GREENSBORO — A bill aimed at ending a stalemate between Democrats on the Guilford County Board of Education and the county’s Republican Party over a vacant school board seat is now law.
The N.C. House passed the Senate’s version of the bill with a 67-48 vote on Wednesday afternoon. As a “local bill” it does not require the signature of Gov. Roy Cooper.
State Rep. Jon Hardister, a Republican from Whitsett, sponsored the legislation with hopes of ending a months-long standoff between Democrats on the Board of Education and the Guilford County GOP over the open District 3 seat that Michael Logan, a Southern Guilford High School teacher, was nominated to fill.
The new law states that if a county party executive committee recommends someone to fill an empty seat on the board in accordance with the law, that person would swear in at the next regular meeting of the school board. The board’s next meeting is April 4.
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Hardister has said that the law’s intent is that Guilford school board members wouldn’t vote to confirm a party’s nominee. Instead, that person would just take the oath of office.
He said he is also working to pull together other legislation that would make the same distinction for other partisan-elected school boards across the state.
On Wednesday in Raleigh, three representatives spoke against the bill prior to the vote.
Rep. Diamond Staton-Williams, a Cabarrus County Democrat, said she was “very disappointed” to see that the bill now also included a provision to elect the Cabarrus County school board on a partisan basis, and said that’s opposed by school board members there as well as members of the community. That was one of a number of miscellaneous additions to the bill unrelated to Guilford County.
Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat who initially supported the measure in the House, said she was no longer in favor of the bill, given the addition that would make certain school boards partisan bodies.
“This problem would not even have arisen if our school board was not partisan,” said Harrison, in reference to the standoff over the Guilford school board vacancy.
And Rep. Amos Quick, another Democrat from Greensboro, said that he opposed the first version of the bill out of concern it was impinging on local control, and that he disliked this new version that impacted other counties even less.
The Board of Education seat has been vacant since December when Pat Tillman resigned to join the Guilford County Board of Commissioners.
Because Tillman was elected as a Republican, state law required the school board appoint the person recommended to fill out his term by the GOP’s Executive Committee members from the affected district — in this case, District 3.
However, the school board voted down the Guilford County Republican Party’s nominee on four separate occasions — most recently on Tuesday. Similar to the other votes, it fell along party lines, with the board’s six Democrats opposed to nominee Logan and the two Republicans in favor of him.
In a News & Record opinion column penned by Chairwoman Deena Hayes-Greene, the board’s Democrats called on the local GOP to pick another nominee and condemned Logan for social media posts that they saw as displaying “bigotry and racial prejudice.”
Hayes-Greene wrote: “It is hard to believe the local Executive Committee of the Guilford County Republican Party has put forth a man who shared and ‘liked’ the following: Derek Chauvin immediately stood and calmly placed his hands behind his back yesterday. Imagine where we’d be had George Floyd done the same.”
Logan has stood by that post and others highlighted in the opinion piece.