JACKSON — The Northampton County Schools Board of Education voted 5-1 to request a $100 or $200 stipend raise during a regular board meeting on Tuesday.
The meeting was held inside the Northampton County Cultural and Wellness Center and virtually.
Board Member Tony Burnette cast the dissenting vote against the proposal motioned by Vice Chairwoman Marjorie Edwards and seconded by Barbara Stephenson. Burnette said he made his voice known in years that he is against such a raise.
“I would do this absolutely for nothing,” he told board members. “That our staff is sitting out here right in front of us, and I cannot with good conscious sit here and vote on something that should be going to our staff.”
Burnette clarified that he had no ill-will toward any board member, but said he can not endorse the decision.
“I just don’t feel that Northampton county Schools is in a position to be giving board members raises,” he said.
Stephenson asked if the Northampton County’s budget from the commissioners is budgeted with stipends for the board.
Chairwoman Rhonda Taylor said it is in the county budget and most boards in the county do receive stipends. Taylor said the amount may increase in accordance to position, but the NCS Board of Education did request an increase of $200 but the commissioners offered $100.
“We can bring it back to the commissioners and see what they say,” she said. “Again, that was in June. I have no problem with taking it back to the commissioners.”
Board members mentioned over the past year they have had to pay for internet for Zoom meetings, use their own transportation and stay late for meetings as a reason for the raise.
Burnette said he wanted to go on record. He said if the Northampton County commissioners approve a raise the NCS Board of Education will get $850 monthly.
“Right now, the school board is getting $650, and that’s higher than any other school board around here,” he said. “I submit to you that our taxpayers didn’t elect us to give us raises. They elected us to work, and I submit to you that we are setting a bad precedent because we’re sending the message out that if you want to run for office that you’re running for monetary gain, and you’re not running because you care.”
As of June 9, Roanoke Rapids Graded School District Board of Trustees receive $200 and chair $250; Weldon City Schools board members receive $350, and the chair $400.
Stephenson said she begged to differ that any of the board members ran for their position for a stipend.
“As a matter of fact, some probably didn’t even know they were going to get a stipend, but they joined the board,” she said. “So I think that is incorrect and if the commissioners can give themselves increases and we give the superintendent and staff members increases, I don’t see a problem with asking.”
Burnette interjected and said to give the money to the employees.
Taylor said that she could only speak for herself as she did not know she was going to get a stipend until after her first meeting.
Burnette interjected again and said, give it to the employees.
Taylor asked to be allowed to finish her comments. She said she ran because she had two children attending Northampton County Schools and was dissatisfied with how the school system was performing.
“I wanted to make a difference,” she said. “I’ve been on this board 12 years. If I run for reelection, if I’m elected, I’m fine. If I’m not elected, then it’s not in God’s plan, but I want to continue to do what I have done from when my children were in school because now I have grandchildren getting ready to come to this school.”
Taylor explained she wants the school district to flourish and it is her plan for the superintendent and staff to accomplish that.
“Because I believe in our people,” she said.
Another reason for running was there are individuals on the board that have children who attend private and charter schools.
“I was totally against it, but guess what, I still as a board member, fight for those staff members to receive what they need to live in today’s society and that is what I do,” she said. “That is the reason I am here. That is my mission — to support our staff and to support our students and I am going to continue to do so as long as I’m on this board.”
The board had no further discussion as the request will go before the county commission.
In other news, the board members held another vote to elect a candidate for the vacant board seat.
Candidates Clinton Williams, the Rev. Franklin Williams, Melissa Simmons and Garfield Johnson are running for the seat.
Read the previous article on the vote headlined “BOE seat remains after third vote: Gaston Middle grade consolidation plan tabled” at bit.ly/3iuXbqw.
Stephenson requested to provide a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.
“I think it can apply to this,” she said. “We each know how we got here and we want to make sure we do the right thing.”
The quote she read: “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.”
Stephenson asked that board members to keep in mind how all of them became elected.
“Let’s keep in mind the process — the true process — what we went through to be a part of this board,” she said.
A candidate must receive a majority of four votes out of the six board members.
Colin Shive, filling in as board attorney for Rod Malone, presided over the tallying of votes.
Clinton received two votes; Franklin received three, and Simmons one.
Stephenson appeared frustrated and wondered if the board needed to vote each month until a candidate was selected.
“It looks as though we can’t come to an agreement. Is there any way we can just wait and let the people decide?” she said. “We’re wasting the candidates’ time and it’s like we can’t come to a decision.”
Chives said the statute requires the seat for an unexpired term of a member needs to be filled.
Stephenson said she wants to do things fair and remarked on how only two of the candidates running for the vacant seat ran in the previous election for the same position last year.
“We each paid our filing fee,” she said. “We each went to many public forums and interviews. We went through that process. Ms. Simmons went through that process. I know she was a write-in, but she went through that process. The fair thing like Dr. King said, let’s do what’s right. The people are watching. They’re listening. Our scholars may be watching and listening.
“It’s nothing personal. It’s not because I like Mr. Williams or I like Ms. Simmons or dislike Reverend Williams. It’s because the people spoke — 1,800 people must have thought he was a fit for this board. Over 300 people must have thought that Ms. Simmons may have been a fit for this board. Let’s take those things into consideration and let’s do what’s right.”
Another vote will be placed on the next board meeting’s agenda.
The meeting continued and another action item was brought up to consolidate Gaston Elementary and Gaston Middle schools.
A public hearing was opened to which nobody made any comments on the restructuring to consolidate the schools into a grade 1-8 school on the campus of Gaston Middle, which will now be named Gaston STEM Leadership Academy.
“We feel we have met the statutory requirement as we looked at restructuring,” Assitant Superintendent Kelvin Edwards said.
Marjorie motioned, and Burnette seconded to approve the consolidation. The board unanimously approved the item.
In other news, the board was presented with approving the opening of the Northampton Virtual School.
Executive Director Geneva Riddick-Faulkner of Curriculum & Instruction presented the item to the board.
Taylor asked if students who are taking virtual classes will be able to participate in athletic programs as well as other opportunities.
Riddick-Faulkner said students will have full access to sports.
Board member Lucy Edwards clarified that virtual school will continue to be a part of school enrollment.
Marjorie asked if student grades will be monitored when they are participating in virtual learning.
Riddick-Faulkner said her staff has communicated with parents within the first month to make aware how often children were checking in to their classes.
Also, during the meeting, it was announced Kelvin would be leaving his position as assistant superintendent to take on his role as superintendent at Greensville County Public Schools in Emporia, Virginia.
“I will still have land in Northampton County, so I will pay attention to what goes on in Northampton County,” he said. “Thank you for the opportunity and thank you for the opportunity to serve.”
Kelvin is also a Northampton County commissioner.
Sliding into the assistant superintendent’s position will be Director Mark Barfield of Student Services & Public Affairs. Barfield will begin his position on July 1.
“I am most humble and appreciative to serve as the assistant superintendent of human resources and operations,” he said. “I will continue to serve the students, parents, staff and community with dignity and respect. I am most grateful to [Superintendent] Dr. [Pamela] Chamblee and the board of education for affording me this opportunity to continue to help change the lives of children.”
On Friday, Alcohol Law Enforcement along with the Town of Littleton Police Department, served a search warrant on the Minit-Chek, according to Littleton P.D. Chief Philip Trivette.
The warrant involved Minit-Chek Owner Ali Abdo Saleh Ali and the fish table machines that were on the premises. The machines were disassembled and made inoperable. As a result of the search, Ali was charged with 12 warrants for arrest by ALE, according to Trivette.
A number of complaints have been made surrounding the Minit-Chek and the fish table machines in particular, Trivette said. ALE did an undercover operation in order to get the evidence in this case.
The Herald reached out to ALE Special Agent Brian White for more details including the warrants issued, but did not receive a response by press time.
To shed some light on the history and discussion of gaming in Littleton, some details have been pulled.
• Jan. 11, 2021
During the Town of Littleton Board of Commissioner’s meeting, an ongoing discussion of the town’s officials resulted in a public hearing for a revision to zoning ordinance 21-001, to prohibit video poker, sweepstakes and similar electronic gaming operations that simulate gambling and other games of chance, effective immediately.
If approved, the ordinance does two things:
• Removes the authorization of commercial amusements
• Confirms the enforcement would begin 10 calendar days after adoption
The two people who spoke during the hearing were Jonathan W. Trapp, attorney for one of Littleton Tobacco and Laundry owners Dhwanendra Patel, and Keith Anthony, representing the owner of Minit-Chek, Ali.
Anthony said the town does not have the authority to adopt this regulation, its authority comes from the state through the General Assembly, and even if it did, the short amortization period is unreasonable.
“For both those reasons, the town would be best served in not passing this ordinance,” Anthony said.
Trapp said his client purchased the convenience store with the reliance of using the gaming machines to attract customers, and the ability to do so was written in their lease. Without the machines they would lose tens of thousands of dollars, he said.
“If the board agrees to amortize, the time and the loss needs to be addressed,” Trapp said.
Gardner again said the town requested the financial information about a year ago and again in December.
“The town would really appreciate having as much information as possible,” he said. “The sooner you get that to us would be appreciated.”
After the hearing, Mayor K. Owen Scott said the item was tabled and would be discussed later in closed session.
Before that hearing, Littleton attorney Kris Gardner reminded folks that early in 2020, the board had sent out notices of the board’s intent to phase out the gaming machines and inviting the operators of Littleton Tobacco and Laundry and Minit-Check, who operate gaming machines in town, to submit a time they thought was reasonable to recoup some income from the loss of the machines.
• Feb. 25, 2020
Trapp attended the Town of Littleton Board of Commissioners meeting, speaking on behalf of Patel, who was also in the audience. Trapp said Littleton Tobacco and Laundry allows a place to wash clothes, play games, buy snacks and gas.
“This is a vital component to their business and for one to say, we will give you six months or eight months that you have to get rid of this, I think is unreasonable.”
Gardner was in attendance and said it is proper to allow the operators some period of time to recoup whatever they have invested. He had explained this was a continuation of the Jan. 28, 2020, meeting, when he said, “Instead of the town just picking a period of time, a year, six months, a month, it is better to speak with the people who could be affected by it, to see what financial impact it may have on them, so this is your opportunity to address the board.”
The discussion ended with Gardner tabling the item, giving more time to Jeremy Parker and the Minit-Chek owner.
• Jan 28, 2020
During the Town of Littleton Board of Commissioners meeting, Parker said he owns the machines and has supplied them to the Minit-Chek owner since 2012. Parker said he spoke with his attorney, Geoffrey Davis, who advised five years would be a fair amount of time to phase out the gaming machines at Minit-Chek. During that meeting, Gardner asked Parker to submit in an email to Town Clerk and Finance Officer Ellen Eller, outlining specific details justifying the length of time, including financial impacts. As of that meeting, Gardner said he still had not received the email from Parker, but wanted to give him a little more time.
• Dec. 15, 2020
During the Town of Littleton Board of Commissioners meeting, the board decided to go forward with an amendment to a zoning ordinance to prohibit video poker sweepstakes and similar electronic gaming operations that simulate gambling and other games of chance, effective immediately.
If passed, it will allow the town to go after gaming machines by banning them from town altogether, Chief Philip Trivette said.
“This ordinance gives me a lot more to work with and I think the town can finally be rid of the machines,” he said then.
In an unrelated incident, on Feb. 13, 2021, a fatal shooting happened at Littleton Tobacco and Laundry. Trivette said the shooter causing the fatality was one of the store owners, Dhwanendra Rangar.
At about 7:45 p.m., two men completely covered in dark clothing, entered the store and one of them brandished a gun at Rangar, Trivette said.
“Within 10 seconds of them being in the store, the shots broke out and the whole thing lasted about 30 seconds,” he said. “The owner had wounds, he was shot three times — all non-life threatening.”
One of the suspects died on the scene due to a gunshot wound from Rangar, Trivette said. The other suspect fled. Trivette said on Wednesday, one person is in custody and two more are outstanding in the shooting incident.
At the time, Trivette said it was a pretty dire situation.
“One of the owner’s 10-year-old son was behind the counter when it was happening,” he said. “He was not shot.”
He added, “This is an isolated incident. Other businesses should not be so concerned.”
As for the Minit-Chek incident, Ali has a court date in July for some other charges, according to court records. Trivette said he was previously charged on site for possession of marijuana, which may or may not be related to the July court date.
Ali's court date for the new charges is Aug. 26.
ROANOKE RAPIDS — Troop 144 of Boy Scouts of America in Roanoke Rapids gave a hand to lay donated mulch at Veterans Park.
Owners John and Lisa Haggerty of Haggerty’s Steakhouse donated nearly 14 cubic yards of mulch after wanting to do more for the community.
John said the idea spurred after restaurant regulars, Chief Jason Patrick and Deputy Chief Wes Hux of Roanoke Rapids Fire Department, stopped in and mentioned the need for mulch for the department. However, the crew had already reached out, and Lowe’s donated the mulch.
John said Patrick and Hux also showed interest in laying down some mulch at Veterans Park.
“I wasn’t going to turn right around, go to Lowe’s and ask for a donation for that,” he said. “Lisa and I, my wife, wanted to do something for the community. We drive by here twice, three times a day anyway. So, I told chief, I said, ‘You get the mulch delivered, and I’ll pay for it.’ ”
Now John needed help to put down the mulch. He said Scoutmaster Dan Harris of Troop 144 offered to help.
“He comes in the restaurant quite a bit,” he said. “He said if there’s any kind of little work to do, we’d love to do it for the Scouts and do something for the community to help out. I called them immediately and said, ‘I got a job for us.’ ”
Harris said the troop was more than happy to help in assisting, and he had the Boy Scouts out on Saturday to work a little and then finished up on Monday. He said the donation and community service help take care of the park by honoring and respecting veterans. Harris said the community service helps the Boy Scouts build character and relationships.
“Just like everything else we address it through service and doing things for the community,” he said.
Harris’ stepson and chaplain for the troop, 13-year-old Austin Mullaney, helped with spreading the mulch.
“It helps with the community and veterans,” Austin said. “It’s just respect for veterans.”
Boy Scout Nicholas Rawlings, 12, said it is a good service to the community.
“It will help us a lot or some of us, because some of us have to do community service projects,” Rawlings said.
When asked what it means personally to give to the community, John said anything that is dedicated to someone or something, such as the veterans, needs to be cared for and looked after.
“We’re just trying to beautify the town and let them know that we’re here to help,” he said. “We’re here to help the community in any way we can. I do have quite a few veterans come by the restaurant, which we give 10% to each and every veteran that comes in. Whether you’re retired or current member of the military, we just want to give back to the community is all we want to do.”
Troop 144 finished spreading the mulch at about 8 p.m. Monday.
“I believe that anything that comes up in the future, we can assist him, and he may be able to assist us,” Harris said. “It’s all about giving and giving back.”