Tuesday evening, in a well-mannered and orderly fashion, the Forsyth County Republican Party chose the person they would recommend to the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners to replace outgoing School Board member Donny Lambeth. Four candidates were presented for consideration, and participated in an hour-long Q&A forum. With only one round of voting, they chose school software specialist and gun rights advocate David Regnery. As in the GOP choice to replace Debra Conrad on the county Board of Commissioners, the committee passed over the candidate who received the most votes in previous election cycles (in this case Lori Goins Clark) and went with a relative unknown to most Winston-Salem parents, students, and voters.
The public portion of the meeting began with nomination of candidates. Two people attending nominated themselves, then withdrew their nominations before the candidate question and answer period. Both of them, former Democrat Rev. Robert Barr, and Mark Johnson, stated that they put themselves into nomination in order to announce their intent to run for school board in 2014 when the entire board will be up for re-election.
The GOP Nominating committee made a recommendation for Regnery. Other members of the executive committee nominated Irene May, David Singletary and Lori Goins Clark.
Of the four candidates who participated in the question and answer forum, Goins Clark and Regnery were clearly the only two with a real chance as Singletary and May made comments and statements that placed them far out of the main-stream and into a far-right world-view that seemed to be a mixture of internet conspiracy thought with a smattering of “American Exceptionalism” and a dash of Ayn Rand.
Goins Clark is a parent and substitute teacher in the Forsyth County School System. Clark touted her experience with the arts and team sports as informing the way she would approach school budget issues in order to protect arts and sports programs. Mrs. Clark also mentioned her mastery of Spanish and her previous experience in sales of educational technologies to school systems. Clark expressed her respect and support of teachers stating, “They have an incredible burden placed on them.” Unlike the other three candidates, Clark did not simply go on the attack and point out what she dislikes about the school system, or follow the other candidates implications that there is a Buddhist/communist/Federal Government plot to indoctrinate Forysth County students, rather she focused on the positives. “I believe there is still potential for our students to get a good education in our schools.” She said. “I would trumpet the good when I run in 2014.”
David Regnery’s opening statements touted his experience with his employer Tyler Technologies, a firm that provides software for public schools. Regnery pointed out that he has two children in the W-S/Forsyth County School system and stated, “I think I bring a pretty unique skill set.”
Following their opening statements, the candidates answered questions that had been handed in by committee members. The first question was “What does the School Board do?” Answers were solid across the group, as they all seemed to understand the basic function of the board.
The next question jumped right into the issue that would dominate the hour long Q&A. “What is Systems Thinking?” All of the candidates proposed various definitions that included statements ripped from internet conspiracy theories to Irene May’s headscratching statement that “leftists” and the “intelligentsia” favor Systems Thinking because it is what “smart people do.”
Lori Goins Clark appeared to understand what Systems Thinking actually is more than the others, stating that the program is a set of tools that help teachers. “I’ve been in schools and the tools work for teachers.” she said. Only Clark pointed out that Systems Thinking was adopted by the same people who sit on the current school board, which has an over-whelming Republican majority.
Regnery’s answer was not as concise. He stated that Systems Thinking is a business tool that works for “Non-Socialist” and “For Profit” companies. Regnery said that Systems Thinking could be easily co-opted and that it was being used to teach Global Warming. He closed by stating that Systems Thinking is divisive and that the “controversy” (see CCD coverage HERE) could scare away potential Superintendent candidates.
The next topic that did not focus on Systems Thinking was started with the question “What is Common Core curriculum?” Regnery answered: “It is a mandate from the Federal Government for what we should be teaching children.” He went on to say “I am very conservative and do not believe in a strong Department of Education.” This answer turns out to be factually wrong. The Common Core State Standards Initiative did not originate with the Federal Government nor is it a part of federal guidelines or the federally mandated No Child Left Behind. Adoption of these Standards is in no way mandatory, and in fact a few states have not adopted the standards. States began the work to create clear, consistent standards before the Recovery Act or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act blueprint was released because this work is being driven by the needs of the states, not the Federal Government. Common Core only applies to the subjects of math and language arts.
With all of the talk about Federal Government interference, none of the candidates seem to understand that the Republican George W. Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind greatly expanded the role of Federal Government in education. The Democratic Obama Administration’s revision to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (known as the ESEA Blueprint for Reform) allowed states to request waivers from the No child Left Behind mandates. These waivers, when granted, return more power over public education to the states. North Carolina has been granted such a waiver.
Only Lori Clark seemed to grasp what Common Core was or understand that the School Board could do nothing about its implementation. Clark pointed out that it was the individual states who made decisions, not the Federal Government. She also told those assembled that if they wanted to address that issue directly they would have to do so with the General Assembly. Clark explained that one positive of Common Core was that with a more mobile population, a child whose family moves to a different state will not necessarily be detrimentally behind or ahead of their peers.
The next question was regarding School Choice. All of the candidates were for allowing students and parents to choose which school in the county their children attend. Candidate David Singletary stated simply, “I’d like to make it where parents don’t have to make a choice.” On the issues of vouchers and charter schools all of the candidates voiced their support.
At the close of the Q&A the executive committee took a vote, with members marking paper ballots with their choice. Policy dictated that a 51% majority was necessary for a candidate to be chosen. Even though 4 candidates were presented, David Regnery was chosen after a single vote. This in spite of the fact that Clark ran for School Board in 2010 and narrowly lost.
So who is David Regnery?
David Regnery is not only an account manager for Tyler Technologies and a father. He is a sometime blogger who focuses on issues such as basic anti-immigrant rhetoric and conspiracy theories about Systems Thinking. Regnery is a frequent contributor to Republican candidates, but his main focus of his political giving is focused toward a gun rights PAC called Grassroots North Carolina (GRNC). In 2012 Regnery donated $500.00 to the group, which was formed in 1994 to advocate for gun ownership rights.
Following the Friday December 14th murders of elementary school children in Newtown, Connecticut, Saturday December 15th Regnery re-posted a Newsmax article on his personal twitter account with a statement from gun advocate Larry Pratt, who blamed the killings on gun-control advocates.
“Gun-control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands,” Larry Pratt, the group’s executive director, said. “Federal and state laws combined to insure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered.”
GRNC, is a group not only financially supported by Regnery, but one he frequently promotes through his Twitter account, on Wednesday Dec. 19th used their website to blame the massacre on the fact that there were no guns inside of Sandy Hook Elementary School. As posted:
As we predicted, the battle is on. Dancing in the blood of innocents slaughtered by the federal “Gun Free” School Zones Act, Senator Diane Feinstein finally admitted to Meet the Press that she will offer a ban on semi-automatic firearms on “the first day” of the new Congress.
Regnery is also a registered member on NCGunOwners.com where he has a profile picture of a dog with the Constitution in his mouth, wearing a collar labeled GRNC. Guns appear to be a major part of Regnery’s political life, evidenced by the fact that the majority of his personal tweets are about guns, including multiple calls for volunteers for various gun shows.
Regnery (or someone using his name) has also publicly floated a theory that C.H.A.N.G.E. is part of a communist conspiracy. C.H.A.N.G.E. is a Forsyth County community organizing and political advocacy 501(c)3 that counts 44 individual Forsyth County churches, Salem College, and Wake Forest students among their members and partners. In the same post on Art Pope’s Civitas web-site, Regnery also accused Winston-Salem Police Chief Scott Cunningham of somehow colluding with C.H.A.N.G.E. in order to get ID’s for Latino, undocumented workers. Regnery was a bit confused thinking that Chief Cunningham is an elected official. As posted on the Civitas site (see screen cap below):
We beat CHANGE (which should actually be an acronym for Communist Hurting All Neighbors, Galvanizing Everyone) at the polls on 2 November. Now they are attempting an end run around the legal process by issuing photo ID’s and the W-S Chief of Police is helping them. Let’s not forget that our chief law enforcement officer is an elected official and a Republican. What is his position on the matter?
CCD contacted Chief Cunningham’s office about the matter, to which a police spokesman responded “We don’t have any specific comments, only to respond that we do hope to continue working closely with the School Board and System to enhance the safety and learning environment of our children.”
According to posts on his Twitter page, Regnery seems to find communist and socialist everywhere including accusations that the President of the United States is a socialist.
On his personal blog Regnery shows a less than commanding understanding of basic school policy and blames education budget shortfalls, in part, on undocumented immigrants.
What happens when a significant percentage of those children are either illegal aliens themselves or were born to illegal aliens? Particularly when the federal government refuses to properly address border security choosing to ignore the burgeoning economic strain illegal immigration is inflicting upon our education system. Compounding the problem is the reality that many of these children’s parents are not contributing to the tax base to offset the increase in student population.
On Regnery’s Twitter account he often tweets stories from Glenn Back’s conspiracy “news” site The Blaze as well as the far-right website World Net Daily, which recently featured a column by Anne Coulter that many found overtly racist toward America’s Latino population. As well as accusing the President of being a socialist, the vitriol he promotes even extends to Republican New Jersey Governor whom Regnery positively retweeted a statement which labeled him a “fat pig RINO”.
Although the GOP Executive committee chose to recommend Regnery to replace outgoing chairman Lambeth, there is still a question over whether the County Commissioners are even operating within the law if they appoint Mr. Regnery, or any replacement.
The County Board will meet in January to make their decision, which will provide citizens the opportunity in the meantime to have their say on who they think should fill Rep. Lambeth’s seat.
Sources and links to meet David Regnery: