Angry Dad’s Voting Guide – 2016 Edition

Two years ago I put together a voting guide offering my thoughts on the Board of Education candidates. That voting guide was the most read set of posts on this site and generated more phone calls than anything I have ever written. Honestly, I was shocked at the response. I don’t know if 2016 will have the same results, but I’ll give it a shot.

In 2016, all Union County residents will be able to vote for 2 candidates to represent the entire county At-Large. There are 3 candidates running, the 2 candidates who receive the most votes will be placed on the Board of Education.

Residents of District 1, District 2, District 5, and District 6 are also able to vote for a candidate to specifically represent them and their district. If you live outside of these districts, you are only able to vote for 2 At-Large candidates this year.

There are some caveats to be read before you continue.

First and foremost, this voting guide is only discussing Board of Education candidates and the UCPS Bond. I will not be discussing any other political candidates. While I love talking about politics, this website is specifically dedicated to UCPS. If you want to know how I feel about something other than BOE candidates, feel free to ask me directly. I’d be happy to chat about it. But not here.

Second, as was true two years ago, if you are one of the few people who have invested the time, energy, and research into UCPS and the Board of Education, you already know who the most qualified candidates are. Feel free to skip this post and head directly to your nearest early voting location. If you haven’t been able to read more than 100,000 pages of documents or attend hundreds of hours of meetings over of the last few years, please allow me to offer this summary of what I have learned.

Please don’t vote without doing some research. Uninformed voters (like myself in 2012 and earlier) gave us Richard Yercheck and Kevin Stewart. Let’s learn from our mistakes.

With that, I give you the Angry Dad’s Voting Guide – 2016 Edition:

District 1

District 2

District 5

District 6



-Angry (But Still Doing My Civic Duty) Dad

*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own. No candidate mentioned here had any prior-knowledge of the contents of this post.

UCPS Bond 2016

Back in June I suggested that we “Wait and See” how things played out before making up our minds about the bond. I said that we need to:

  1. Wait for the 20 day numbers to come out before deciding if future overcrowding issues were resolved by the new charter schools.
  2. Wait for new Facilities Chair Melissa Merrell to provide some details as to how the bond will solve capacity problems.
  3. Wait to see which current BOE members will run for re-election in November.

Here is how things have shaken out.

Enrollment & Charter Schools

UCPS published the 20 Day numbers yesterday, you can find them here. There is a lot we can talk about in those numbers but for now I will focus on how it relates to the bond.

At the moment, we are 1,200 students BELOW the most recent forecasts. Most of the decline is in our elementary schools.Two new charter schools opened up this year (K-3 and K-6). Both of these charter schools will continue to add 1 grade each year until 8th grade, so these students will likely be back in UCPS for high school. Union Prep Academy has said they would like to open a high school in a couple of years if there is demand for it, but that is not a guarantee. I do not think it is wise for us to assume these 1,200 students are out of UCPS forever.

Capacity Solutions

As promised, Melissa Merrell did provide additional details from the Facilities Committee as to how they plan on addressing capacity issues. While the information is a little more limited than I would like to see, it is a vast improvement compared to what we had from the previous Facilities Chair and his quarter of a BILLION dollar threat. I’ll dig into each project further down, but for now, my take away is that this is a big step in the right direction. Keep reading if you want more details.

The New Board of Education

The only person trying to come back to haunt us is Christina Helms. We also have Amelie Shill Schoel in District 5 trying to bring Richard Yercheck and John Collins back by proxy. The good news is that even if voters buy the crap these two are trying to sell, there are still not enough votes for the current BOE majority to continue their reign of terror. It’s over. We won. The fact that there will be a new BOE majority in December will have huge impact school boundaries.

About Redistricting

There are a lot of people who believe that the redistricting in 2014 created the current overcrowding mess by forcing students into schools that lack the facilities and capacity to handle them. They argue that if we increase the capacity to match the current enrollment numbers, we are locking in a redistricting that should never have happened in the first place. These people are 100% correct. Redistricting created this capacity mess. If we roll back redistricting we will find that most of the capacity problems should go away. We will also be saving nearly $1 million/year by improving our transportation efficiency rating. It’s a win-win.

However, there are students who do not want to go back where they came from. After being kicked around every 3 years, there are students who want to be left alone and be allowed to graduate where they are. I support them. I don’t feel the same way, but I believe their desire to stay is just as valid as my desire to go back. Whatever changes we make to the boundary lines for 2017/18, we have to provide a 100% grandfathering option to those who want it. By offering a grandfathering option, there may still be some capacity problems as not everyone will choose to go back.

The only question is whether or not we will be allowed to go back. What are the odds that the new BOE majority will support Gary Sides’ rollback plan? Ask the candidates and they will tell you where they stand.

  1. Matt Helms (uncontested) – Supports it
  2. Kathy Heintel (uncontested) – Supports it
  3. Dennis Rape – Supports it
  4. Lee Henage – Supports it
  5. Joe Morreale – Supports it
  6. Rebekah Ratliff – Supports it

Three of those candidates are guaranteed to win, three of them are not. Even if we lose all three of those seats, there should still be enough support on the new Board to roll this back. This is why I suggested we wait and see who was running again. If Jason Marton or Michael Guzman had decided to run again, there would be a chance that a rollback could be blocked. As it stands now, I like these odds. A rollback will happen. It’s the right thing to do and it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do. There won’t be enough idiots left on the Board in December to block it.

I’m not letting redistricting affect my vote on the bond as I truly believe redistricting is dead.

Bond Projects

Monroe HS

Current core capacity of 1,270 and enrollment of 1,180. Current enrollment is 40 students below McKibben’s latest forecast and Monroe MS is down 66. However, that forecast shows enrollment going up above the current core capacity after 5 years. The current classroom capacity is also too low for the latest forecast.

Looking at these numbers, I think this project is one that needs to be done.

Piedmont HS

Current core capacity of 1,650 and enrollment of 1,375. Current enrollment is down 14 students below forecasts. Forecasts show enrollment going as high as 1,600 and then dropping down to 1,500 by 2025. However, Piedmont’s classroom capacity is too low for the latest forecast. The bond will not increase core capacity (cafeteria space) but will increase classroom capacity.

Looking at these numbers, I think this project is one that needs to be done.

Porter Ridge MS/HS

Current core capacity is 2,352/1,615 (MS/HS) and enrollment is 1,336/1,740. Current classroom capacity is 1,216/1,877. The middle school is over its classroom capacity and the high school is over its core capacity. Enrollment is forecasted to grow without a decline (forecast goes through 2025/26).

If we roll back redistricting 100%, Porter Ridge will still be in trouble. Porter Ridge was overcrowded and capped before redistricting. This is the problem that the BOE should have fixed 3 years ago, instead of trying to get Yercheck’s friends rich.

I had hoped that the charter school in the area would lower the middle school numbers a little bit, but that didn’t happen. The middle school is 18 students ABOVE forecasts. The elementary schools are down more than 200 students across the cluster, but it looks like the middle school students stayed in UCPS.

Looking at these numbers, I think this project is one that needs to be done. Actually, this one should have been done 3 years ago.

Sun Valley HS

This is one of the schools redistricting broke. Redistricting pushed hundreds of extra students here, well above what the core capacity could ever possibly handle. If we rollback redistricting 100%, this school might not have capacity issues. However, there is more going on at Sun Valley HS than capacity problems.

Part of the bond package will be a new stadium for the school. The current stadium is not ADA compliant. As the father of 2 disabled children, you cannot fathom how pissed off I am about this. ADA laws have been around for nearly 30 years. The fact that we still have facilities in this county that are not ADA compliant is a disgrace. Every BOE member that sat on the facilities committee for the last 10 years owes our children an apology. Don’t even get me started on the lazy, self-serving, good-for-nothing assholes that filled the Chairman’s seat and never did a damn thing to help. Kudos to Melissa Merrell who sat in the Chairman’s seat for only a few months and instantly made this a top priority. Do you want to know why I support Melissa Merrell? This is it. Right here.

Sure, the $250 million CCEP had some ADA compliance things in it, but they were also bundled with $200 million dollars of excess bloat and unrelated bullshit. Typical political crap where they give us a few small necessary items and then tie them together with crap that we neither want nor need. Don’t let Kevin Stewart fool you when he says he gave our disabled children dignity. He held our children’s dignity for ransom, to the tune of $200 million.

Our disabled children deserve better than this. My sons deserve better than this. If for no other reason than this project, I would ask you to support the bond.

Western Union ES

Current core capacity is 692 and enrollment is 597. This year we are 100 students BELOW the latest forecast due to students transferring to charter schools. Without charter schools, this school was in desperate need of relief. This is the other school that redistricting broke. At the time of the bond proposal, this school absolutely should have been on the list. Now, it might not be needed.

Looking exclusively at the latest numbers, I will say that this project is no longer necessary, strictly from a capacity stand point.

Transportation Facility

I won’t lie to you. I hate this project. The Goldmine Rd property was purchased years ago by UCPS from a developer who had been working as a land/purchasing agent for UCPS. Do you know who sold that land to the developer? Dr. Mary Ellis and her family. In the corporate world, this is called insider trading and it gets you thrown in prison. In Union County, it’s called business as usual.

However, the Ellis family cashed their check for $1.4 million dollars years ago. Even if we can somehow toss this project out the window, there’s no getting our money back now. My dislike for this project is strictly emotional, and I try to vote based on facts, not emotions. The facts are that we probably do need some additional maintenance bays for our bus fleet.

I can’t guarantee that this project will fix what’s broken, but when it comes to our kids safety, I try not to gamble.


Redistricting is dead and there is a very clear roadmap to rolling it back. Talk to the future Board Members and confirm it for yourself if you must. I’m willing to vote in favor of the bond based on what I see is a very likely rollback for the 2017/18 school year. Redistricting will become a none-issue.

The lack of ADA compliance at Sun Valley HS is a disgrace and we should be ashamed that we allowed it to go this long. The new stadium and other ADA issues is not about test scores or school ratings, it’s about human dignity. It’s about doing the right thing for our kids. It’s about doing the right thing for my sons. If for no other reason, please vote Yes for my sons.

When redistricting is rolled back, grandfathering will be allowed, which means there may still be capacity issues for those who choose to stay. Porter Ridge will certainly have capacity issues that need to be addressed regardless. With the exception of Western Union ES, the projects, from a capacity stand point, all look good to me. Western Union doesn’t need the capacity increase now that the charter schools have opened.

While I hate the insider trading deal behind the Transportation Center, that was years ago and there’s nothing that we can do to get that money back from Dr. Ellis’ family.

I’m voting Yes on the UCPS bond, I think you should too.

District 5

Joe Morreale

Joe is exactly the kind of person we need on the Board of Education. He has a professional background in supply chains, logistics, and technology. This gives him a unique advantage here. As you probably know, UCPS is losing almost $1 million each year in state funding because of the inefficient bus routes they implemented during redistricting. Despite parents and DPI confirming this loss of funding before the redistricting vote, the old guard had it in their heads that more miles and longer routes for fewer kids is more efficient.

The old guard on the Board of Education never cared about the facts or accurate numbers, they did what they wanted however they wanted, taxpayers and students be damned. UCPS needs Board Members who are driven by facts and reason and not personal agendas. UCPS needs Joe Morreale. Joe is committed to neighborhood schools, in order to reduce bus routes and improve our efficiency rating. We’re bleeding nearly $1 million each and every year. Joe is the best candidate on the ballot to help find a solution there.

Amelie Shill Schoel

shill: an accomplice of a hawker, gambler, or swindler who acts as an enthusiastic customer to entice or encourage others.

On one hand, Amelie is an involved parent with a proven history of volunteering and supporting UCPS schools. That’s very admirable. On the other hand, Amelie is nothing more than a shill for Richard Yercheck and John Collins. Amelie was hand-picked to be John Collins replacement a long time ago. Let that sink in for a moment. Amelie on the Board of Education was a foregone conclusion before the voters even knew what was coming.

It’s the same pattern we saw with redistricting. Richard Yercheck and the rest of the gang decided in advance that redistricting was going to happen to help Yercheck’s developer friends. Regardless of the facts we presented or the lies we uncovered, redistricting was a done-deal before the public ever found out. Without Joe Morreale stepping up, Amelie would have been nothing more than proxy for Yercheck and Collins.

But don’t take my word for it, ask Amelie.

  • Ask her about her connections with Yercheck and Collins and the rest of the gang.
  • Ask her about redistricting.
  • Ask her if she would ever vote to approve something for someone else’s kids if she wouldn’t want it for her own kids.
  • Ask her if she has ever spoken out about UCPS in a way that disagreed with Yercheck and Collins.

Go ahead, ask her.

  • If she’s being honest, she will tell you that she has been in constant contact with Yercheck and Collins for years with regards to UCPS. Dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens of e-mails, txt messages, and phone calls all while the rest of us were completely shut out from the process. We couldn’t get a meeting with Yercheck to save our lives, but they have Amelie on speed dial.
  • If she’s being honest, she’ll tell you she supported redistricting so long as it didn’t touch her community.
  • If she’s being honest, she will tell you she was (and is) willing to throw our kids under the bus if it benefits her kids.
  • If she’s being honest, she will tell you she’s never gone against Yercheck and Collins, she has no track record of independent thinking.

If her answers don’t match up to what I am telling you now, ask her to prove it.

If she says she’s not at the beck and call Yercheck or Collins, ask her to show her cell phone records for the last few years. Find out how many times she called or txted them. Bonus points if you count the number of interactions that happened around BOE meetings. How many interactions did you find? Now look at the amount of time she spent communicating with BOE members who disagreed with Yercheck or Collins. Tell me, is she communicating with all of the BOE or just a few people on one side?

If she says she disagreed with redistricting, ask her to provide the messages she sent to her friends on the Board during the redistricting fight. Clearly she would have told them how she felt. I wonder how many e-mails or txt messages she will be able to produce where she stood up to her friends and benefactors?

If she says she would never support forcing anything on someone else that she wouldn’t want for her own kids, ask her how many times she told her neighbors that she made a deal with the BOE which saved them from redistricting. Ask her how many kids she threw under the proverbial bus so she could brag to her friends that she’s the hero.

The bottom line is this. We just got rid of Jason Marton, we don’t want more of that kind of selfishness at UCPS. Let’s stop putting leaders in place who will sacrifice the safety and education of children to accomplish the goals of their friends. She is the literal definition of a shill in every way and I will not support her.


Dennis Rape

There are a few times in the last few years that I posted a prediction that didn’t pan out the way I thought it would. However, I’ve been right about nearly every issue I’ve researched and written about. In my 2014 Voters Guide, I wrote about Dennis and my position hasn’t changed. You can read it here.

As I said in 2014, if there were 2 at-large positions open, I would be voting for Dennis. Here in 2016, with 2 at-large positions open, I’m voting for Dennis. I’ve spoken with him personally and we both agree that neighborhood schools are important. We shouldn’t be shipping kids to their 4th or 5th closest school. It’s a waste of time and money. I believe Dennis’ only agenda is to fix what’s broken and to make UCPS a better place. He’s absolutely getting my vote this year and I think he should get yours too.

Lee Henage

I’ve never met Lee or spoken with him directly. But I’ve seen the charts and graphs he creates and shares with the rest of us. He’s a numbers guy, through and through. He has a talent for weeding through the data and making sense of it all. He’s a man after my own heart. I love numbers. Numbers don’t lie, unless of course those numbers came from Don Hughes at Facilities. His numbers lie because he cooks the books to fit an agenda.

I don’t know where Lee stands on every issue, and to be honest, that’s fine with me. If he’s committed to fact-based decision making, that’s all I need to know. I don’t have to agree with every decision, so long as that decision is based on facts.

We need someone like Lee Henage on the Board who is able to call out the fake data UCPS is known for producing. We need someone like Lee Henage who is willing to follow the numbers instead of a pre-determined agenda.

Christina Helms

I’ll be honest here; I was shocked to find that Christina Helms put her name in the hat for re-election. After Ellis, Webb, Stewart, and Collins all ran away, I figured she’d be running away faster than Monty Python’s Brave Sir Robin. I have no idea why she’s on the ballot. The only positive things she’s done for UCPS is to make an award named after late BOE member John Crowder. That’s it.

On the other side of the coin, Christina Helms voted in favor of every single disaster UCPS has suffered in the last few years. Here are only a few of the highlights:

  • When UCPS wanted to burn $1 million a year and transfer students unnecessarily, Christina Helms was happy to vote Yes.
  • When Dr. Ellis wanted to transfer millions of dollars out of the budget for instruction and buy Lenovo laptops, Christina Helms was there voting Yes.
  • When UCPS wanted to extend Dr. Ellis’ employment contract without bothering to perform her annual review (which would have identified her glaring conflict of interest with Lenovo), Christina Helms was there voting to approve it.

Let’s not forget the Principal at Benton Heights ES who asked for $46,000 dollars for the Leader In Me program. This principal wanted to implement a program that was already in place at other schools with larger PTO budgets. Benton Heights does not have a PTO budget that could afford it so she went to the BOE and asked for funds. Christina Helms couldn’t believe the audacity of a funding request that didn’t pass through her hands via committee, so she voted against it. Yet when Gary Sides asked Christina to put the Leader In Me program on the agenda for the curriculum committee, she refused! What kind of bullshit is that?

If you were at the most recent curriculum committee meeting, you would have heard Christina Helms complain that the principal at Benton Heights found a way to fund the program despite her best effort to stonewall her.

I won’t support this program because it wasn’t passed through my committee. When it comes time to bring it before my committee, I won’t let it go on the agenda to be discussed. When you find a way to fund the program without me, I’ll get pissy at you for going around me.

If UCPS made a mistake, you can bet Christina Helms was on the wrong side of that vote. Christina Helms is the last vestige of a failed agenda and she needs to go. She has nothing but a proven track record of failure at every turn. Let’s send her slithering back into the hole from whence she came.

District 1

Rebekah Ratliff

I haven’t had much interaction with either of the candidates for District 1, so I won’t make a strong recommendation one way or another. There have been “meet and greet” opportunities for the District 1 candidates and I’ve seen Rebekah Ratliff but not Candice Sturdivant. I have friends who are more familiar with the District 1 race and they are all supporting Rebekah. If I lived in District 1, I would be voting for Rebekah too. Though if I lived in District 1, I would have been more active in getting to know both of these candidates. So please take this recommendation with a grain of salt.

Candice Sturdivant

I’ve had no interaction with Candice Sturdivant. I have no idea where she stands on any issues and I can’t find anything online to learn more. I don’t say this to be negative, I want to make it clear that I’m not informed enough to have a strong opinion in this District one way or another. Based on my limited exposure to the District 1 candidates, I would be voting for Rebekah Ratliff.


District 2

Matt Helms

District 2 is the seat previously filled by Kevin Stewart before he tucked tail and ran away. Stewart did his very best to run UCPS into the ground and then he abandoned ship to avoid facing the consequences for his actions. While I would have preferred to see Kevin Stewart get clobbered in the election by Matt Helms, I can’t complain when Matt Helms gets to walk into the seat unchallenged. Let’s be honest, Kevin Stewart set the bar really low. But everything I have heard about Matt tells me he will be a great representative for the students and families of District 2.

District 6

Kathy Heintel

There is a relatively short list of people who know more about UCPS and who have invested more time into it than I have. Kathy’s name is on that list. Ask her anything about UCPS and the BOE, she probably knows the answer. There are only a handful of people who have been attending every BOE meeting and every committee meeting for years, and Kathy is one of those people. In a way, I wish Jason Marton had been willing to run again in District 6 if only because I would have enjoyed watching Kathy destroy him at the polls. She is, by far, the single most qualified BOE candidate on the ballot and I am ecstatic at the prospect that she is going to be representing my kids in District 6.

UCPS (Finally) Provides Accurate DPI Capacity Numbers

For the first time in many years, UCPS has posted accurate capacity numbers. Let that sink in for a moment. I’ve been chasing down DPI capacity calculations from UCPS for several years. These are simple calculations based on formulas provided by the NC Department of Public Instruction. It’s basic math. Yet for some reason, UCPS has been unable to provide these numbers FOR YEARS. Melissa Merrell has been the head of the Facilities Committee for a few months and all of a sudden it’s raining data.

Todays post is sponsored by the word “Perjury”

I think it’s worth mentioning here that I reached out to Don Hughes personally as well as filing a FOIA request several years ago, in order to gain access to these capacity numbers. Dr. Ellis, Dr. Webb, and all of the BOE filed sworn affidavits indicating UCPS had no records for Core Capacity. A couple of months ago, Don Hughes admitted that there is a spreadsheet used to calculate Core Capacity for all of the schools and he has had it in his possession since he took the job running the Facilities Department back in 2009. What’s that word that means you intentionally made false statements under oath? Oh yeah, perjury. That’s the word I was looking for. Perjury. Don Hughes already acknowledged that he arbitrarily adjusted the Core Capacity numbers to make redistricting look better. We also have Facilities e-mails confirming that the Core Capacity numbers were changed to make redistricting look better. Now we know Don Hughes is just as dishonest as the rest of the gang. With any luck, Don Hughes will be unemployed by the end of this school year. You shouldn’t get a free pass when you intentionally put children in harms way to fit your personal agenda.

And now we return to your regularly scheduled post…

Back to the topic at hand. Over the last few weeks I’ve asked the BOE (again) to provide documentation on the various types of capacity measurements for our schools. None of it is complicated. All of it is very straightforward. Lo and behold, every single item I requested was provided, usually within a couple of days. Not only did Melissa Merrell provide the information I requested, I double-checked the math, and it appears to be correct. I ran my own Core Capacity numbers a couple of years ago and posted them on this website. The numbers I ran two years ago appear to be an exact match for the numbers Melissa Merrell sent me. Again, it’s not difficult math, so the fact that I had the right answer two years ago isn’t really a big deal. It’s shameful that UCPS was unable to provide such basic information for so long and they chose to resort to perjury to try and hide their manipulations.

Core Capacity

UCPS has committed to using a formula to calculate Core Capacity based on 4-seatings of lunch in the cafeteria. DPI offers several different formulas for Core Capacity, this is one of them. I’ve said it before, I don’t care which formula UCPS uses, so long as the same formula is applied across all the schools equally. This Core Capacity formula essentially tells us how many students the school cafeteria can feed.

Classroom Capacity

UCPS is also using a standard DPI formula for calculating Classroom Capacity. Classroom Capacity is based on the quantity of each type of classroom. General purpose classrooms are worth a certain number of students, chemistry classrooms are worth a certain number of students, etc. etc. All of those numbers are added together and you get Classroom Capacity. This Classroom Capacity tells us how many students a school can educate at one time. I’ve been told that for high schools with block schedules, DPI creates a lower number based on 77% attendance. I’m still trying to confirm this. However, the 77% value isn’t used in calculating anything else, so even if we throw that number out, it doesn’t change anything. It should also be noted that the physical size of a classroom doesn’t change the number of students DPI assigns to it for Classroom Capacity. A general purpose classroom that is 900 sqft in an older school counts for the same number of students as a 1,500 sqft general purpose classroom in a newer school.

School Capacity

School Capacity is a new construct that we haven’t seen in UCPS, at least not in the last few years. At first I was confused by adding a 3rd capacity measurement but after seeing all the numbers, this makes sense. If you look at the newer middle schools, their Core Capacity is more than 2,300 students because of their large cafeterias. But their Classroom Capacity is around 1,200. There’s no logical sense to shoving 2,300 students into a school when you can only teach 1,200 of them. Likewise you can’t shove 1,500 students into a school when you can only feed 1,200 of them (Sun Valley HS). This is where School Capacity comes into play. School Capacity is being set by the Facilities Committee and is based on the lower value of the Core or Classroom Capacity. If Core Capacity is too high, then School Capacity is set to match Classroom. If Classroom Capacity is too high, then School Capacity is set to match Core. It’s not arbitrary and so far, it looks like it is being applied equally across all the schools

In the near future, I will be writing up an analysis on what these accurate capacity numbers show with regards to the 2016 bond, as well as what these numbers show us about the redistricting plan. I’ll give you a hint though, we were 100% right about redistricting being a big steaming pile of bullshit. If you want to run the numbers yourself, you are welcome to it. You can find a copy of all these numbers for the schools related to the 2016 bond at the website, under Bond Resources. You can also grab a copy of the PDF file here.

Go, be fruitful, and calculate… or arithmecate… or… something… But take a look at the numbers. We fought long and hard to get access to accurate data. Turns out all we needed to get to the truth was get rid of Kevin Stewart. Raise your hand if this shocks you. This is me, not raising my hand.

-“Giddy As A Geek With Numbers To Crunch” Dad


As the clock struck 12 this afternoon, victory was handed to the people and parents of Union County. The corrupt and harmful practices of Dr. Mary Ellis, Dr. Mike Webb, and the Board of Education majority that encouraged and enabled them has a final expiration date. It will come to an end at the Dec 2016 Board of Education meeting. It’s official, they will no longer have enough votes on the new Board of Education to shove anything down our throats. We may have lost the fight on redistricting, but we absolutely won the war. We won, and we won big. Here’s the tale of the tape so far:

Dr. Mary Ellis – Superintendent & Dr. Mike Webb – Deputy Superintendent: Resigned in disgrace after violating their employment contracts. They both knowingly failed to disclose a private business relationship with a UCPS technology vendor, a vendor relationship worth tens of millions of dollars. They both oversaw the largest student redistricting in Union County history based on arbitrary capacity numbers created at their request by Don Hughes, Head of Facilities for UCPS. Despite parent warnings and research, this redistricting plan (which Dr. Ellis told us would be free) cost taxpayers nearly $1 million per year in lost transportation funding from the state due to the additional miles generated by the redistricting plan. Because of a shortage of buses (due to the extra routes and miles created by the redistricting plan), a number of buses were forced back into service despite having known mechanical issues. These issues were willfully ignored resulting in 1 bus overturning and crushing a mother & daughter and 1 bus spewing boiling engine coolant onto the legs of several children.

Richard Yercheck – Chairman of the Board of Education: He spent years working with private developers on a plan to rebuild Sun Valley High School in exchange for handing over some commercial property. In order to speed up the timetable for his developer friends, Yercheck implemented the largest (and most disastrous) student redistricting in Union County history. He also earned the dubious honor of bringing about the largest property tax increase in Union County history. A whopping 15% increase due to his failed leadership. Subsequently he lost the election by a landslide. He continues to meddle in the affairs of the BOE by proxy, for now.

John Collins – Chairman of the Board of Education: Resigned in disgrace after the BOE, under his failed leadership, refused to perform the annual review of Dr. Ellis which would have brought to light her unethical side business with a UCPS vendor. He refused any attempt to reign in Board Member Kevin Stewart and his threats of violence against the people of Union County.

H. Kevin Stewart – Chairman of the Facilities Committee: Resigned in disgrace after violating Closed Session policy and leaked the name of Rob Jackson as a candidate for Superintendent via Facebook, threatening harm against parents and fellow BOE members, and generally being an asshole to anyone who dared disagree with him. He famously threatened to redistrict students again if their parents didn’t vote to approve a bond for nearly a quarter of a BILLION dollars.

The following Board of Education members who supported the corrupt and failed leadership of Dr. Ellis also lost the election or were to afraid to file again for fear of facing the people they harmed:

  • Rick Pig
  • Rev. Jim Bention
  • Mike Guzman
  • Jason Marton

By refusing to face the people of District 6, Jason Marton handed the victory to Kathy Heintel who will now run unopposed. District 2 candidate Matt Helms will also run unopposed to take over the seat Kevin Stewart abandoned in disgrace.

New Superintendent

Earlier this week the Board of Education approved the appointment of Dr. Andrew Houlihan as the new Superintendent. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to meet Dr. Houlihan, but there is 1 thing about him that I believe you need to know:

  1. He didn’t hurt our kids.

I know, my standards might seem a little low, but that’s about all you need in order to stay on my good side. I don’t care about your politics. I don’t care about your opinion of common-core. I don’t care about your opinion on bathroom assignment. Sure, we can discuss those things and agree or disagree or maybe even compromise. But my minimum standard is don’t hurt our kids. With that being said, I’ve taken down the links from and it will no longer point to this website. Dr. Houlihan deserves a clean slate, and I will do my best to give him one.

Election Battles Remaining

While there’s no chance that the current BOE majority will maintain a majority for the next 2 years, there is still a little bit of house cleaning to do. Incumbent Christina Helms will try and keep her place on the Board against Dennis Rape and Lee Henage. Yercheck & Collins BFF Amelie Schoel is running in District 5 against Joseph Morreale. We still need to work together to elect Dennis Rape, Lee Henage, and Joseph Morreale. Knowing that Matt Helms and Kathy Heintel are unopposed, we can focus our support behind these three candidates.

We have a little more work to do in November, but for now, let’s celebrate our complete and total victory over the people who tried to hurt our kids.

-Vindicated Dad

Wait And See

On Monday, BOE member Jason Marton failed to appear at a joint-meeting between the Board of Education and the Board of County Commissioners. His absence is unusual because I’ve been told he was the author of the keynote presentation, which left BOE chair Leslie Boyd in the lurch. Predictably, the presentation was an absolute disaster and the $250 million CCEP bond proposal was pronounced dead at the scene. It didn’t take long for the BOE to realize that they had no backup plan in case the CCEP failed and so at the last minute they scrambled to make some changes. First, they moved Melissa Merrell into the Chair of the Facilities Committee. Second, they came back to the BOCC last night with a request for $50 million.

This smaller bond is for issues at Western Union ES, Porter Ridge MS & HS, Monroe HS, Sun Valley HS, Piedmont HS, and a new Transportation Center. The backlash from the community was immediate. Quite frankly, it’s been years since we have seen something on UCPS letterhead that was true and factual. We’re not used to a BOE that is willing to make changes and adjustments to their plans to accommodate reasonable concerns. We’re used to having harmful decisions shoved down our throats followed by a quick kick in the face as we are insulted and attacked. We’re so pissed off at this CCEP that we immediately went after the new bond before looking at the facts, myself included. It will take some time for us all to get used to a Facilities Chair that responds to our concerns rather than insults and ignores us.

Do we really need $50 million? My best answer to that at this moment is, “I don’t know.” At first glance, most of the issues on the list appear to be legitimate. These schools are the most overcrowded in the County. Yes, they got this way because the current BOE majority failed to fix it 3 years ago. Porter Ridge was overcrowded before redistricting and it was overcrowded after redistricting. Instead, they forced more kids into Sun Valley to make it a top priority of their now-defunct CCEP. Another failure of the current UCPS leadership.

Even though we didn’t create this mess, we still need to find a solution. The latest demographic study shows Porter Ridge MS & HS over their limits for the next 3 years. After that, there is a couple of years of decline and then the numbers bounce back up again. Sun Valley, Monroe, and Piedmont HS show the same pattern or slightly worse.

Unfortunately there is nothing we can do for the high schools that will impact the next 2 years. If the bond passes in November 2016, it won’t make a difference for 2016-17 or 2017-18. There are new charter schools opening in 2 months, but they aren’t launching with high school students. One of them plans to open a high school in 2-3 years. The next 2 years at these high schools is going to be horribly overcrowded and that is the legacy of Richard Yercheck, John Collins, Kevin Stewart, Dr. Mary Ellis, and Dr. Mike Webb. These people took a bad situation and made it worse, then they ran away leaving us holding the bag. We can’t change it. We can’t fix it for these 2 years, but we do need to look at what is coming down the pipe.

The way I see it, there are 4 possible scenarios for the overcrowded schools for 2018 and beyond.

  1. The new charter schools that are opening this fall might be enough to bring these overcrowded populations down a little. UCPS will be losing several hundred elementary and middle school students. The one school that is accepting middle school kids is right down the street from Porter Ridge MS. It’s entirely possible this school will take some stress off or Porter Ridge. If it pulls kids from Porter Ridge MS, those kids will also likely not go back into Porter Ridge HS. I think it would be wise of UCPS to look into the charter school transfer numbers ASAP. If the charter schools don’t make a dent in the middle schools, we can assume that it won’t be enough for the high schools in a few years either. We won’t know for certain until the 20 day numbers come out in September.
  2. We approve the bond and the funds are used to add capacity (cafeteria, media center, etc.) and the problem is solved. At the moment, the BOE has nothing they can present to us to show how they will add capacity. Half of the CCEP was Yercheck’s development deal and a transportation center, the other half was replacing mobile units with brick and mortar. None of it was going to add additional capacity. They had no backup plan, no contingencies, it was the entire CCEP or nothing, and they were 48 hours from getting nothing. I’ve been told this new (smaller) bond will add real capacity, not just replace MCR’s. It will take some time for Melissa Merrell and the Facilities Committee to put together the list of projects, and we have 5 months before we go to the polls. She has years of Kevin Stewarts bullshit to wade through and clean up. Let’s give her some time and see what she comes up with before we make up our minds on this bond.
  3. We approve the bond and UCPS hijacks the funds for other projects like a hybrid Sun Valley HS, laptops from Lenovo, or some other disaster. Let me be blunt. I trust Gary Sides, Melissa Merrell, and Sharon Harrell to do right by my kids. Leslie Boyd, Jason Marton, Christina Helms, and Mike Guzman have all gone out of their way to harm our children and I have no faith in their judgment. Most of these people are up for election again so there is an opportunity for a major course correction in UCPS leadership. However, we still don’t know which of these people are running again. We need to wait and see who puts their names in the hat over the next couple of weeks to see what the future may hold for the BOE.
  4. Assuming the charter schools do not make a dent, we can reject the bond and force a new BOE leadership 2-3 years from now to redistrict again. If these schools are overcrowded and we don’t add capacity, redistricting is a very real possibility. I’m not saying we have to fund a $100+ million hybrid school or else redistricting will be used as a weapon or punishment. I’m saying the schools that are overcrowded now will need to addressed or redistricting will happen again. If none of these other scenarios pan out, this will be our last resort.

We have plenty of time to let the new Facilities Chair gather information and provide some details as to how capacity will be added. We have plenty of time to see whether or not the new charter schools will make a difference here. We have plenty of time to see who is going to run for Board of Education so we can determine the likelihood of the old guard sticking around.

That’s my point. We have time. The bond vote happens in November. Let’s ask questions, do research, and see where the numbers are before we decide whether or not we will support this bond. Let’s all take a step back and wait and see what happens.

-Angry Dad