Wanted! Have You Seen These Officials?– Updated


Linda Smith

Lynn Smith

Shawn Williams

Jeff Moss





Updated 6:25PM on 4-8-2011

Incredulous as it may seem, our very own School Superintendent and some members of the Lee County Board of Education appear to have pulled a Wisconsin minority legislator stunt, and left the state for a more suitable educational environment– San Francisco, CA. 

This is no joke!  At a time when dollars are tight and virtually every public discussion laments the public school funding plight,  we have six highly visible public officials schmoozing with the National School Board Association (NSBA) at the Moscone Center in the left coast’s favorite conference destination.   http://annualconference.nsba.org/ac2011/public/enter.aspx

Total cost you ask?  Well, the Herald originally reported the trip cost was $700.   In truth, the costs are much higher:  $318 airfare; $695 conference registration; $200 or so per night (plus tax and fees) at the Nikko 4-diamond Hotel; plus transportation, mileage and per diem on meals.  Total cost per individual should be between $2000-$3000 for three days of immersion in non-mandated school board topics.  http://hotelnikkosf.com/

Now, recent revelations about possibly losing Lee County middle school athletics brought a public outcry.   I, too, was sympathetic.  But then, we also learned that each of the three middle schools is only allotted around $8500 a year for their sports programs.  If that’s the case, then this school board boondoggle to San Francisco just cost one or two of our three middle schools their total sports budget for the year.  Seriously!  I wonder how the parents of middle school athletes are feeling now?  Just how real is our money problem if our most senior officials are comfortable taking such an expensive junket?

Frankly, this trip and its timing are inexcusable.  At precisely the time when we’re all wringing our hands over cut-backs in public school funding, our tone deaf administrators (and reportedly, accompanied by some of their “friends”) are frolicking in the city of streetcars.  While county commissioners, state legislators, and the NC Governor are hunkered down trying to find every nickel they can in savings, our elite K-12 Administrators are rubbing shoulders with the NEA and co-miserating with school board officials from across the country about their collective woes.  Golly gee, I sure hope the NSBA had the foresight to supply suitably monogramed crying towels!  The Herald quotes Shawn Williams as saying the trip is necessary for required annual training for Board members; however this also isn’t accurate.  Their mandatory training can be accomplished closer to home at a much lower cost and AFTER the budget crisis passes.

Here are a few other little known facts about this conference.  First, many of the conference materials are available for download directly from the conference site– in advance of the proceedings.   Moreover, 4-1/2 hours of the general conference presentations, including Condi Rice’s keynote address, are available for FREE streaming off the website.  (Yes, I registered for free, and I will be watching some of these talks myself at no cost to Lee County taxpayers.)   So, you may be asking, why would one need to travel to San Francisco, lose two days or more of work, and charge Lee County taxpayers over $12,000 if they can get most of the same information from the comfortable confines of their offices?  Good question!  

An even better question, why is Jeff Moss attending?  This is a School Board Association function.  Last time I checked, Moss was a Superintendent, not an elected official.  Maybe I missed a memo somewhere and Dr. Moss has now become an honorary school board official.  After all, he pulls their strings anyway.  Now that I think about it, his “crew” only seems to be capable of doing what he tells them to do.  Given that fact, perhaps he needs to be there in San Francisco to ensure Tatum, Williams, Smith, Smith and Akinosho get to all the meetings and briefings he has mapped out for them.

Cameron Sharpe

John Bonardi

A shout out to Republican School Board Members Cameron Sharpe and John Bonardi, the two local school board officials who grasped the significance of how the public might perceive this travel.   Both Bonardi and Sharpe opted out of the conference and remained in Sanford while their counterparts fled the Lee County coop.  Initial reports were that Pastor Mark Akinosho is paying his own way to attend the conference.  According to theLCSS Public Information officer, though, he has left the taxpayer holding the bill.  No self-respecting fiscal conservative would dare charge off that kind of money for an optional conference like this.  It was also reported today that Bill Tatum is paying his own way for travel and attendance at the conference, and all but $295 of his registration fee.  Can’t fault him for that.  As for the rest– time will tell if they indeed have ‘stuck’ Lee County taxpayers for their weekend by the Bay.

About Thomas Jefferson

3rd President and Founding Father of the U.S. I conceived and promoted the country's system of public education in the early 19th Century. I am often misunderstood about my the "wall of separation" term and letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, which unfortunately has come to be interpreted as my suggesting separation of God and the Holy Trinity from all matters of state. I am a Christian, saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and I owe Him my salvation. I pray for this great country, that it remain strong, independent and Christian!
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20 Responses to Wanted! Have You Seen These Officials?– Updated

  1. If I may defend “poor misguided Alexa,” the figure we presented is the only known figure associated with this trip. We are pretty sure more money will be spent on travel, hotel and food … but we were informed at least two members — Tatum and Akinosho — were paying their own way.
    Unlike this happy blog, Alexa reported on the known numbers and presented the story in an unbiased fashion. It’s up to fine folks like you to look at this situation and determine whether or not it’s right for a school board to make this trip at this time. That’s not Alexa’s job … that’s for the Opinion page.
    As for the extra costs, I’m sure we’ll report on the receipts.

    I’m sure when the Federalist papers reported on Jefferson’s tryst with the slave Sally Hemings, Jefferson appreciated it when those papers got their facts straight. Otherwise, he may have become upset. And I’m sure we ALL know about his temper …

    • Goose says:

      No Billy, tell me about his temper! I just read the Wikipedia article with no mention of his temper. Can you recommend another source? BTW Mr. Liggett, I think you have a tangled time line, the Federalist Papers were published October ’87 –August ’88 and it wasn’t until 1802 that J. T. Callender published his charges in a Richmond VA paper (probably the “Recorder”)
      We tend to think of reporters as investigative reporters which most are not. Most report what they were told or what they read and if they are decent they report their sources. I expect you to defend your goslings as boss gander in your flock that is what you are supposed to do. When someone lists “Student” as their occupation on their Blog I don’t expect a lot from them. It is great that your paper can provide some Real Life experience before they Honk with the adult geese, but I suspect you wouldn’t have become an Editor if you had been protected as you protect them. honk?

      • Billy Liggett says:

        From Wikipedia:

        “Thomas Jefferson once shot a man for looking at him cross-eyed. He later learned the man was, indeed cross-eyed.”

        Now THAT’s a temper.

      • Billy Liggett says:

        One other thing … Alexa was the person who “broke” this news. If other people knew about the trip, they either were OK with it enough to stay quiet or they were still “fact-finding.”
        Alexa is the only one with the balls to actually call the parties involved in this trip.
        I’ve not seen any of these school board members quoted or defending themselves on this blog. Unless I missed it. No, I just reread, I didn’t miss it.

        I’m not “defending my flock,” I’m defending the paper against conspiracy theorists who think we didn’t publish hotel costs because we were hiding something. You know what? We don’t have the hotel costs yet. That story was put together in three hours before deadline. And I thought it did its job — a balanced report on a trip that some may find a problem with.

        I just got a letter to the editor from one of your founding fathers — though they actually used their 21st Century name — saying The Herald’s in bed with the school board by reporting on the potential cuts to sports and what-not. Let me ask this — would there be ANY outcry over this budget process (except in this little domain) had we not reported on any of this?

        To those who think we’re carrying an agenda, let me lay it out for you — none of my reporters (nor I) have a “dog in this fight.” It’s not Alexa’s job to be upset by this trip to SF. If she is … fine … but I better not read her thoughts on this in her report.

        That’s what you guys are for. Opinion pages, blogs, etc.

        Speaking of opinion pages, catch tomorrow’s where The Herald is both in favor of San Francisco AND Thomas Jefferson’s affair. Riveting stuff.

  2. Patrick Henry says:


    Alexa has done an outstanding job reporting on the issues.

    Where did you find her?

    Patrick Henry

  3. Patrick Henry says:

    Where’s Josey Wales? Looks like a shoot-out is coming.


  4. Goose says:

    I think Billy’s middle intial is “S”! Remember how he said he was going to name the people that are Authors on this blog? Perhaps if he got the online edition online before 9 AM this morning I might believe that his Ace reporter did have a scoop on the story(hard to do in a one paper town!) I suppose I could go out and search the ditch where they usually deliver my Herald, maybe it is dry enough to check.
    Don’t have a dog in this fight? Do they all live outside Lee County? The Fourth Estate doesn’t pay taxes? How nice for them. (B.S.)
    Unbiased? Part 1 isn’t even about the schools it is all pre-K. Part 3 is sports. Oh but part two starts off “Already Thin Educators….Thin! I think they are grossly overpaid but I don’t claim to be unbiased. Anybody that believes that opening is unbiased has been drinking the Kool Aid…

  5. Thomas Jefferson says:


    I don’t know what your source of info was, but I did not shoot a man for anything less than treason; which frankly was too good for Mr. Cox given what he did to give North Carolina a bad name and selling out his country to the Tories.

    Like Patrick, I’m a fan of Ms. Milan. I did not intend to be critical of her reporting. Rather, I was surprised she would be so naive as to identify this excursion as being a “$700 Trip” in the headline of the article. When reporting on sensitive news like this, it’s normally better not to quote a number if you don’t have all the facts about the other costs. But, then again, I made the mistake of reporting that John Bonardi was on this trip, when in reality he was still in Sanford. So much for the first report!

    I hope the Herald will follow through on what you said above. The taxpayers have a right to know just how much of a tab they are being stuck with. I hope the Herald does its due diligence in asking hard questions of the school system and board as they finish their budget and send up their request to commissioenrs. I also hope the Herald changes its editorial stand against the citizens panel to look at the county budget. Surely another set of eyes and ideas about how to balance the county budget can’t hurt.

  6. Norman Thomas says:

    Perhaps Billy’s source of info was Wikipedia. Something tells me that’s the case. It was probably when he wrote “from Wikipedia.” It’s not easy to run much by this socialist!

    In any case, questioning whether this is a necessary expenditure for the school board is an acceptable topic for debate. However, couching that debate in a discussion of next year’s budget is misleading at best, since the funds come from the current year’s budget and not the one being debated for next year. Chairman Williams made this point in the Herald story by Ms. Milan. It’s been conveniently ignored in this piece, probably so the author could fearmonger the idea that the “boondoggle to San Francisco just cost one or two of our three middle schools their total sports budget for the year.”

    That is a lie, but I suspect enough people will be fooled by it to make the author’s efforts unwasted.

  7. Patrick Henry says:

    Excuse my rudeness. But my God! Oh goodness, I must control my anger.
    H-E_double hockey sticks, I won’t! Just because you have money to spend doesn’t mean you have to spend it!

    Any of us who have worked in government at some point or another know that when time is running out to “spend” all you got, they spend it! Why? Because if you don’t spend it, you can’t ask for the same amount next year!

    Why are we not providing incentives to government workers to save taxpayer money instead of forcing them to spend it?

    Dear Norman – they could have taken the money and spent it on all those footballs they claim they won’t have if they don’t get the amount asked for in the budget. Or to make sure there are plenty of oil filters, gaskets, new tires stocked up for the buses next year.

    But oh no, that would make sense. Actually that would show leadership which sorely lacks in this county. And the message that rings clear now after all those forums is: Do as I SAY, not as I do.

    What’s Bonardi’s address so I can send him some cheese to go with that whine? And I’ll include some “Tilex” to get rid of that “Moss” hanging around his neck?

    Patrick Henry

  8. Norman Thomas says:

    Patrick – I don’t know what in the world you’re talking about. I never expressed support for the San Francisco trip. In fact, I pointed out that it was a legitimate topic for debate. I only said the context in which this topic has been discussed on this site is more than a little misleading. Me? I think the trip to San Francisco was a poor choice, and I won’t defend it. However, you very often spin off on tangents when discussing things and perhaps you should learn that throwing other unrelated topics into the mix is usually a sign of desperation when you’re countering an argument. My issue is with the way this trip has been presented on this blog. It won’t affect next year’s budget one way or the other. If you ask me, the school board made an extremely poor tactical decision with this trip because they’ve basically handed the board of commissioners an excuse to fund them even less. Spending like this in lean times is usually a poor decision, and perception is reality. That doesn’t mean the author of the original post needs to lie and say it’s costing our middle schools their athletics programs. That’s fearmongering. That was my point. Don’t you think honesty when discussing politics is a good thing?

    Additionally, the point you made about John Bonardi in your last post makes absolutely no sense. The author of this very blog thought it fitting to point out an error he made. If you find Bonardi to be a whiner because untrue information about him had been published, then you’re a blinded idealogue. You’re so blinded by your hatred of the opposition that you can’t even credit them when they do something you agree with. This is troubling.

  9. Patrick Henry says:


    I will note your “constructive criticism”.

    Got to give Bonardi credit for being man enough to call. So let’s give him a smiley face sticker. And some cheese. How’s that for compromise!

    They still could have ALL backed out and won the favor of many of us taxpayers. But as all liberals do, and apparently some who call themselves conservatives on that board, they tell us to do one thing while they do another.

    BTW the beauty of this blog, just like history has shown, the Founding Fathers don’t necessarily agree on things. I wouldn’t have apologized like Mr. Jefferson did. Frankly, I believe it was incumbent on the school board to reveal the trip ahead not after the forums. And they still didn’t reveal the trip. The Herald did.

    I am sure you won’t waste time trying to convince me they couldn’t because Bonardi is fussing about Cameron pulling out. So they knew. And they are probably sitting at some restaurant laughing at us. I hope the last laugh will come from the taxpayers. In my eyes they just lost their jobs when election comes around again. They most certainly lost credibility!

    Appreciate the dialog!


  10. Patrick Henry says:

    Oh sorry Mr Jefferson. Mr. Madison did the apology.

    I sure didn’t mean to put blame on you!


  11. For the record, Mr Jefferson did not feel compelled to alter his original article; at least not right away. I made the corrections in the interest of setting the record straight quickly and to seek a bit of harmony with some members of the BOE. I also reassured Mr Jefferson of my support for his enlightening articles. He is a busy man and he tells me he’ s okay with me taking editorial license from time to time.

    Norman- thanks for helping elucidate the need for logic and reason in our ongoing dialogues. FYI– I know Patrick well. Trust me, he is not a hater. Passionate yes, but hate no. He just has a passion for this country and for restoring time proven constitutional values in our government and culture.


  12. Patrick Henry says:

    Did any of you see the editorial this morning? Catchy headline “SF treat”. The treat will now turn into Lee County spoiled meat when that trip is over.

    I was waiting to see Billy’s account of Jefferson’s affair. Not a word. That would have been juicy! I expect Billy to stand by his word. He promised the details. Did Wikipedia’s site go down?


  13. I too appreciated Mr. Liggett, Mr Horner and Mr Hight’s editorial today. I thought it presented a very balanced perspective on the BOE/Supe trip to San Francisco.

    There are roughly 11 weeks left in this year’s budget cycle. I imagine this story will percolate for 12. I wonder if the BOE has any more tricks up its collective sleeve?


  14. Susan Bonardi says:

    When my husband, John Bonardi (that is his real name) told me of this blog I was confused because I thought Thomas Jefferson and James Madison ( and the others ) were dead. I have written letters to the editor and even posted on their web page and I always use my name. My thinking is that if I have something to say then I should be man(or women) enough to sign my name. The comment from “Thomas Jefferson” about not shooting a man, I certainly hope not….since you are NOT Thomas Jefferson. I am not sure, but I do not think any of these men hid behind a fake name. Maybe it is time to sign your real name.
    Signed and approved by

    • Susan;

      Thank you for your comment. We welcome new visitors to this site. May I suggest you navigate to the link, “About Lee County’s Top Political Blog” found at: https://leecountync.wordpress.com/abou/ It should help explain why the authors post under a founding father’s name. Respondents to blog posts are free to use their “nom du plume” or their actual identities, whichever suits them.

      One other point– many of the “founding fathers” wrote under pen names or aliases throughout their adult lives. You see, it was fashionable to do so in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. You might recall that John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and I all wote under the name “Publius” when we published the Federalist Papers. Ben Franklin wrote under several names, including Silence Dogood and Poor Richard.

      It wasn’t unmanly to write under those names 200 years ago and we believe it no less manly to do so today. It serves our purpose just fine.


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