Emotions run high as Board of Education passes resolution 6-3, A political action committee mailer fills school board members with indignation

Published 3:25 pm Thursday, January 18, 2024

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The Beaufort County Board of Education (BOE) passed a resolution on Jan. 16 that indirectly addressed a letter from a local, conservative political action committee (PAC) criticizing the school district and administrators. 

The resolution passed 6-3 during the board’s regular meeting on Tuesday. Mac F. Hodges, Carolyn Walker, Eltha Booth, T.W. Allen, Terry Draper and Terry Williams voted in favor of the resolution, but Donald Shreve, Gary Carlton and Charles Hickman voted in opposition. 

The letter in question was written and distributed to approximately 700 county residents by the Beaufort County Conservative Republican PAC on January 6. It claims Beaufort County Schools is “failing students” and requests donations for a campaign called “Save Our Kids.” Through the letter, the PAC tells readers it has five Christian conservative candidates running for seats on the school board who would support Christian conservative values. 

Those candidates who signed the letter are David Hudson (an unofficial candidate for District 3), Malissa Polk (running for District 1), Stacey Davis (running for District 5), Brian Wood (running for District 9) and Ray Start (running for District 7). 

Chairman of the BOE, T.W. Allen explained at the meeting that a resolution was necessary, because some citizens believed the letter was published by the BOE, and the letter contained factual errors. 

“I had a lot of phone calls and stuff that day from staff and concerned citizens in the area thinking the letter came from us and was resolved from us,” Allen said. “We drafted a board resolution stating that this letter was not from us and not completely accurate.” 

Later, he added that the resolution needed to show support for administrators, teachers and staff, because they felt the PAC letter “pretty much dismantled them as teachers as admin staff and their work ethic as Beaufort County School employees.”

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Much like Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, the letter lists 23 items that sheds light on what the PAC believes is happening in local public schools, and changes its members would like to see made to the school district. 

Some of the items include, but are not limited to – “Abolish Gender Identity and LBGQ+ presence and influence in our schools…Removal of all external politics from the classrooms…Comprehensive review of all curriculums that are failing our children by the new board. Children must be taught Math and English in traditional manners that have proven successful over hundreds of years…Develop leadership of the schools that only focuses on our children learning. Leadership that is not warped by outside influences determined to cause division within our student populations.” 

The list is titled, “School Board Candidates Contract with Citizens of Beaufort County” and is a pledge taken by candidates who identify as conservative Republicans. 

According to Adam O’Neal, campaign coordinator with the PAC and former Belhaven Mayor, items in the pledge are the platforms conservative Republican candidates will run on for the upcoming primary and election. Should a conservative Republican be elected to the school board, they will be held accountable to the pledge. 

On Tuesday, school board members did not mince words when expressing their opinions on the resolution. 

Charles Hickman spoke first explaining that the itemized list should be debated at political events, and the school board should refrain from getting involved in politics. 

“This is a campaign season. These things do need to be debated on the campaign trail. I do not think we as a board need to be mixing board business with primary and election political races.” 

He continued to say that he would vote against the resolution, because there are statements in the letter he cannot say are factual errors. 

The letter claims, there are “15 genders now being taught at the Early College, gay and lesbian Books in our elementary school libraries, 10 schools in the county that score less than 70 on State Performance Evaluation, five schools in the County that score less than 50 on State Performance Evaluation, no national anthem played by some of our schools at sporting events, Critical Race Theory in our schools teaching racism to our children and Disrespect for Parent’s role in education by Woke Administrators.” 

Hickman said he knows two of the claims to be true, one he doesn’t know is true and the remaining four are debatable. He did not elaborate on which statement belonged to each category. 

Donald Shreve echoed Hickman’s initial comment saying, “I believe the resolution proposed is a result of the campaign letter by a coordinator of a campaign and I feel like it can be considered an election interference with this resolution.” 

Gary Carlton said he sees out of the resolution, a “knee-jerk reaction. We’re coming up on a campaign season, and you’re going to have some of this rhetoric going on, and I don’t know that it’s necessary that we address it in any case.” 

Terry Williams took umbrage with the PAC letter, because he felt it unfairly criticized teachers, principals and staff by “outside people that know nothing about what goes on in our schools.”

Carolyn Walker said she could spend a lot of time talking about how she supports teachers, administrators and staff; however, “talk is cheap” and the resolution puts action behind words of support from the school board. 

Principal of S.W. Snowden Elementary, Dr. Patricia Horton-Albritton said at the meeting, the resolution “makes me feel supported. I feel that the board ‘sees us.’ The Board knows that we are working hard to educate our students.”  

Two candidates who signed the “School Board Candidates Contract with Citizens of Beaufort County” attended the BOE meeting and later shared their thoughts with the Daily News. 

Brian Wood, a grandfather of a student at P.S. Jones Middle School, said the PAC letter was written to make parents aware of “what’s going on” in schools and that is why he signed the pledge. 

“It’s politics,” Wood said when sharing why the letter was written. “We don’t think that things are going in the school like they should. Things are being done like they should so we wanted to make the citizens aware of how things are going on in the school. The parents aren’t aware of everything so we’re trying to make them aware and how we can change it. ” 

Stacey Davis, a parent of students in Beaufort County Schools, emailed a comment to the Daily News writing, “the letter is a fundraising effort from the campaign coordinator of the PAC. It includes the Contract with the Citizens which a group of candidates agreed to, including myself. It appears to me the GOP has weaponized the letter to the school board and rally the votes of teachers. I personally feel the ‘letter’ had no place in the board meeting and certainly should’ve never been told to the public it was an attack on educators.” 

Davis clarified that though she signed the Contract with Citizens, she is running a campaign that is separate from the PAC and is not receiving funding from the PAC. 

The Beaufort County Conservative Republican PAC has no connections to the Beaufort County Republican Party. The party published a statement to their Facebook page on January 6 which stated it neither “supports nor endorses” the letter. “The letter is deceptive and they are trying to get contributions under false pretense. The PAC is not the Republican Party of Beaufort County.”

BCS Resolution Beaufort County Conservative Republican PAC Save our Kids