Board elects Langley|New chairman uses gavel to end a heated exchange

Published 9:10 am Thursday, December 10, 2009

Staff Writer

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners chose a new chairman Tuesday, electing Jerry Langley to replace Jay McRoy as chairman.
The board voted 5-2 to elect Langley with Commissioners Langley and Ed Booth, Robert Cayton, Stan Deatherage and Hood Richardson voting for Langley and McRoy and Commissioner Al Klemm voting for McRoy.
The board voted 4-3 to elect Stan Deatherage as vice chairman of the board over Al Klemm with Deatherage and Booth, Langley, and Richardson voting for Deatherage, and Cayton, McRoy and Klemm voting for Klemm.
One of Langley’s first duties as chairman was to gavel to a close a heated discussion between Richardson and Robert Belcher, chairman of the Beaufort County Board of Education, over a $260,000 grant the school system has received to improve teacher knowledge of American history from 1850 to 1917 and improve the American-history curriculum taught in the public schools.
In a presentation to the commissioners at their request, Assistant School Superintendent John Conway said that period of history was chosen for special attention because teacher understanding of the issues and student performance on questions about the period of time on end-of-grade tests is low.
“What this grant has allowed us to do is improve our skills in teaching this area of history,” Conway said.
Seminars are taught in four segments — The Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing: America, 1815 to 1850; The Unresolved Conflict: Civil War and Reconstruction, 1851 to 1877; The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870 to 1912, and The Making of African American Identity: 1865 to 1917, Conway said.
This drew a heated response from Richardson
“Those four periods of American history are as un-American as you can get,” he said. “I think there was an agenda behind picking these periods. … A bunch of junk is being taught … Who decided what is going to be taught?”
Cayton took issue with Richardson, saying that period of history is “an extremely important time.”
Belcher, who attended the meeting with Conway and three other school officials, rose to defend Conway, saying, “You are a county commissioner who’s trying to micro-manage the curriculum of Beaufort County schools.”
Langley began pounding his gavel and said “enough,” bringing the discussion to a close.
In other business, the board:
• Voted 5-2 to approve a resolution presented by Deatherage opposing the admission of undocumented immigrants to North Carolina community colleges and amended by Cayton to include the University of North Carolina’s 16 constituent universities and colleges. Deatherage said he would attend the Dec. 18, public hearing in Raleigh conducted by the N.C. Community College System to receive public comments on a proposed rule change allowing the admission of undocumented immigrants to the state’s 58 community colleges. Cayton said the proposed rule was more restrictive than the rules implemented by the University of North Carolina, but it would place an unfair burden on community-college employees who would be faced with a choice of admitting an undocumented student, either admitting that student or reporting that student to immigration authorities;
• Approved the 2008-2009 audit report presented by Greg Adams of Thompson, Price, Scott, Adams &Co. of Wilmington. The report found no deficiencies in internal controls of school finances and found financial practices to be in compliance with state and federal financial records requirements, Adams told the board;
• Made the following appointments: Starlon Credle of Bath Township, Frank Hollowell of Long Acre Township and Steve Carawan of Pantego Township to the Beaufort County Planning Board; 13 people to the 2010 Executive Committee of the Southern Albemarle Association; Guy Cutler, Jack Piland and Jerry Waters (alternate) to the Bath Planning Board and Board of Adjustment; and Larry Barnes and Natalie Castro to the Criminal Justice Partnership Program;
• Heard a report from Tom Thompson, executive director of the Beaufort County Economic Development Commission, on economic-development activity in the county and on actions affecting homeowner’s insurance rates for property owners in North Carolina’s coastal counties;
• Signed “Buy Local” pledges presented by Catherine Glover, executive director of the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce;
• Voted unanimously to amend the Beaufort County Health Department budget, primarily to reflect federal budge allocations for the HlNl swine-flu vaccine. The amendment required no increase in county funding;
• Voted unanimously to approve changes in the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office’s records retention and disposition schedule to reflected changes in the law;
• Voted unanimously to accept four bids on tax foreclosure properties by upset-bid process;
• Voted 6-1 to approve $3,357 in travel expenses, with Richardson the lone dissenter.
The commissioners recessed their meeting until 6 p.m. Dec. 22, when the board will hear a presentation on the tax revaluation process.
All commissioners attended the meeting.