Crain's Creek Chaos - And Why "The Pilot" Shares the Blame
Last night I went on an angry tirade against "The Pilot" newspaper over their coverage regarding the chaos at Crain's Creek Middle School. I want to be clear meant every damn word of what I said and I apologize for nothing except referring to CCMS as an elementary school and inaccurately stating the only counselor there had resigned (there is one position open). I do, however, want to clarify exactly what it is I am so furious about.
Yes, I am ticked off that (as usual) "The Pilot" is late to the story and has used the public posts of myself and other community journalists as the basis of their "investigation." And yes, I am FURIOUS that the story dedicated so much space to BoEd Vice-chair Hensley absolving himself of any responsibility for the mess he helped make. But, what truly enrages me is that the teachers and staff and - worst of all the STUDENTS at Crain's Creek have been left in a disastrous situation and ALL of it COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED.
The Moore County community has watched this all play out - IN PUBLIC - for MONTHS. We saw the unjust demonization of Ms. Jones and her staff by a vocal, angry mob made up primarily of people with no connection to the school. We heard the staff at CCMS be ridiculed on an almost daily basis on the radio. We listened as Shannon Davis, Pauline Bruno, and Ken Benway made the discipline problems CCMS and getting rid of Jones centerpieces of their campaigns for BoEd. We saw the "protests" outside the school. We read the insane social media posts. We shook our heads as parents and teachers at CCMS pleaded for reason and patience.
All of that was public - but there are some very important things that the Moore County community wasn't aware of. Why? Because "The Pilot" newspaper declined to report it.
Dr. Locklair and Dr. Metcalf were both informed by teachers and staff in OCTOBER that Ms. Jones had their full support and a large portion of them would resign if she were removed as principal. Dr. Locklair passed that information along to the BoEd.
Teachers and staff at CCMS expressed alarm over the morning and afternoon protests so near their school. Many of them felt uncomfortable having people who hadn't been vetted and who weren't parents of CCMS students interfering with the school's affairs and gathering so close to their campus during hours of operation while students were there.
Ms. Jones had implemented new discipline procedures at CCMS, those new measures were working and the situation had improved.
The former president of the CCMS PTA was pushed out and replaced by a regime who wanted Jones fired. The new regime recruited members with no connection to the school - but who shared their views on Ms. Jones - to join (BoEd members also joined, even though they have not joined other PTA/PTOs across the district). Parents with children attending CCMS expressed serious concerns about members with no connection to the school making decisions about activities and funds for their children.
Staff surveys found that employees at CCMS had a high degree of confidence in Jones, but not in the central office or in the BoEd.
MSC administrators were warned AGAIN in January that removing Ms. Jones would result in a wave of resignations.
After the North State Journal and WEEB "reported" that two dozen teachers had left CCMS in the past two years because they had no confidence in Jones, many of those former teachers reached out to the press to explain their problem wasn't with Jones, but with the discipline laws handed down by the state and lack of support from the central office.
After BoEd Vice-chair Hensley and WEEB radio personality JD Zumwalt had a public spat over CCMS, current teachers started reaching out to the press in support of Jones in a last ditch effort to stop her from being removed.
None of that was public (unless you happen to follow this blog and listen to the Coffee Chats), but it should have been. And it would have been public if "The Pilot" had done its damn job.
It is BECAUSE "The Pilot'' did not report on what was really happening at CCMS that WEEB, The North State Journal, and members of the BoEd's mob were able to shape the narrative to fit their own agenda - which was ALWAYS to remove Jones as principal. The narrative that was presented to this community was that teachers at CCMS wanted Jones gone. That narrative was unchallenged by any other media outlet except for Moore & Sandhills Voices. It is BECAUSE that FALSE narrative was ALL that was being presented to the public that Ms. Jones was removed and CCMS has lost a full THIRD of its teachers (with even more resignations to come).
It is the RESPONSIBILITY of local newspapers to accurately and fully report the news to the community they serve. "The Pilot" has an OBLIGATION to print the actual FACTS on events that affect the people of Moore County. It is very unfortunate that the publisher and the editor refuse to live up to that obligation. Mr. Woronoff and Mr. Nagy are obviously more interested in protecting advertising revenue, the reputation of Pinehurst as a tourist destination, and their own personal social calendars than fulfilling their responsibility to this community.
Consider that "The Pilot" has done NO follow up investigative reporting on the December 3rd domestic terror attack. They have left it to a TV station based in Charlotte to comb through documents obtained in a FOIA request and report the concerning level of confusion and disorganization in the investigation.
Consider that "The Pilot" REFUSED to report that a racist banner was hung on an overpass in JULY even though they have the evidence.
And consider that teachers at CCMS stood with Melonie Jones and that "The Pilot" couldn't be bothered to write that story and correct the false narrative being pushed by other media outlets. Consider that the inaction of “The Pilot” contributed to the awful situation at CCMS now. Consider the very real possibility that this will happen again, at another school, and that even more of our children will suffer.
Of course, it's always possible that "The Pilot" didn't know. If that's the case, the situation is even more alarming than I thought. If Mary Kate Murphy (The Pilot's education reporter) didn't have a copy of the CCMS teacher/staff surveys, if she didn't have copies of the emails sent from teachers to MCS in support of Jones, and if she hadn't been contacted by MCS employees before she wrote that story yesterday - then her sources in MCS are even worse and she is even lazier than I could have imagined.
And let me tell you, what I imagine is pretty damn bad.
***Commentary by Cheryl Christy. Cheryl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org