Sunday, February 20, 2022

The Rest of the Story -- The Watauga School Board Meeting on Feb. 14


Scare tactics
by Jay Fenwick, 19 Feb 2022

Previously I reported to you about the February 14, 2022, Watauga Board of Education meeting. That report covered one agenda item only, our mask policy. But the February 14th meeting offered much more excitement.

(I repeat the "disclaimer" here that these are my personal opinions and recollections. My purpose is simply to share a fuller description of events to keep you informed of what is happening at YOUR school board meetings.) 

The public comment portion of the meeting always begins with the board chair reminding speakers of the rules of etiquette that are typical at public meetings. Speakers are allowed 3 minutes, are expected to be courteous in their language, are to speak to the board as a whole, and should not expect back-and-forth conversation with the board. 

Six persons signed up to speak to the board, but Jennifer Hanifan (who has filed to run for the Board of Education) declined when her name was called. The first four speakers all asked to end the mask mandate and provided their unique personal perspectives. I carefully listen to all of our public speakers. I often take notes on what they say. Some people think the board is being disrespectful or ignoring the voices of the speakers. It is unfortunate that they just can not accept that one can truly listen to them but then choose not to do what they ask. Maybe they haven't raised teenagers yet?

Michael Ackerman,
Candidate for Congress

But the drama was yet to come. The last speaker, Mr. Michael Ackerman, has addressed the board each month since September. In addition, there has been voluminous communication with him via email between meetings. And it should be noted that Mr. Ackerman has organized a campaign for U.S. Congress that hosts frequent Facebook Live events, often referring to the Watauga School Board.

Both Superintendent Scott Elliott and the board attorney have previously addressed the meeting about a recent conspiracy theory surrounding "surety bonds," involving a website called They both explained that NC law does not require surety bonds for school board members. And they encouraged school board members not to be swayed by tactics akin to bullying.

Mr. Ackerman again chastised the board for what he sees as its disrespect for the voices wanting an end to the mask mandate. He also again chastised the board for not altering the format of its public comment. He then quoted from the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence. I do agree with him that this is amazing and powerful language: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Ackerman then said, "With great sadness and resolve I do stand before you tonight and inform you that you have left us with no other option but to serve each of you with letters of intent to file claims against your surety bonds.”

On that choreographed cue, two men stood up in the audience, flanked Mr. Ackerman at the podium, and then walked toward the board members with stacks of large manilla envelopes. Superintendent Elliott, the board attorney, and two deputies began to loudly request that the men halt. It's not a large room. The men ignored the admonitions and were already in front of the board members. They began rifling through their packets of envelopes trying to match up the board member nameplates with the labels on the envelopes they had. In the end, they "served" 8 persons: each board member, the Superintendent, the Assistant Superintendent, and the Finance Director. Board members did not open the envelopes and simply handed them to the attorney.

Mr. Ackerman concluded his remarks stating that this was not a legal action but an insurance claim action, and that we had 72 hours to comply.

What exactly was in the envelopes? I can only tell you what was in the packet that I received but am confident that the others were identical. My packet contained three bundles of documents. Each bundle was from a different person making a claim, and each claim consisted of two parts, an 8-page "Declaration of Fact" and about 40 pages of materials that Superintendent Elliott had submitted in response to a public information request for surety bonds, policies related to insurance and bonding, and oaths of office.

The language in the "Declaration" is legal-sounding:
  • "...expressed in the form of an obligation containing my wet ink autograph that I have personal knowledge of and asseverate the following...."
  • "...I, a man, ------------- claim ------------------ as my offspring.
    I, a man, ------------- claim my body, information, and genetic material, including my offspring, are my Property."
  • "...I, a man, ---------------- retain my right to decline all attempts to access, influence, and or otherwise alter any of my Property, my God given biological material, my biological systems, and or that of my minor offspring."
A section boldly labeled "Direct and Constructive Notice" contains numerous legal citations that supposedly demonstrate that school board members have stepped outside their oaths and responsibilities, violated state and federal law and the Constitution itself with our mask policy. 

It demands that the school board cease and desist within 72 hours forced mask wearing, social distancing, COVID testing. It also includes a clause demanding the immediate removal of all materials (books, media, lesson plans, etc.) that promote a variety of things like "tribalism within our nation" and "deconstruction of the nuclear family," among others. 

It then says that each board member must rebut these claims within 10 days. (What happened to 72 hours?) And it concludes with a reminder of my obligation to a timely response: "Silence will result in your acquiescence and tacit agreement."

All three claims are signed and then notarized by school board candidate Jennifer Hanifan.

NC DHHS has announced a big change in their COVID guidance, and the CDC has hinted at some big changes coming in their guidance. I see another school board meeting already on the calendar.

This local newspaper article captures a good bit of the public comment portion of the Feb 14th meeting.

Jay Fenwick is a member of the Watauga County Board of Education


Anonymous said...

Don't try to tell any of my kids that they are my "property".

Sherry said...

Wow. Just Wow! I am so sorry that you are having to deal with this type of behavior. Thank you for the work you do for the health and well being of the children and families of Watauga County.

Unknown said...

So the school board does have bonds, seems like the attorney needs to do his homework

Whatshisname said...

Holy Moly. I fear our society is coming apart at the seams. This is some kind of cray cray. And they evidently live amongst us. Wow!

Whip up a pound or two of misinformation, stir in 2 cups of righteous indignation, mix with a bunch of fancy 3 syllable legalistic words, bake 24/7 by listening to too much Fox and what you get right there is a big ol' Nut Cake of Delusion with American flag frosting. Yee haw!

Good luck, Jay. I can call in my friend, Guido, if you need him! :-)

Mike D. said...

I know the guy sounds like a nut, but is there any truth to his argument? What is a "surety bond", exactly, and is the school board's mission actually funded by them? If so, and if there are specific requirements that must be met, it might be worth hearing out his argument. He might very well be a nut, but it seems as though his action was non-violent, and the First Amendment clearly protects the right of every citizen "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances". Sane or not, it seems clear that he is well within his First Amendment right. If there is a bond in place, and requirements must be met to satisfy that bond, it might not be so bad for someone to provide oversight. Many, many people have lost government funding for failure to comply with the stipulations agreed to in the funding application. I would be willing to listen to the argument.

Anonymous said...

It is unclear to me whether the Board members have purchased any Surety Bonds (it's a local board - why on earth would they?) and how trying to protect the health and safety of students and staff violates their oath of office. In addition, most Surety Bonds cover financial obligations - like that of a contractor to finish a project and of the buyer to pay for the work once its completed. So, color me confused.

Jay said...

The school board does have a blanket surety bond for those employees that handle money. These are school secretaries who collect school fees, etc. as well as the finance department staff. The finance director has a separate individual surety bond.

A surety bond is a type of insurance policy to protect us, the school board, if these persons mishandle money. Many organizations take out a surety bond for money-handling employees.

Our board attorney assured us, as board members, that we are not required to be bonded as individual board members. I have been on the board for 7 years and have not touched any money. I make decisions about spending and approve budgets, but don't touch the money!! (Except for the money I donate to the school system! Actually, that's done via e-banking too, so didn't physically touch it! LOL. ;-)

When I filed for run for office, when I was sworn in to office, there was no mention of any requirement for me to have a surety bond.

I was served with this paperwork but as the ringleader himself admitted, it's an insurance claim action not a legal action. So, it really seems they are either just participating in "paper terrorism" or they're only interested in making money for themselves.

Hope this helps clarify it some.

Jay said...

To anonymous, I had to look up the "my offspring are my property" language!! I really missed my chance on that with my teenagers if it's true! LOL.

But, it's basically a legal anachronism. Parents can't buy or sell their children. But do have the responsibility for them which in some legal terminology is a property relationship.

Anonagain said...

This is one of the most insane things I’ve ever seen. I’d never heard of a “surety bond” before, but in reading about them I’m not sure how they would apply to a school board. This is getting out of hand - people are harassing and threatening school boards all over the country.