Schools chief apologizes for merger flier

HILLSBOROUGH — Orange County Schools Superintendent Shirley Carraway apologized Monday night for allowing a flier with information about school merger from a parent group to be distributed to students. Two residents had criticized the flier as being one-sided.

“If it was an error to do that, it was an error on my part,” Carraway said at the Orange County school board meeting held Monday night in the central office. “If that is offensive, I’m very sorry for that. It was an effort to get out information, because that information was being sought.”

The flier, paid for and written by members of Fair Funding in County Schools, was sent home through students last week.

Another local group, Citizens for a Sound Economy, said it too should be allowed to distribute information. Two of its members were critical Monday of the flier created by Fair Funding in County Schools.

Resident Robin Staudt called the distribution “immoral and unconscionable,” while Al Hartkopf said the flier was a “corruption” aimed at twisting the issue of merger. The Orange County Commissioners are considering whether to merge the Orange County Schools with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

Carraway said she was not trying to take a stand on merger.

“The intent was to provide information, to provide a view, varying views. It was not an attempt to sway anyone in any way,” she said.

School board members’ reactions to the flier were mixed.

“In the superintendent’s defense, I don’t think she realized the emotional impact it might have,” said board member Betty Tom Davidson.

Member Delores Simpson suggested that the group could learn from the mistake.

“Now we’ve opened a can of worms,” Simpson said. “Now the other side has to send their information out.”

However, school board member Dana Thompson said she thought Carraway made the right decision in allowing the flier to be distributed.

“What people are hungry for right now is information,” she said.

Board member Randy Copeland then accused Thompson, who helped distribute some of the fliers, of abusing her position on the board to get the information out. But Carraway said Thompson was not responsible for the fliers and that she had not discussed them with Thompson.

Board member Libbie Hough also praised the distribution of information.

“I’m glad that the document went out,” she said. “I realize it’s caused some contention in the county. What I support is that information went out. To not distribute information on this topic, I think, would be immoral. I think it would be unconscionable.”