(09/25/2009)
Tempers have been flaring during Fayette County's Board of Education meetings as community school closure and consolidation is looming.

Two board members have been strongly criticized by opponents of the proposed consolidation of four of the county's high schools.

Former board president Peggy Farmer accused board members Leon Ivey and Leon Newman of lying in regards to their latest position on consolidation.

Farmer said Newman was clear in 2006, saying he would "have no part" in consolidation.

Farmer also said during the 2008 election campaign, both men's names appeared on literature distributed by a group whose mission was to support community schools and oppose consolidation.

Farmer challenged the board members over their "flip-flop."

Ivey and Newman said they had nothing to do with the distribution of the campaign materials, saying they had accepted the endorsement of the group.

Newman said he was relieved that the issue of the alleged "flip-flop" had finally come into question.

Newman admitted he did say he was against consolidation in 2006, but further information had made him change his mind. He said he now believes consolidation would be "what's best for the children."

Board president Dave Arritt told the board he was surprised by Ivey's pro-consolidation stance, saying he campaigned for Ivey and was under the impression that he supported community schools.

Tempers Flare Over Consolidation Issue

The Raleigh-Register reported that Ivey and former Fayette superintendent George "Matt" Edwards, chairman of Citizens for Community Schools, exchanged words several times throughout a two hour meeting, with Ivey at one point asking if security was available.

Board member Ivey, while defending his own character and honesty, said he did not feel comfortable conducting meetings in a room named in Edwards' honor.

He said that the former superintendent spent time in federal prison in the 1980s.

"We're sitting in the George "Matt" Edwards conference room, and I'm wondering how in the world could we ever have any credibility come out of this office and out of this room with that name on the door," Ivey said.

He said he would like to have the room renamed. "Take it down," Edwards replied.

Fayetteville attorney James Keenan on behalf of an "anonymous" individual warned the board of a potential civil suit related to alleged misuse of funds.

The board recently employed a public relations firm. The attorney claimed the board cannot use public money in an effort to coerce residents into voting for the levy.

Superintendent Chris Perkins said the PR firm is being used only in promoting the school system itself.

Fayette County voters will decide on October 24 whether or not they support a $49 million school bond that will help fund several school improvement projects as well as the construction of a new facility that will combine Fayetteville, Midland Trail, Mount Hope and Oak Hill high schools.


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