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North Carolina editorial roundup

By The Associated PressAugust 7, 2019

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

Aug. 6

The Charlotte Observer on the hiring of first-time superintendent Earnest Winston to lead Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools:

Earnest Winston, who was hired last week as superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, has no experience leading a school system, let alone one as large and complex as CMS. That’s prompted some grumbling around Charlotte, enough so that CMS official Charles Jeter offered an impassioned defense last week of Winston’s qualifications for the job.

“We have full trust in him,” Jeter said, speaking for a school board that declined to conduct a search before hiring Winston. Board members voted unanimously this month, with member Sean Strain absent, to hire Winston to lead the nation’s 18th-largest school district with 148,000 students and 19,000 employees.

There’s good reason for their faith. Winston is a 15-year veteran of CMS and has served in a variety of administrative roles, including chief of staff. He brings an intimate knowledge of the district and its challenges. He knows the academic, cultural and political landscape here. He knows teachers, principals and learning community leadership, and they know him.

That familiarity matters — if you’re equipped to take advantage of it. We believe Winston is. As most good bosses know, smart people can be smart in whatever they do, and thoughtfulness is a powerful antidote to inexperience. Winston may not have a line that says “superintendent” on his resume, but he does boast a long line of bosses and colleagues — including some from a stint at the Charlotte Observer — who have come away impressed with his intelligence and leadership potential.

And let’s face it: conducting a national search hasn’t exactly yielded the best results for CMS. Former superintendent Clayton Wilcox, whom Winston replaces, was a flawed candidate who ran into recent difficulty, although the school board refuses to let the public know why he was shown the door. It’s possible that a new search wouldn’t have provided someone better than Winston, especially given the reputation of a CMS school board that has gone through too many superintendents in too short a stretch.

We do, however, believe the board would have been better served at least trying a search. There’s only one way to truly know if the next administrative star is somewhere out there, or if the best superintendent option was indeed right here all along. A search also gives the public both comfort and confidence in the hiring process, something that’s especially important given the school board’s many recent bouts with transparency. That public confidence also would have been good for Winston as the inevitable bumps of his job arrive.

Make no mistake — those challenges will be plentiful, as they are with most public school district superintendents. We believe Winston is wholly equipped to tackle the complex issues facing the district, and we hope his thoughtfulness is accompanied by an independence and willingness to challenge the board when appropriate. CMS needs a leader, one who has the confidence of not only his bosses, but teachers and families. We hope — and think — we’re getting the right one this time.

Online: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/

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Aug. 3

The Winston-Salem Journal on a nonprofit that may lose government contracts because of a lawsuit:

It’s disheartening to know that government contracts being filled by IFB Solutions Inc. — a Winston-Salem nonprofit that is the largest employer of the blind in the United States — may soon be coming to an end, a prospect that would likely result in the loss of 137 local jobs. It’s maddening to know that the jobs may be lost, not because of poor workmanship or an inferior product, but because of legal snares that have pitted one worthy group of workers against another. With the clock running out, we hope someone will find a solution that prevents the loss of these jobs — including, possibly, the Supreme Court.

IFB currently has three government contracts with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide prescription eyewear. The work generates about $15.4 million in annual revenue for the nonprofit group — about 20% of its total revenue.

And the contracts provide jobs for 137 of IFB’s 556 local workers. This includes 76 employees who are blind and 15 who are military veterans.

One contract was set to expire last week, but has been extended to Aug. 15. The other two are set to end Sept. 30 and Oct. 31.

The reason the contracts are being lost is because of a 2016 legal claim from PDS Consultants of Sparta, N.J., a disabled veteran-owned optical business that wants the work.

The legal basis for IFB to be a preferred provider of services goes back to congressional legislation in 1938 that gives federal government preference to companies that employ the blind or severely disabled.

PDS’ legal claim is based on the federal Veterans Benefits Act of 2006, which prioritizes disabled vets for their military service.

In November and again in May, courts sided with PDS.

We’re sure that PDS’ motives are the same as IFB’s — to provide livelihoods for good workers who might otherwise not have an opportunity. But there’s enough work to go around without depriving anyone.

The IFB jobs provide a livelihood for people who may otherwise have to rely on government assistance. They also provide workers with the same sense of pride and purpose that most workers receive from a job well done.

David Horton, IFB’s chief executive, has been working hard to retain these important contracts.

IFB plans to file a petition by September to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal. “We plan to pursue all available legal and legislative options to get this issue resolved,” Horton said.

Horton recently met with members of Congress, including U.S. Reps. Virginia Foxx and Mark Walker and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, along with IFB employee and Navy vet Scott Smith, whose guest column was published in the Journal last Sunday.

“While the courts have limited (the secretary of veterans affairs’) influence over the issue, I’m keeping open channels of communication with industry stakeholders and the VA to find a fix,” Foxx said in a statement. “The procurement process shouldn’t be a zero-sum game for beneficiaries of the AbilityOne program and the Veterans First Contracting program.”

Foxx is right. If she can do anything to keep these contracts with IFB alive, she will have accomplished much good.

This situation may provide a good opportunity for all of us to contact our representatives, as well as IFB, to express our concern and our support.

Online: https://www.journalnow.com/

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Aug. 2

The StarNews of Wilmington on the history of a hospital as leaders debate selling it:

“On June 14, 1967, seven prematurely born infants arrived in cardboard cradles as tiny ambassadors in perhaps the crowning civil rights achievement in the history of Wilmington, N.C. They were the first patients of the newly opened New Hanover Memorial Hospital. During a turbulent period of civil rights in this nation’s history, their arrival marked the merger, in a small city in the Deep South, of a black and white hospital — without protest, riot or bloodshed. For the first time, the county’s hospital treated everyone, regardless of race, creed, national origin or ability to pay. That history ... is as much about war, politics, race relations, philanthropy and public sanitation as doctors and medicine.”

— From the History page of the NHRMC website

If anyone doesn’t get the importance and pride this community attaches to New Hanover Regional Medical Center, we hope the hospital’s own words as stated above help.

As leaders explore the possibility of selling the hospital, we urge them to give adequate weight to factors that will never show up on a balance sheet, but remain vitally important to the civic health of the entire Wilmington region.

It’s so fitting that the first patients at what was then New Hanover Memorial Hospital were prematurely born infants. The hospital itself was “born” amid the political and racial strife of 1967. It also was “premature,” or ahead of its time (at least here) in starting to end the racial divisions that firmly gripped our area.

With its opening, hospital care in New Hanover County became racially integrated before the school system did. And although there would be days of strife to come (notably the racial unrest in the early 1970s), the people’s decision to open a facility that “treated everyone, regardless of race, creed, national origin or ability to pay” meant the hospital was in the healing business long before those infants ever arrived. In a sense, the hospital’s first patients were all the people (but most notably the black community, living in very separate-and-unequal conditions), who had decided it was time to begin to heal our racial divide.

The first attempt to build a new hospital failed when, in 1958, county voters defeated a bond issue by a wide margin. (The black community, rightly, had no interest in helping pay for a hospital they likely would not be allowed to use). When the issue was put before voters again in 1961, hospital supporters had convinced enough black voters that the facility would indeed be integrated that it passed, though by a very narrow margin. When New Hanover Memorial Hospital opened in June 1967, Community Hospital (black) closed along with James Walker Hospital (white).

Although it might be an unfair comparison, NHRMC’s place in the larger community reminds us of Williston High School’s symbolism and role as the heart of the black community. Williston’s value and importance went far beyond what happened daily within its walls. The same is true for NHRMC.

Obviously the most important goal is for the hospital to continue to provide the level of care and service we have come to expect. County and hospital leaders seem to acknowledge that. The question is: Can they best sustain that care and service long-term as a county-owned facility or are there better ways forward?

As Dr. William Hope, NHRMC chief of medical staff, told WWAY News: “I think the idea that our hospital will continue on as a county-owned hospital that doesn’t receive tax dollars for the long run in the next 10 years is probably not something that is sustainable ...”

In the end, that dilemma — not a financial windfall or the history we’ve mentioned or the hospital’s role as the region’s largest employer — is what will matter most. It is no doubt a bottom-line question.

But as a place where thousands of us have wept tears of sadness as the life of a loved one ended and then wept tears of joy as a new life came into the world, the personal — including the hospital’s history and legacy — will need to be seriously acknowledged and considered as we try to answer that question.

Online: https://www.starnewsonline.com/

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