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Sue Ogrocki 

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Chris Carlson  

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News
Visit reveals school's strengths, needs

CHICOD — State and local leaders toured Chicod School to learn more about the challenges schools face and how educators are rising to meet them.

N.C. Rep. Perrin Jones wanted to take a closer look at one of the schools in his district. He was appointed to represent District 9 in the General Assembly to replace Greg Murphy, who was elected to the U.S. Congress in September.

“I wanted to see firsthand one of the schools in my district, and I was invited to tour Chicod School,” Jones said during Friday’s event. “There are challenges that rural parts of the state face, and this is more of a rural part in Pitt County.

“To my mind, one of the biggest issues that we face in the state is how to repopulate our rural parts of North Carolina,” he said. “Having a great educational system is a big step in being able to do that.”

Jones was joined by Pitt County Commissioners Tom Coulson and Lauren White and Board of Education members Betsy Flanagan and Benjie Forrest. Forrest graduated from Chicod when it served grades kindergarten through 12, while White’s children currently attend the school, which currently serves K-8 students.

It was a great opportunity to have a state representative as well as several local lawmakers tour the school, according to Principal Michael Pollard.

“To have Dr. Jones come out and see what we do every single day for children, to be able to visit and see the great work our students and staff are doing (is great),” said Pollard. “He also showed concern about the needs and challenges we have to meet on a day-to-day basis.”

The tour covered Phase II of the school’s renovation, which was completed two years ago, as well as some of the older parts of the building. The oldest wing of the building, constructed in 1929, no longer houses students.

Jones and the other guests were invited into the renovated media center as well as the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) lab.

“Today, we have a hands-on STEAM activity the first graders are working on,” said Angie Miller, media coordinator. “We try to keep our collection up to date to support curriculum and leisure reading. We added a lot last spring.”

The lawmakers also got to visit several classrooms to see how Chicod’s educators use technology and collaboration.

“The kids thrive on collaboration,” Pollard said. “The workplace needs people who are capable of collaboration. That’s what they need. … We even have our kindergarteners learning how to collaborate and work together. Five brains are better than one.”

Kindergarten teacher Jen Bullard has 20 iPads in her classroom, which she uses to differentiate instruction. She also teaches her students several technology skills, such as emailing and retrieving items from the cloud.

“Their technology competencies have gotten a lot stronger,” Bullard said. “We started with the parts of the iPad. They can upload photos, send emails. They did a story retelling with an author map. They’re teaching me stuff on it.”

The educators also shared their concerns about several issues, including the state budget and mental health.

“A big area of need is the mental health crisis we’re facing,” Pollard said. “We have more kids coming with childhood trauma and needs beyond what we can handle.”

He said the county needs Jones to fight for schools to receive more support.

“It makes a world of difference to have someone of his stature who will actually listen to you and listen to the needs and challenges we have to meet,” he said. “We are a community school. Our community is wonderful. They are here to support us in each and every facet of our operations. As an example, we’ve raised over $90,000 in one year (for a new playground and new technologies). ... With their support, as well as Dr. Jones’ support, we will be able to better meet our challenges.”

Jones was impressed with the school, he said.

“It’s great to see that they’ve been able to maintain some of the old architecture from the old school and seamlessly integrate that with the new construction. It’s a beautiful school,” he said. “You need to come out and take a look at (Chicod). The school really speaks for itself. The teachers are great. The kids are well-mannered and disciplined. The school itself is spotless. Everyone I saw seemed very interested in learning.”

Pollard said he hopes Jones realizes how important his help will be for Chicod School in the future.

“Every single day, educators and staff of all Pitt County Schools do the work for our children,” he said. “They work exhaustively to provide academic and life opportunities for all of our children, but to do that, we need help from the leaders of our state and the leaders of our country to make sure our students have every opportunity to be productive students and citizens.”

Eighth-grader Landon Coleman has been at Chicod School since kindergarten. As president of the Student Government Association, he was delighted to talk to an elected official.

“I’ve never met a (state) representative before,” he said. “It’s pretty cool. It’s interesting. I’m a young teenager that is getting to talk to such higher people.”

For Coleman, the best part of attending Chicod was getting to spend his entire elementary and middle school careers in one place.

“As I said to (Dr. Jones), I’ve been in the same school from kindergarten to eighth grade and that’s my favorite thing about it,” Coleman said.


AP
Defense resumes in key impeachment week; Dems seek witnesses

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial enters a pivotal week as his defense team resumes its case and senators face a critical vote on whether to hear witnesses or proceed directly to a vote that is widely expected to end in his acquittal. The articles of impeachment charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The Capitol Hill maneuvering will be complemented by high-stakes efforts on both sides of the aisle to claim political advantage from the proceedings as the presidential nominating season kicks off in Iowa on Feb. 3.

What to watch as the Senate impeachment trial resumes on Monday at 1 p.m.

Star turn in defense

After a two-hour opening argument Saturday, Trump’s defense team will lay out its case in depth beginning Monday. White House counsel Pat Cipollone said Trump’s lawyers don’t expect to take the full 24 hours allotted to them, but there will be arguments from some familiar faces.

Harvard law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, former independent counsel Ken Starr and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will speak on specific topics.

Dershowitz said Sunday he would argue that the charges against Trump are too minor to warrant the president’s removal from office under the Constitution. “Even if true, they did not allege impeachable offenses,” Dershowitz told “Fox News Sunday.”

The Trump team has also teased the notion that it would draw attention to Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukraine gas company Burisma, while the elder Biden was vice president. An extended focus on Joe Biden, one of the leading Democratic presidential contenders, could mean blowback from even some of the GOP members of the Senate.

Question Time

Once Trump’s team concludes, senators will have 16 hours to ask questions of both the House impeachment prosecutors and the president’s legal team. Their questions must be in writing.

Chief Justice John Roberts will read the questions aloud. He is expected to alternate between both sides of the aisle. Many senators have been talking copious notes throughout the trial in preparation for the question-and-answer time.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told reporters Saturday that Republicans expected to get together on Monday to start formulating a list of questions. “We will meet as a conference and decide what questions we want to pose, what the order may be of those of those questions,” he said.

Will they or won’t they

Under the Senate rules passed last week, senators will vote whether to consider new witnesses and evidence after the Q&A time is elapsed. Four Republicans would have to break ranks to join Democrats in the GOP-controlled Senate to extend the trial for an undetermined amount of time.

If that happens, expect a bitter fight over which witnesses might be called and which documents might be subpoenaed. Democrats have called for testimony from Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, and his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. An attempt to call either probably would lead to a showdown with the White House, which claims both men have “absolute immunity” from being called to testify before the Senate, even in an impeachment trial. Still, Bolton has said he would appear if issued a subpoena by the Senate.

While Republicans have hoped for a speedy trial, Trump has called for the testimony of the Bidens and the intelligence community whistleblower whose summer complaint about Trump’s July telephone call with Ukraine’s leader instigated the impeachment inquiry.

But some Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have expressed resistance to calling those witnesses.

If the vote fails, the Senate could move swiftly to its vote on whether to remove or acquit Trump, giving the president the result he’s been looking for as soon as the end of the week.

A new tape

Trump’s lawyers argued Saturday that no one knows what Trump’s motives were on holding up military assistance to Ukraine. A recording obtained by The Associated Press hours later suggests the president well understood that assistance was a point of leverage over Ukraine.

The recording is of 2018 meeting at the Trump Hotel in Washington that Trump had with donors. including two now-indicted associates of his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. The audio portion includes Trump inquiring about Ukraine, “How long would they last in a fight with Russia?” He later calls for the firing of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

The recording contradicts the president’s statements that he didn’t know the Giuliani associations, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. They are key figures in the investigation who were indicted last year on campaign finance charges.

If new evidence and witnesses are allowed, the recording could take center stage in the Senate proceedings.

———

THE POLITICS

The trial is resuming with one week to go until the Iowa caucuses, and is again keeping four Democratic contenders — Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bennet and Amy Klobuchar — in Washington instead of campaigning at a critical point in the race.

While they are trapped in Washington, Trump will venture outside the capital as he seeks both to exert political retribution on Democrats who impeached him and reward a party-switching lawmaker who backed him in the House.

Trump will hold a rally Tuesday in New Jersey to repay the favor to Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who became a Republican last month after voting against the articles of impeachment as a Democrat. And Trump is set to appear in Iowa on Thursday, days before the caucuses.

Meanwhile, Trump is already looking ahead to his likely acquittal, whenever it may come, promising that Democrats will face consequences for trying to remove him from office. “Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!”

Schiff, D-Calif., is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the lead impeachment manager. Asked on NBC’s ‘‘Meet the Press’’ whether he viewed the tweet as a threat, Schiff replied, “I think it’s intended to be.’’


News
Campaign notes: Candidate's U.S. Senate run focuses on health care

A retired doctor said improving the affordability of health care cannot be accomplished with short-term fixes or by villianizing different segments of the industry.

Atul Goel of Raleigh, along with Trevor M. Fuller, Steve Swenson, Cal Cunningham and Erica D. Smith, is running in the March 3 Democratic Party primary for the U.S. Senate contest.

Incumbent senator Thom Tillis is being challenged by three Republicans in March: Paul Wright, Sharon Y. Hudson and Larry Holmquist.

Two third-party candidates will be on the ballot in November.

Goel, who briefly served as a U.S. Air Force flight surgeon after 9/11, was in Greenville Wednesday to knock on doors and introduce himself to voters. He said he’s visited all of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

“If I am going to represent the citizens of North Carolina I have to got to each county,” he said. “I can’t represent the state if I just go to the counties with the largest population.”

Goel’s story is the classic immigrant’s tale, he said. He arrived in New York at age 10 with his parents.

“I still have the memory of getting off the plane and looking out and seeing snow for the first time,” he said. After earning a medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, N.Y., he completed his residency in family medicine in Niagara Falls.

He and his family moved to Raleigh in 1989, where they have lived the last 30 years.

Along with having a private medical practice and serving with the Air Force, Goel later worked as a medical consultant for Social Security disability adjudication and was a contractor with the Department of Defense to assist with veteran’s disability adjudication.

He retired from the N.C. Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

“The single biggest issue that propelled me to seek office is that we must have affordable health care access,” Goel said.

“We’ve been trying to solve this health care problem for 20 years and we haven’t succeeded. We have to first ask the question about why we haven’t succeeded,” he said. It’s because politicians don’t understand the health care business and because they villainize segments of the health care industry.

“Health care is such a complex thing. When you try to solve something with a solution that will last one election cycle, it’s not going to work because it’s too complex,” he said. The reasons for limited access to health care differ across the nation and the state, Goel said, pointing out the issues in Bertie County are different from issues in Durham County.

He said he doesn’t have one specific answer. His approach is to develop a strategic plan and then bring representatives of the different segments of health care to work on the issues.

For more details about Goal’s campaign, visit http://atulgoelforsenate.com/index.php or his Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/AtulGoelRaleigh or follow him on Twitter @AtulGoel4Senate.

Candidate’s forum

A debate between the Democratic candidates for N.C. House District 9 will be held 7:30 p.m., Feb. 5, in Hendrix Theater, Mendenhall Student Center, on the main East Carolina University campus.

Brian Farkas and Jake Hochard are vying for the Democratic Party nomination in the March 3 primary. The winner will face Republican Perrin Jones in November. Jones was appointed to the House District 9 seat in September to replace Greg Murphy, who resigned after winning a special congressional election.

Early voting for the March 3 primary begins Feb. 13.

Endorsements

A Pitt County candidate for the State House District 9 Democratic Party nomination was endorsed this week by a labor union and LGBTQ advocacy group, according to his campaign.

Brian Farkas, who works an architectural firm, has been endorsed by the North Carolina State AFL-CIO and its regional affiliate and Equality North Carolina.

The union made its endorsements after members of its Eastern North Carolina Central Labor Council reviewed questionnaires and interviewed candidates.

“He understands what working people want — to secure a fair return on our work, provide for ourselves and our families, and enjoy life,” the organization’s president, Montez Davis, said.

Farkas was among the nearly 30 state legislative candidates endorsed by Equality North Carolina.

“We are living in dire and terrifying times for some of our community’s most vulnerable members — particularly trans and gender-nonconforming people of color and other individuals living at the margins. These voters deserve leaders committed to creating a more equitable and safer world for them to live, work and raise families,” said Kendra R. Johnson, executive director of Equality North Carolina.

“We believe the politicians that we’ve endorsed are the most well-equipped to help build that world, change the dangerous trajectory that this country is currently heading towards, and create a better North Carolina for us all.”


News
County board to gather for planning session today

The Pitt County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to meet at 8 a.m. today for a capital budgeting workshop to review goals for the upcoming fiscal year.

The meeting is scheduled to run through noon in the Emergency Management Conference Room in the basement of the Pitt County Office Building, 1717 W. Fifth St.

The board is expected to review budget planning for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which begins July 1, and consider a list of ongoing and new capital improvement projects and funding sources.

The board also is scheduled to hear presentations from Superintendent Ethan Lenker and Facilities Service Director Aaron Errickson of Pitt County Schools and President Lawrence Rouse of Pitt Community College, along with Vice President of Administrative Services Rick Owens.

The meeting is open to the public.

School board

The Pitt County Board of Education is scheduled to review teacher bonuses, the student dress code and several other matters today when it meets for its monthly workshop.

The meeting is scheduled from noon to 3 p.m. in the third-floor board room of the Pitt County Office Building, 1717 W. Fifth St. It is open to the public, but a closed-door discussion regarding an student athletic appeal is scheduled. Other items on the agenda include:

  • Emma J. Hodson, in-house counsel, and Karen Harrington, director of student services will discuss revisions to policy governing child abuse and related threats to child safety.
  • Aaron Errickson, director of facilities, is to provide an operations update and the capital improvement presentation discussed earlier in the day with county commissioners.
  • Board members will discuss athletics and open enrollment checks and balances.
  • Debra Baggett, chief finance officer, will updated the board on information regarding the 2019-20 budget and teacher bonuses
  • Board members are to review of the current student dress code policy.

Agenda items are intended for discussion during the workshop. The next board meeting is Feb. 3.