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As this year comes to a close, it’s a good time to look back, make some adjustments, and then move forward. We must first see what needs to be corrected, understand how to correct it, and then begin to make that happen. However, it takes a group effort. To say that the Cleveland County Board of Education has been a shipwreck this past year would be a huge understatement. There is an opportunity just around the corner that will allow the voters of Cleveland County to rearrange the deck chairs on this Titanic of a school board. A change of at least 2 new board members would help, but to have a clean sweep would be a major victory.

As we all know, there are quite a few wrongs that could be made right. Let’s look at the major issue that justifies this change to the CCBOE majority.

May 30, 2023 – Cleveland County Schools Administration Building:

There were 8 emails introduced as “evidence” against Danny Blanton and Ronnie Grigg.

Count them. Eight (8) emails. Signed, sealed, delivered and convicted. The first time I’d ever witnessed jackasses conducting a kangaroo court. There was no rebuttal allowed, except a few minutes for the defendants to plead their case, with a panel who had already decided the outcome. That was their intent and they had it their way.

There would have been as much or more in support of these two board members, had the controlled opposition allowed it. But as proven here in this instance, emails from these people really, really mattered. These emails were the catalyst for the discipline and suspension for these two members. Except that it wasn’t. It was an excuse to do their dirty deed and thinking it would be a mask to hide the reality of what was actually happening. Transparency, they claim. Sure, people can see right through them!

Now, here’s another case of emails and how it has played out thus far. On February 17, 2023, someone submitted a Public Records Request from a website called Sunshine Request, located in Asheville, NC. This website is like a clearing house for public requests, etc and offered as a free service. The submission was sent to the Cleveland County Board of Education and it was related to bullying. As you can see, by going to the website and reading the exchanges that have taken place since February 17, 2023, you will see how this same board handles this request, and how the same lawyer shows a great disconnect from the laws and statutes in regard to FOIA and Public Records Requests. (and the math isn’t exactly admirable) Also, the request was only for the period between 01/02/23 – 02/09/23, yet they admitted there were more than 3200 emails related to bullying.

(an example of an exchange below)

from: Sunshine Request
to: Greg Shull
cc: hggilmore@clevelandcountyschools.org, jswampler@clevelandcountyschools.org
date: Apr 7, 2023, 5:12 PM
subject: Re: Records Request: (February 2023) Request for Cleveland County, NC Schools: All electronic communications related to “bullies”, “bullying”, “fights”, or “violence”. From 01/02/23 – 02/09/23.
Hi Greg (and others CCed),
Happy Friday!
This is my fourth attempt since February 17th to follow up on my previous emails. I have not heard back.
Can you please provide an anticipated date for completion of my public records request? First sent to your offices on February 17, 2023:
(February 2023) Request for Cleveland County, NC Schools: All electronic communications related to “bullies”, “bullying”, “fights”, or “violence”. From 01/02/23 – 02/09/23.
FYI. I have still been continuing to receive additional requests for similar information via my website. However, in order to avoid duplicating any staff time or creating confusion processing multiple similar requests — I have been declining to send any new requests to Cleveland County Schools, until I can get some resolution to the request above. ^^
I will make one more attempt to follow up next week, if I have not heard anything else before then.
Thank you!
~ The Sunshine Request Team

Status: Follow up

The same neglect and ignore has continued pretty much since then. The replies have been minimal without any substance. And there appears to be lots of confusion from Greg Shull and also the board attorney.

from: Sunshine Request
to: Greg Shull
cc: hggilmore@clevelandcountyschools.org, jswampler@clevelandcountyschools.org, dapless@clevelandcountyschools.org, lsink@sinkmediations.com
date: May 8, 2023, 12:51 PM
subject: Re: Records Request: (February 2023) Request for Cleveland County, NC Schools: All electronic communications related to “bullies”, “bullying”, “fights”, or “violence”. From 01/02/23 – 02/09/23.

Good Afternoon Greg (and Leigha CCed),
I received the following message today from Leigha Sink:
from: Leigha Sink
to: records@sunshinerequest.com
date: May 8, 2023, 12:04 PM
subject: Records Request re: All electronic communications related to “bullies”, “bullying”, “fights”, or “violence”. From 01/02/23 – 02/09/23.

To Whom It May Concern,

We are in receipt of the below public records request. However, the search has produced a result of over 3200 emails. Reviewing this much correspondence to ensure PII is not mistakenly shared would be a very time-consuming and burdensome process. Could anyone at the Sunshine Request Team assist in narrowing the scope of this request while still accomplishing the goal of the requestor?

Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Leigha Sink
Attorney for Cleveland County Board of Education
From: Sunshine Request
Date: Fri, Feb 17, 2023 at 1:53 PM
Subject: Records Request: (February 2023) Request for Cleveland County, NC Schools: All electronic communications related to “bullies”, “bullying”, “fights”, or “violence”. From 01/02/23 – 02/09/23.
To: Greg Shull

Leigha B. Sink
Attorney at Law and NC DRC Certified Mediator
Sink Law PLLC and Sink Mediations
704.458.9374 (mobile)
The following public records request was sent to your offices on Feb 17, 2023, 1:52 PM. All communications exchanged about this request to-date have been posted at the following URL. Or, you can see them via the request’s email thread above:
(February 2023) Request for Cleveland County, NC Schools: All electronic communications related to “bullies”, “bullying”, “fights”, or “violence”. From 01/02/23 – 02/09/23.

The records requested are as is, as was submitted in February:
… “ALL electronic communications [Text Messages, Emails, Voicemails, etc.], sent to, sent from, or sent between the Superintendent of Cleveland County Schools, any and all Principals of Cleveland County Schools, any and all Administrative personnel, and any and all members of the Cleveland County School Board. During the time period of 01/02/2023 through 02/09/2023. Specifically, as relates to “bullies”, “bullying”, “fights”, or “violence” at Cleveland County Schools. I am explicitly asking that you DO NOT provide me with sensitive or personally identifying information about specific students and their data. Sunshine Request will not publish this type of information on their website.”

I do not wish to provide any further clarification about this request, and I would not like to “narrow” its scope. As I stated in the original request: **If you are unable to fulfill any or all parts of this request, please specifically cite where a reason for denial is justified under NC Public Records Law.**

It’s unclear to me whether Leigha is saying you’d just prefer not to have to review so many records, or, if there’s an actual limitation to the # of hours / records that can be performed by your office. Can you please be more specific about why (if at all) the request has to be narrowed? I’m unaware of any law that spells out a specific limitation on the number of results yielded for a public records request, or the time it takes you to review confidential information. As you may know, under NC Public Records Law you may not charge fees for the staff time required to redact or separate confidential from non-confidential information in public records — That cost burden is yours to bear.

Do you mean that the request is “too vague” or something is “unclear” about it as written currently, and it is therefore impossible to fulfill? If so, then it would be helpful if you can please explain how it should be narrowed to meet any specific limitations, or what the specific issue is.

This is my 6th attempt to follow up with Greg since February 17th when he indicated that he “already forwarded [my] email along” , and that the request was being processed. To learn now, almost 3 months after submitting the request, that you’ve just determined there are 3,200 results and feel the request is “burdensome” … is not acceptable, in my opinion. This could have been identified much earlier on in the process. As a member of a small team myself, I do understand certain school employees have other work responsibilities in addition to processing records requests. However, under NC Public Records Law, Cleveland County Schools is required to process all records requests “promptly”.

With this in mind, I want to highlight the court case referenced in item #6 of the following article, posted on the NC Press Association website. In this instance: “The trial court held that an unjustified one-month delay in production of records was tantamount to a denial”. http://www.ncpress.com/stories/a-bakers-dozen-for-2022nc-public-records-law,2390

Thank you.
~ The Sunshine Request Team


So, as can be seen, the school board does indeed have an agenda, and their interests do not include the students or the citizens. They are self-serving. They are there to maintain the fallacy of a good reputation and a great school that is always successful, and to run interference for one another (the chair +5) and the superintendent.

There will be a time in the near future when Cleveland County can right this wrong. Everyone sees now that you cannot put perfume on a hog!