*-Disclaimer-* All forms and documentation are from Public Record Requests (FOIA) and are the property of the public.
(The current ‘food fight” today is quite different from the past. The food was good, except it was for those who were employed there, and not so much as for the students.)
There has been a renewed interest in the Cleveland County Board of Education’s lack of interest in regards to their nutrition department. And it’s understandably so. However, many people do not realize that this battle has been going on for more than 10 years. If you recall, there was a scandal back in 2009 that was investigated by the NC State Auditor, and her report was released in December 2011. This was regarding what was known as P-Cards and the abuse thereof.
This was brought to the attention of the Cleveland County Commissioners at a meeting on August 7, 2012. Danny Blanton, a former school board candidate spoke during the public participation portion of the meeting, sharing details and documents that told of his findings. Of course, the commissioners asked that he pass this on to the clerk, which he did. Eventually, this led us to be able to receive those documents and we decided to investigate this and share the news with the public. At that time, (and times since then) we learned why the local newspaper hardly covered anything but wonderful news about the Cleveland County School system.
It was discovered by accident when I emailed the school board members to inquire about some billboards that the school had placed around Cleveland County. I heard from two of the nine board members. Neither of them had a clue as to what I was talking about. Superintendent Bruce Boyles replied to the board members and supplied me with more information than I had requested. In fact, his reply initiated another public records request, which was a bounty of a score.
The newly obtained documents, it was there in documentation form and signed by both parties. The publisher/editor of the newspaper and the superintendent of the Cleveland County School System had a marketing deal between the school and the newspaper. The paper would do marketing for the school and design the billboards and various other things. The school would pay over $170,000 for 2 years and the Star would serve as a consultant and marketing for the school. In other words, the school was more or less paying for favorable coverage.
June 2, 2013: Cleveland County Board of Education members: Phillip W. Glover; Kathy B. Falls; Richard Hooker; Jack Hamrick; George Litton; Shearra Miller; Dale Oliver; Jerry D. Hoyle; Roger M. Harris: I would like to ask a few questions that I have received concerning the billboard that is up on Hwy. 150N. Who authorized this transaction? What are the terms of the contract? To whom (what company) is the contract made? How much is this billboard costing the school district? Who is responsible for paying for the billboard? What is the purpose of the billboard? Also, if any of you would like to respond, please feel free to do so. I will be glad to share your responses with the citizens of Cleveland County.
Thank you for your time and efforts.
(Note: Board members Jack Hamrick and Kathy B. Falls responded by email that they were not aware of the billboard and inquired about the location, which I in turn informed each of them by email. I had no response from the other seven board members).
June 4, 2013: Email from Bruce Boyles, Superintendent of Cleveland County Schools to Hal Trammell, Editor of shelbyactionnews.com, in reference to Cleveland County Schools billboard on Highway 150 North, copy to each of the nine Board of Education members:
Mr. Trammell, I am responding to your email to members of the Cleveland County Board of Education concerning the billboard on Highway 150. The billboard came as a result of discussions during our 2008 Strategic Planning activity that included many members of the community. The board heard from this group that our communication efforts needed to be updated in a variety of ways. Consequently, they supported efforts to better communicate with the community through strategies such as an upgraded website, a parent calling system, a regular information program on C19, more media and press releases, a social media presence, print ads highlighting the accomplishments of students and teachers and activities like the billboard. Beginning formally in 2010 with the creation of a new district logo, these efforts have focused on the competition tradition public schools are encountering from private schools, charter schools, home schools, and online schools in the form of ads, direct mailings, and media stories, etc. As the school choice movement has grown, parents now have the opportunity to “shop” for schools and traditional public schools have become just one of the options. Just like the other non-traditional schools have done, our school system has responded with efforts to better inform the public and parents as they make choices. Like these other kinds of schools, we have included some advertising. However, these efforts are not only about attracting and/or retaining the best students but also about garnering other kinds of support. There is keen competition now among school types for donations from individuals and organizations, competition for volunteers, competition for resources, and competition for the best teachers. In addition to addressing the school choice issue, these communication activities help inform parents and the community about successes that may not be reported in the local media. The contract for the billboards and other communication efforts is cancelable at any time with 30 days’ notice. The contract is facilitated through the Shelby Star which does the layout and design work for all of the ads and they are paid for by the school system. The contract is $6,000 per year for a minimum of two guaranteed billboards but the system also receives a donation of additional billboards from Creative Signs as part of the agreement and there is no charge for the vinyl replacement. The donated billboards have ranged from 2-6 additional ones depending upon which locations are vacant at the time. We have had some of the “bonus” billboards continuously since the effort began. Consequently, we have had as many as 7 or 8 billboards up at a time. If you have additional questions you may contact me. Bruce Boyles, Ed. D Superintendent