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Former Gov. Martin's letter on red flags over no-show classes, and what the record shows

Former Gov. Jim Martin in a letter in today's paper objects to a couple points in our Sunday story on his report into long-running academic fraud at UNC-Chapel Hill's African studies department.

It has to do with a conclusion he delivered to the UNC Board of Trustees on Dec. 20. That finding would help absolve athletics officials and academic support staff for athletes of any wrongdoing because Martin said they had twice sounded a warning about suspect classes.

"On two occasions (in 2002 and 2006)," Martin told the trustees, "leaders of Academic Support for Student Athletes brought to the Faculty Athletic Committee their concerns about students taking nominally lecture courses that did not meet and only required one 20-page term paper, and other forms of questionable independent study."

His letter first appears to say our Sunday report hadn't shown enough homework:

"In checking this, you found three members of the committee who deny this was presented, only one of whom was present in April 2002."

Readers should know that our stories don't always include every interview that we do for our reporting. In this case, we interviewed five members of the 2002 committee who said they either did not recollect such a warning or say it never happened. They include the chairman, Dr. Stanley Mandel, and faculty members Lissa Broome, Nick Didow, Gar Hershey, and Celia Hooper. (A sixth, Jim Murphy, briefly said he had no recollection before his wife hung up the telephone.)

Martin's report said the same concerns were raised in 2006. The meeting minutes show references to independent studies being discussed in November 2006 and January 2007. We interviewed three faculty members at the November meeting -- Broome, Steve Reznick and Desmond Runyan, and then Chancellor James Moeser, who was listed as in attendance, and four who were in attendance at the January meeting, Broome, Hershey, Reznick and Barbara Wildemuth. None remembered being warned about suspect classes.

Martin interviewed none of these people. He said that Broome told him after he released his report that he had gotten it right. We talked with Broome after the report was released. She said the same thing she told me earlier, that she didn't remember a warning.

Martin's letter continues:

"While discrediting testimony on behalf of ASPSA as self-serving, you need similar skepticism about motives of the accusers."

Martin's basis for the red flag finding comes from officials with close ties to athletics: former athletic director Dick Baddour, senior associate director John Blanchard, former academic support director Robert Mercer and Jack Evans, a business professor and former longtime faculty NCAA representative. He acknowledged that those tied to athletics would have a reason to make up a story.

But he also said they were backed up by two others who do not have ties to athletics: Chancellor Holden Thorp and Laurie Maffly-Kipp, who co-authored a special faculty report on the academic fraud that was released July 26.

That report was the first mention of academic support being told not to question how classes are taught. It came after we had broken a big story on the case, that Nyang'oro had formed a no-show class four days before the start of a summer semester and it immediately filled with football players. Thorp said in that story that academic support staff helped the players enroll in a class that staff knew did not meet.

Maffly-Kipp has now acknowledged that she and her colleagues on the special committee never investigated the red flag claim. That information was provided to her by Thorp. His spokeswoman referred me to the 2002 minutes.

Which brings us back to the remaining point in Martin's letter:

"The minutes of that meeting clearly state that this subject was discussed, and there is an appended 'Report on Independent Studies.' For our part, we relied on this and four witnesses who were there and affirmed it happened, plus a later conversation with a participant who did not deny it."

We reviewed the minutes and posted them online for readers to judge for themselves. (They are also attached to this post.) We did not see a warning about lecture style classes that didn't meet, or out-of-control independent studies. There is nothing in the "Report on Independent Studies" or in the minutes that suggest any kind of problem with the African studies department.

Blanchard was an author of the 2002 independent studies report. He said he does not remember much about it other than "just reporting on independent studies." He said he twice raised concerns to the committee in 2006 about an African studies professor offering lecture-style classes as independent studies. We asked if he had any records or correspondence to back up that assertion. He said he had none.

Wake County school board member Jim Martin on considering PTA impact in student assignment

Wake County parents may want to consider becoming active PTA members in the future in case it can reduce the chances of their children being reassigned.

During the last board meeting, school board member Jim Martin talked about the "frank conversations" he had with parents at a recent tour of Dillard Drive Elementary School in Raleigh. He said it highlighted to him the need to consider the impact of reassignment on PTAs when they work on future assignment plans.

“It’s pretty clear that in many of our schools we need to look at where the PTA leadership in the schools comes from because we think a lot about reassignments as they impact families, which we need to and they really do," Martin said.

1356962464 Wake County school board member Jim Martin on considering PTA impact in student assignment The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Keith Sutton and Joe Bryan hold "productive" meeting on fall 2013 Wake County school bond issue

Wake County school board chairman Keith Sutton is calling Friday's meeting with Joe Bryan, chairman of the board of commissioners, to discuss setting a fall 2013 school bond issue "productive."

Sutton and Bryan met Friday to discuss the topics that will be on the agenda when the full boards have joint meetings next year on the bond. Sutton said topics will include things such as the amount of the bond issue, what calendar or calendars to use and the construction costs for schools.

Sutton said they've also tentatively agreed on dates for the joint meetings. But he said they want to discuss the dates with their respective boards before announcing them publicly.

1356357664 Keith Sutton and Joe Bryan hold "productive" meeting on fall 2013 Wake County school bond issue The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The NCAA and UNC in light of the Martin report

UNC-Chapel Hill has sent the Martin report to the NCAA, which so far has said only that it is monitoring the situation. NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said this week: “We stand by these statements and do not have anything further at this time.”

In August, both UNC and the NCAA had said the academic problems did not amount to violations.

Several respected experts on NCAA rules say the collegiate governing body should look deeper.

Click "read more" for a fuller explanation, beyond today's report, of why they say that.

Wake County school system denies GSIW has "extreme influence" on school board majority

The Wake County school system is denying that members of the school board's Democratic majority are being unduly influenced by the Great Schools in Wake Coalition.

As noted in today's article, Wake's school board attorneys are telling AdvancED that majority members are making decisions based on their independent judgment and not because of the influence of Great Schools or any other advocacy group. The Wake County Taxpayers Association had charged GSIW had "extreme influence" on the majority, particularly the new board members.

"The allegation that the Board members who voted in favor of the June 19 student assignment directive did so because of 'extreme influence' from GSIW is suppositional and wrong," says this report.

Wake County school system to respond today to WCTA complaint with AdvancED

Today is the deadline for the Wake County school system to respond to the complaint that the Wake County Taxpayers Associated filed with AdvancED.

The initial WCTA complaint focused on a variety of things, including the private meeting the new school board members had with Michael Alves, the post-midnight vote on the student assignment directive and board member Jim Martin trying to arrange an assignment provision for parents going on sabbaticals. WCTA has also argued that the new board members are unduly influenced by the Great Schools in Wake Coalition.

The WCTA later amended the complaint to include the firing of Superintendent Tony Tata.

How Wake's response to the complaint affects AdvancED's review of the accreditation of the district's high schools remains to be seen.

Talking about whether next Wake County schools superintendent should be an educator

Two years later, the arguments are the same but those who are in control are different as the Wake County school board decides on who will be the next schools superintendent.

As noted in today's article, members of the Democratic board majority say they'd prefer to hire a superintendent with education experience. Republican board members say the search should include looking at non-educators as well, although they can't do much about it being in the minority.

“It’s really going to depend on how much experience they want in the educational field and how much experience in the corporate or military field they can tolerate,” said outgoing Republican board member Chris Malone.

Wake County school board member Chris Malone says goodbye after three "largely productive years"

Wake County school board member Chris Malone has his swan song from the board this week before moving over to the state House to take his new seat.

During Tuesday's board meeting, Malone looked back at his tenure on the board, gave some advice to his colleagues and thanked them and staff for their help. He also acknowledged the members of the audience who've often come to the meetings in the past three years to criticize his positions.

"It’s been three good and, I think, largely productive years, tumultuous years," Malone said. "If you remember when I first got on the board, during my very initial speech during swearing in, I said that we’d live in interesting times. And I think this time that I’ve spent on the board has been very interesting."

1355517952 Wake County school board member Chris Malone says goodbye after three "largely productive years" The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wake County school board members spar over dropping the choice plan for 2013-14

The controlled-choice plan bit the dust officially on Tuesday with the 5-4 vote by the Wake County school board to move back to an address-based plan for the 2013-14 school year.

As noted in today's article, Democratic board members argued that the choice plan was too expensive to maintain. They argued the new plan was a good hybrid of the choice plan and a base plan while incorporating long-sought concepts such as grandfathering for all students at their current school.

But Republican board members argued the choice plan wasn't given a fair chance to succeed and that changing assignment plans again promoted instability in the community.

Wake County school board talks about cap options for Hunter Elementary School base families

Hunter Elementary School, a magnet school near downtown Raleigh, looks like it will be among the 13 Wake County schools that will have a full enrollment cap placed on it today for the rest of the school year.

But the discussion last week about where the capped out base children for Hunter would go gives more insight into the differences between the board members about how students should be assigned. It could serve as an another example of what direction the new 2014-15 student assignment plan will take.

Last week, staff added Hunter to the original list of 12 schools it was recommending for a full cap for the rest of the 2012-13 school year. Students who are capped out of Hunter would be given the option of Oak Grove, Timber Drive and Washington elementary schools.

1355253519 Wake County school board talks about cap options for Hunter Elementary School base families The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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