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Survey Rate Brunswick
Schools As Middling
BY SUSAN USHER
Brunswick County's schools are mcdi
ocre, place too little emphasis on academic
success and have room for improvement in
almost all areas, believe a majority of those
responding to an attitudinal survey con
ducted in February by the Southport-Oak
Island Chamber of Commerce.
Basing percentages on the total number
of surveys returned, nearly 56 of those sur
veyed ranked the the schools as fair to mid
dling when asked to grade the public
schoois on an "A" to "F" report card scaie.
Of those, 37.5 percent graded the schools
as "C," or average, while only 17.5 percent
gave the schools an "A" or **B".
However, more than tour out of every 10
(42.6 percent) gave the schools a "D" or
"F," mostly "D"s
How did participants reach those conclu
sions? More than 81 percent said they use
teacher quality, among other criteria, to
judge school system performance, while 69
percent listed curriculum quality and 60
percent consider standardized test scores.
Most were unimpressed with the school
system's educational programs for non-col
lege bound students, college-bound stu
dents and students with special needs.
While 20 respondents didn't answer the
question, two out of every three (66.7 per
cent) ranked discipline and lack of parental
interest (66 percent) as the biggest prob
lems facing the schools, followed by lack
of student interest (62 percent) and drugs
and alcohol (58 percent).
I Wo issues raised frequently by school
officials, overcrowding and lack of finan
cial support, drew fewer supporters, 49 per
cent and 37.7 percent, respectively.
Related stories, Page 2A
Interestingly, while 69 percent rated lack
of parental interest as a problem, 76 percent
of the respondents rated their own involve
ment as "high" and 23 percent described
themselves as school volunteers.
Sixty percent said they think the schools
place too little emphasis on academic suc
cess, while 34 percent believe current em
phasis is sufficient.
The chamber's education committee
conducted the survey in cooperation with
the county schools, the South Brunswick
Islands and North Brunswick chambers,
with the aim of finding ways it could help
the school system improve.
The effort "can't produce anything but
positive results," said Superintendent Ralph
Johnston. "We're already addressing some
of the issues and we're already using some
of the data from the survey."
The survey itself had two specific goals.
The first was to gauge the validity of this
"Too many students in Brunswick
County are, upon graduation from high
school, either unprepared for the job market
or in need of remediation upon entry into
colleges and universities.
"Many potential businesses and residents
choose to go elsewhere because of percep
tions about the quality of education in this
"it is desired that the quality of education
in Brunswick County, as well as the percep
tion of that quality, be such that residents
and potential residents not only consider it
adequate for their needs, but also are at
tracted to the area as a result."
The committee also wanted to identify
the areas relating to education that are of
most concern to Brunswick County resi
dents, so that the committee, school system
and community can focus on those areas
for improvement. The education committee
plans to start work in July with the schools
on projects "to make a positive impact on
education in our county,** according to
chamber executive Karen S. Hope.
"We have a lot of work to do," said
Frank Blackmon. a CP&L manager and ed
ucation committee member who presented
the results to the school board earlier this
muiiiii. "if one giuup iicic Could take one
problem, and another group take another
problem, perhaps we could solve some of
" -^wS book bindery
Thirty-Second Year, Number 34
Shallotto, North Carolina, Thursdoy, June 23, 1994 50< Per Copy 42 Pages, 4 Sections, Plus Inserts
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Gently Down The Stream
Vacationers take advantage of a lazy late spring day to explore one of the finger canals at Holden Beach ? the slow, quiet way.
IMMUNITY STILL A QUESTION
Former Clerk Sues County In State Courts
BY ERIC CARLSON
Two weeks after Regina Alexander's lawsuit
wa* dismissed in federal court, the former derfc to
the Brunswick County Commissioners has ap
pealed the decision and filed a new state court ac
tion against the county and the three board mem
bers who voted to eliminate her job.
While making the same charges of racial and
political discrimination alleged in her federal
complaint, Alexander's new lawsuit also claims
that former board Chairman Kelly Holden and
fellow commissioners Donald Shaw and Jerry
Jones violated an employment contract with her.
The new lawsuit asks the court to awara her
additional damages for "emotional distress, em
barrassment, humiliation, anxiety and damage to
reputation" that allegedly resulted after she was
fired "for unjustifiable motives." The suit was en
tered two days before the three-year deadline for
filing such an action in state courts.
Earlier this month. U.S. District Court Judge
James C. Fox ruled that the commissioners had
"legislative immunity" and could not be sued in
federal courts for cutting Alexander's paid posi
tion from the 1991-92 county budget Holden said
at the time that her job was one of 20 eliminated
dutjng a reduction in the county work force that
was needed to help to balance the budget
Alexander's lawyer, Martha Geer of Raleigh,
said Tuesday that she has appealed Fox's ruling to
the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Because the judge "did not rule on the merits of
our claims" and left open the possibility of a trial
in sute court, Geer said she hopes the case can be
beard before a Brunswick County jury later this
"The federal ruling shouldn't have any bearing
on the state claims at all," Geer said. "Both sides
"If you purchase liability
insurance , you waive all
immunity defenses. That's
just a slam dunk. "
? Attorney Martha Geer
have already prepared their case for federal court,
so I'm ready to go and they're ready to go. I'd
like to see us go to trial as soon as possible."
Geer said the claim of "legislative immunity"
won't apply in the state courts because the North
Carolina Constitution does not protect county of
ficials from being sued for orriciai actions that
improperly cause damage to an employee.
Alexander's attorney also asserted that the
county gave up the right to claim immunity from
civil action when it bought liability insurance to
cover possible losses in such cases.
"If you purchase liability insurance, you waive
all immunity defeases," Geer said. That's just a
slam dunk. It's so clear under state law that 1
wouldn't even raise it as a defense, although they
County Attorney Mike Ramos took a different
view. He agreed that legislative immunity "proba
bly hasn't" been formally recognized as a defense
in North Carolina courts. But because of that, the
state appeals courts are likely to look to federal
rulings for guidance in deciding whether legisla
tive immunity should apply.
Ramos said he "totally expected" to see the
Alexander case in state courts and plans to intro
duce a motion mking a local judge to grant the
same immunity allowed by the federal judge. He
also expects that ruling to be appealed all the way
to the N.C Supreme Court by whichever side los
"It's a complete defense for us, so we'll file it
in superior court and take it as far as we have to
go," Ramos said. "Appeals courts are expensive,
but not as expensive as a trial would be."
Consequently, Ramos said it would be unlikely
for a jury to hear the Alexander case for two to
Alexander, who is black and a registered
Democrat, was a county employee for more than
16 years and clerk to the board for over 10 years.
Her position was written out of the budget after
Republicans Shaw and Jones joined Holden to
form a party majority on the county board in
"Prior to 1990, defendant Holden had reported
to political supporters that he did not believe that
the clerk to the board should be black," the
Alexander lawsuit says. "He also stated that the
board needed to fire (Alexander) because of her
At the new board's first meeting, the commis
sioners voted not re-appoint Alexander, a move
that was "applauded" by political supporters, the
suit claims. In the following weeks, the three
board members named in the action "refused to
communicate or work with" Alexander.
"A political supporter of defendant Holden ad
vised (Alexander) to distance her self from the
commissioners in the minority, L.E. (Gene)
Pinkerton and Frankie Rabco ? individuals that
Holden perceived as adversaries "
Both Pinkerton and Rabon were also
In their final meeting of the fiscal year, Holden,
(See ALEXANDER, Page 2- A)
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Supply's ' Miracle Baby ' Comes Home
BY LYNN CARLSON
The youngest heart transplant recipient ever at UNC
Children's Hospital came home to Supply for the first
time on Sunday, four months after being born with what
only a blessing kept from becoming a fatal abnormality.
Logan Pottorff, son of Eddie and Alicia Pottorff of
Supply, was born with hypoplastic left heart syn
drome?the side of the heart which pumps oxygen to the
body was not developed. His only hope was a heart
transplant, realized when a donor oigan became avail
able March 24. His new heart came from a 20-pound
?wwq ycsr old whose identity is unknown to the Pottcrffs.
Until Logan reaches the weight of his donor, his ien
bronchi will continue to be almost completely com
pressed and his left vocal chord will be paralyzed, mak
ing it tricky for him to cat and difficult for him to cry,
according to his mom. Otherwise, he's not too fragile to
be held and played with, as long as he's protected
against sunlight and sick people.
He now weighs 1 1 pounds, 4 ounces, and is almost 24
inches long. His feeding tube is out, and he's eating by
mouth ? a super-thick "sludge" of formula, high -calorie
supplement and rice cereal, Alicia Pottorff said Tuesday.
Logan still require weekly treatments in Chapel Hill,
special formulas and ten medications. Tack on the
S 200,000 transplant costs, the expense of 17 weeks of
high-tech hospitalization, endless prescriptions, and
medical care estimated to cost S3, 000 a month for the
rest of his lifie, and you get a bill few families could pay.
The Pottorffs have been taken under the wing of the
Children's Organ Transplant Association, which has
raised abos! $2,000 for Logan so far in a trust kcowI at
NaUunsSailk, aUuiuiug iu Paali SiiCi, COGiuiuwtGr for
Logan's local fumlriLsing campaign.
But for now, financial worries have neen obscured by
the joy of a sick baby's second chance. "He's great.
We're blessed," proclaims his very tired mother.
If you're on the street in Brunswick County and come
across an infant wearing tiny sunglasses or a miniature
surgical ma&k, you'll know you've seen a miracle.
Deeds Job Cuts,
New Pay Classes
In Budget Plan
BY ERIC CARLSON
Three jobs would be cut from the
register of deeds office and ail
Brunswick County employees
would be given new salary clas
sifications under a revised spending
plan submitted to the board of com
missioners by Interim County Man
ager Charles McGinnis Monday.
The proposed $43 million spend
ing plan calls for a county tax rate of
S8.5 cents per $100 of property val
uation, a reduction of 9.5 cents from
the previous year. But since most
residents saw their property tax val
ues increased by the recent county
wide revaluation, most taxpayers
dinulH nvmvf ahnijl rtu? m?w>
bill for 1994 as they did for 1993,
McGinnis has said.
At a budget workshop held before
their regular meeting, the commis
sioners gave tentative approval to a
proposed "reduction in force" that
would trim two full-time positions
artd one part-time job from Register
of Deeds Robert Robinson's budget,
yielding an annual savings of
Calling Robinson's office "over
staffed," McGinnis said only five
counties in the state have as many
positions allocated to their register
"The only county I could find
with a comparable workload was
Dare," McGinnis said. "Their vol
ume is a bit higher and they have
eight employees plus the register of
There are currently 13 full-time
workers assigned to the Brunswick
County Register of Deeds office. A
part-time temporary position was re
quested this year. McGinnis recom
mended that the new job be cut from
the budget along with two positions
that have not been filled for the past
The commissioners informally ac
cepted McGinnis's budget recom
mendations, including $27,097 in
miscellaneous cuts, and considered
an additional $25,000 reduction in
the county administration budget.
Despite recent protests from
school system supporters who want
more money for the board of educa
tion, the commissioners made no
mention of the $4.7 million chasm
between the school spending request
and the county manager's recom
mended education budget.
The board was scheduled to hold
another budget workshop
Wednesday night at 6 p.m., alter
urktrh rfio final ownHino narlraof
could be approved.
Several representatives of county
funded agencies appeared at
Monday's meeting to ask for in
creases in their proposed budget al
locations. No one from the school
administration or board of education
Economic Development Commis
sion Director Tom Monks requested
money for a new car, updated com
puter equipment and full-time status
for a part-time employee.
"This is the minimum we need to
maintain the momentum we've de
veloped over the past year," Monks
Brunswick Community College
President Michael Reaves asked the
commissioners to increase the coun
ty's recommended allocation to the
college by $139,932 to help pay op
erational costs for the newly com
pleted Udell Williamson Audi
County cafeteria manager Robert
Smith asked the commissioners to
reconsider McGinnis's recommen
dation to shut down the in-house
(See COUNTY, Page 2- A)
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Suit On Board
Dan CoUy of Albemarle shows off a beautiful, 28-powtd bull dol
phin landed during a recent fishing trip aboard the "Seahorse" out
of Holden Beach. Last week was a good one for area anglers as a
high-pressure weather system created excellent fishing conditions