Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Great Johnston County School Board Mess of 2023


Michelle Antoine

It all started with the election of Michelle Antoine to the Johnston County Board of Education in November 2022. Antoine is the mother of eight children, a once fit outdoor enthusiast, a Southern Baptist, and a crusading social warrior. She confesses her activities against Critical Race Theory with this "influencer brag" on her website: "[I] wrote historical, current, and informational speeches and delivered presentations across the state of North Carolina. Included topics: Critical Race Theory; Gender Theory; Law, History, and Racism in School Segregation in North Carolina...." (I bet that last one contained some scorching information.) 

Antoine ran with the backing of a conservative group calling itself Citizen Advocates For Accountable Government (CAAG -- rhymes with "gag"). CAAG had been aggressively accusing the existing Johnston school board with financial irregularities in the summer of 2022 leading up to Antoine's election, propagandizing for N.C. State Auditor Beth Wood "to come and take a close look at the finances of the Johnston County schools."

With her election, Antoine joined another notorious so-'n'-so already on the school board, Ronald Johnson, who had been indicted for extortion and other crimes in April 2023. He was also censured by the full school board (Antoine dissenting) and fired from his job with the Smithfield police department (for cause). With Johnson still sitting on the board under indictment and with his case pending, he sued the rest of the school board -- excepting Antoine -- in a Federal suit in June alleging civil rights violations. "Johnson says he’s a sexual assault victim. He claims he’s a victim of a conspiracy to remove him from political office and deprive him of a livelihood" (T. Keung Hui).

Another character enters the fray. Also elected to the school board in the elections of 2022, a man named Terry Tippett, who was actually the top vote-getter. He has no love apparently for either Michelle Antoine or Ronald Johnson, which all came to a head on Monday -- two days ago.

It gets complicated. Antoine had sued the school board back on September 12 and talked a judge into sealing the complaint because it contained information that could irreparably hurt Antoine. Antoine actually got a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the school board's getting a report from its attorneys about a grievance that had been filed against Antoine, which she alleged was defamatory. But meanwhile, the school board successfully got the case moved to Federal court, and the TRO ran out last Sunday, so on Monday the rest of the school board scheduled a special meeting to hear the official report on a grievance against Antoine which had been investigated by the attorneys. Antoine dropped her lawsuit before the Monday meeting, perhaps hopeful that the facts could stay hidden. They didn't.

All hell broke loose at the Monday special meeting. Ronald Johnson and Terry Tippett almost came to blows. There was actual physical movement toward one another (you can see the video evidence about Tippett's standing up here). Michelle Antoine had her mike cut off. She decried the "kangaroo court" that she believed she was the holy victim of. Terry Tippett called Antoine “the most uninformed person, the most disrespectful person, the most unprofessional person I’ve ever seen sit on the board of education or any board.” 

It's the trumpist brand, isn't it? that Antoine brought with her election. There are Michelle Antoines in many counties, hell-bent on disruption and destruction.

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