar for the next few days, but that’s subject to change. This is a local bill, meaning there is no veto option for Gov. Roy Cooper.

This consolidation did not include House Bill 27, which creates an election for the Thomasville City School Board, whose five seats currently are appointed by the Thomasville City Council. That, too, passed the Senate, on a voice vote, and becomes law.

Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) introduced HB 88 in the Senate and said it “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.

Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitset)

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.”

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. Democrats object to comments they have found to be inflammatory and “divisive.”

Guilford County Board of Education candidate Michael Logan (WGHP)

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

Before Wednesday’s votes, Sen. Julie Mayfield (D-Buncombe) addressed the Democrats’ opposition to the bill based on being against partisan school boards in principle.

“We know this train has left the station and that it is thought that partisan elections offer more information for voters,” she said. “We don’t know that the information is best for deciding who would be the best member of a school board.

That goes to the point of why Hardister – who in 2019 filed legislation to return the Guilford County school board to nonpartisan – said he and Rep. John Faircloth (R-High Point) introduced HB 88 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.

State Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Greensboro) has spoken out against the bill. “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.”

The six Democrats who have voted against Logan, with Chair Deena Hayes as their leader, recently 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.

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.

Thomasville to elect school board

House Bill 27, pitched by Rep. Sam Watford (R-Thomasville), responds to a request by the City Council, he said, to create elections for the board. The bill specifies a nonpartisan to be conducted on a plurality basis in odd-numbered years. The seats would be rotated every two years.

Two candidates will 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.