Showing posts with label GCPS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label GCPS. Show all posts

Friday, January 29, 2021

Gloucester County, Virginia's Real Estate Tax Deception

In January 2020, the latest of Gloucester’s real estate reassessments became effective. The overall value of Gloucester real estate changed from $4,391,807,486.00 to $4,659,865,396.00, resulting in an increase of $268,057,910.00 in overall value. At the current tax rate with the new assessment, the County gets an increase in real estate tax revenue (Money going into the County’s coffers) of approximately $2 Million.  
Shortly after this reassessment, the County and Board of Supervisors began budget deliberation for the FY 2021 budget, which covers the period of July 1, 2020 thru June 30, 2021. The County built this budget based on the increase in overall real estate tax revenue even though they did not hold a Public Hearing or vote on it until December 1, 2020, over seven months after the budget was approved.

During the budget deliberations and after, there was a big push to increase the local retail sales tax to provide money for various School System Capital projects. (Building new buildings parking lots, ball fields, renovating, replacement, repair, and such type projects.) The pushed narrative that increasing the retail sales tax would prevent real estate taxes from going up and would spread some of the Capital expense burden to people outside Gloucester who use Gloucester businesses and services sounded like a pretty darn good idea but for one thing, real estate taxes did increase, and they knew it the whole time they were spreading the deception. The biggest factor that allowed them to get away with this was the lack of Conservative Gloucester citizens who follow and engage in what is going on with our local government.

The County had the option of lowering the real estate tax rate to set it in line with the Real estate tax revenue it took in the year before. If they had, it would have resulted in the real estate tax rate being lowered from $0.695 per $100 in value to $0.659 per $100 in value. A $0.36 per $100 of value decrease in the rate. On December 1, 2020, five of our illustrious Supervisors voted to keep the $2 Million instead of lowering the rate. The two Supervisors who voted against this deception were Mike Winebarger of the Petsworth District and Phillip Bazzani of the York District.

On top of the real estate tax deception, five Supervisors voted to allow the School System to borrow nearly $6 Million to fund some of its Capital projects they were also claiming, at the same time, would be funded by the retail sales tax increase. Again, Winebarger and Bazzani voted against borrowing the money. The retail sales tax increase was passed by the voters in the November 3, 2020 election. This will give the School System another $5 Million, plus or minus, annually. The increase goes into effect July 1, 2021.

Below are links to where you can see and hear this information for yourself. I encourage everyone to visit these links.

Kenny Hogge, Sr. 

December 1, 2020 Public Hearing on the real estate tax Deception:

$6 Million Dollar loan public hearing:

2019 Land Book:

2020 Land Book:

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Conversation Between Gloucester Supervisor and Superintendent of Schools

On October 20
th the Gloucester County Board of Supervisors (BOS) and School Board had a joint meeting. Near the end of the meeting, Supervisor Winebarger said the following:

“Dr. Clemons, glad you’re here. I’ve gotten multiple phone calls from parents saying that they’ve heard; and I want you to either tell me yes, or no or maybe so; that Gloucester is going to start requiring a class in black history in order to graduate and that they are going to start to teach history based on 1619 instead of 1609. Tell me it ain’t so.”

See the SlideShare presentation below to see the email conversation that followed and other emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) After that you will find a link to hear the Supervisor's question. After that you will find a link to a Board of Supervisor "Public Comment" section where certain people spoke about the Supervisor and his question to the Superintendent. 

Written By: Kenny Hogge, Sr.

SlideShare presentation of documents obtained under FOIA

Monday, December 14, 2020

Superintendent of Gloucester County Public Schools Plays Race Card

On October 20th the Gloucester County Board of Supervisors (BOS) and School Board had a joint meeting. Near the end of the meeting, Supervisor Winebarger said the following:

“Dr. Clemons, glad you’re here. I’ve gotten multiple phone calls from parents saying that they’ve heard; and I want you to either tell me yes, or no or maybe so; that Gloucester is going to start requiring a class in black history in order to graduate and that they are going to start to teach history based on 1619 instead of 1609. Tell me it ain’t so.”

For those who do not know, the 1619 date comes from what is known as the 1619 Project, a highly controversial black history piece created by several “journalists” at the New York Times. I strongly believe the Supervisor's, “Tell me it ain’t so.” ending to his question was directed solely at the inclusion of highly questionable content from the 1609 Project; something every American should be concerned about.   

Superintendent Clemons responded, but did not actually answer Mr. Winebarger’s question, so Mr. Winebarger sent Superintendent Clemons the following in an email:

“Rick, is Gloucester School Systems one of the 16 pilot programs and will the program be teaching history from 1609 or 1619? Mike”

At this point, nothing appears to be unusual; right? Just a simple conversation between a Supervisor and a School Superintendent. The Superintendent did respond with a partial answer to the Supervisor’s questions, but he also had a lot more to say. The following is the Superintendent's reply to the Supervisor:

Good Morning Mr. Winebarger:

As a follow-up to our conversation from the meeting last night, I will provide the Board of Supervisors and the School Board an outline of the course so all know the framework and contents within. I will make sure all know the periods of history that will be taught. In addition, GCPS is not one of the 16 districts piloting the course this year.

However, I must tell you that as an African American/black man, notwithstanding the fact that I happen to be the Superintendent of Schools in a majority non-minority community, I found your comments last night to be racially insensitive at a minimum if not downright racist in nature, and I am very disappointed, angry and offended by such comments.

Please let me be clear. I have no problem with anyone asking about the course, periods of time or content within. However, your comments around the fact of what you heard and if it was going to be required as a course for graduation is deeply disturbing. My question to you would be, "So what if it was a course needed for graduation?" Would you have a problem with that? Your comments in my view showed an insensitivity to African American History and it came across that it is not good enough or appropriate to teach in this community.

Please know that I do plan to follow up with you, the Board of Supervisors and the Gloucester community on this matter.

In closing, thanks for your time and I hope you have a great day! Sincerely,

Dr. Clemons

I don’t know about you, but I was floored by the Superintendent’s racial attack and the way he attempted to label the Supervisor an insensitive racist. Why would he say such things to someone asking a simple question on behalf of a Constituent? The Superintendent’s comments were nothing less than “race baiting”. (An attempt to deflect a conversation by implementing an assertion that the asker is racist.) I also believe there are political motivations behind the Superintendent’s unacceptable behavior. He, at least five School Board members and four to five Supervisors would love to see Mr. Winebarger leave the BOS. They want him gone because he and Supervisor Bazzani are the only two Supervisors who are constantly fiscally responsible in the way they vote and are more than willing to ask the tough questions. A few days later, the Supervisor sent the following in an email to the Superintendent:

Dear Dr. Clemons,

I have given your email to me dated October 21 some thought, especially given its concerning rhetoric. As the old saying goes, "Don't shoot the messenger". As a Supervisor elected by the citizens of this County, it is my duty to investigate and respond to questions or concerns expressed to me by my constituents. I always ask these questions in public, even though others may do so in private. I have done so in the past and will continue to do so in the future because it is my duty.

At the joint meeting of the School Board and Board of Supervisors on October 20, I relayed to you questions which I had been asked by a constituent. You provided partial answers in the meeting and indicated you would provide follow-up information. As a builder who has worked construction my entire life, I do not have the benefit of multiple degrees - I speak simply and plainly without any hidden agendas. On October 21, the morning after the meeting, I emailed you as a reminder of the information I was seeking. Your email response did not provide answers to enable me to respond to my constituent, but instead expressed your feelings about my question. In the joint meeting of the School Board and Board of Supervisors, the forum is one where the Boards ask the questions and the employees provide the answers. I regret that you attributed any insensitive or offensive meaning to my words - none was intended - it was just a question asked by one of my constituents about a course. I await your response to my inquires.

Your accusation that my "comment in [your] view showed an insensitivity to African American History and it came across that it is not good enough or appropriate to teach in this community" is grossly misguided and false. In my view, American History is the history of the American people. I believe that as Americans we are all a great melting pot and any American history course should highlight the participation of all Americans regardless of race, creed, or color, and the African American experience is absolutely an important part of our history.

Please know that I am ready and willing to have further discussions with you on this issue and encourage you to call me at your earliest convenience.

Mike Winebarger

Supervisor, Petsworth District

The Supervisor’s reply is pretty cut and dry. You certainly can’t blame him for doing what he was elected to do, unlike numerous other elected people in Gloucester County.

The story does not end there. On November 4, 2020, the Superintendent and several school employees spoke during the BOS meeting Public Comment period, publicly attacking Mr. Winebarger, with some attempting to label him a racist. Mr. Winebarger maintained his composure throughout the whole orchestrated ordeal. The same cannot be said about some of the speakers.

Several people in the community told me about the Superintendent’s email to the Supervisor, so I submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the school system asking for all the Superintendent’s emails between October 16, 2020 and November 15, 2020; essentially 30 days’ worth. I was shocked by the following reply from the school system:

“the school division estimates that the cost for accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the records responsive your request is $2,926.00 based on 5,600 emails and estimated an average of one minute to review each, at the hourly rate of the Superintendent’s Executive Assistant.” 

They sure don’t want me or anyone else checking out their emails. That amount is ludicrous and beyond what I am willing to spend on seeking such information, so I revised my request to:

“all emails sent and or received by the Superintendent of GCPS that pertain to, reference, mention and or touch on the "1619 Project" and or African American history and or Black history and or Native American history during the time period of Oct 16, 2020 thru November 15, 2020.”

I received copies of several emails and a bill for $62.94. Like I've said before, transparency isn't cheap in Gloucester County. The entire first part of an email was completely redacted. It appears like the Superintendent forwarded the Supervisor’s question and the Superintendent’s response to someone they claim is exempt from being identified under the “Working Papers” FOIA release exemption. I have received many emails and other documents containing redactions authorized under FOIA, but I have never received any in which the sender, recipients, subject, date and 100% of the content was blacked out. I sure would like to know who the Superintendent forwarded the email to and what his comments were. One can only imagine at this point, but one thing is crystal clear, he does not want the People to know. 

Gloucester County has always been a civil place to live and raise children. Of course, we have had our moments and like everywhere, there are a handful of true racists of all skin colors, but overall, most people tend to get along without a lot chaos and drama. It seems the Superintendent does not feel that way. It seems like he thinks there is significant racial divide and inequality in Gloucester and in Gloucester schools and “as an African American/black man, notwithstanding the fact that he happens to be the Superintendent of Schools in a majority non-minority community,”  it appears he has done very little over the last several years to adequately blend his little part of the American melting pot into a unified culture of acceptance, instead choosing in this instance to spew unwarranted accusations of racism. In another instance he complained about his child not having a teacher of color since attending Gloucester schools. In still yet another instance of having taxpayers pay for his membership to the National Association of Black Educators. Of all people to complain about ethnic diversity when he is the one person in this community in the best position to cause effective improvements, not only in our schools but in our County as well; if the need truly exists. As for membership in the NABE; didn’t segregation end in the 60’s? Why does the Superintendent feel he must belong to a racially segregated organization? Should there also be separate organizations for each race of educators? The Superintendent certainly does not reflect unity, diversity, equality, integrity, civility and honor; all essential traits necessary to preserve American freedom, liberty, justice and equality for all. Instead, he travels the path of race baiting and exclusion to silence those who do not align with his ideals and agenda and to silence those who question what is taking place in our public school system.

When I attended Gloucester schools from the late 60’s till the late 70’s, we were taught to get along and respect each other, despite, nationality, skin color and financial or academic standing. We were also taught; our personal choices and level of effort would determine our destiny. We had black teachers and white teachers and thought of them all as just teachers. Their color didn’t matter, just like the color of our fellow students didn’t matter.  At GHS, Mr. Loring had a class in which the students replicated the cast of “Welcome Back Kotter”. We watched the Jefferson’s, Sanford and Son, All In The Family, Good Times and other shows that offered moral lessons on race relations, among other things. Today Gloucester has an activist school Superintendent who, despite his own career success as a “black man”, is setting a path for racial divide in our community in order to further progress the Socialist/Marxist/Communist movement that is jeopardizing our great Nation. Does anyone really want this kind of drama in Gloucester County? I know I don’t and believe we owe it to the children of Gloucester to put a stop to it sooner than later. Superintendent Clemons was welcomed into this community when he was selected for the job, but I believe because of this instance and other instances in other areas he is responsible for, he has worn that welcome out.

Below I have included a SlideShare presentation of the emails responsive to my FOIA request. I have also included links to the section of the Joint meeting where the Supervisor asked the question and subsequent section of the BOS meeting where the Public Comments were made.

Written By: Kenny Hogge, Sr.

Email Presentation

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Gloucester County, Virginia Public Schools 2020 Staff Salaries

The following Slideshare presentation contains GCPS Staff only salaries for 2020. Note the Superintendent’s increase since 2016.

You can change to full screen view at the bottom of the presentation screen. 

Kenny Hogge, Sr.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Gloucester, Virginia Public Schools’ Administration Attempts to Coverup Felony Theft

In May 2017 we brought you a story about rumors of theft from Gloucester County Public Schools’ (GCPS) bus garage. The rumor described an employee stealing a welding machine (welder) and when the theft was brought to the attention of GCPS administration, they allowed the thief to return the welder and retire. Almost two years later we reported Larry Clark Lawson had been indicted by a Grand Jury and as part of a plea deal, had pled guilty to one of two counts of theft greater than $200.00. We have now uncovered some very disturbing facts about the theft and what actions GCPS took and didn’t take once it was reported to administration.

Mr. Lawson was the Foreman of the GCPS bus garage. Part of his duties included purchasing repair parts, tools, etc. related to maintaining GCPS’ fleet of vehicles. Mr. Lawson purchased a welder valued at over $2,000 using GCPS funds. He knew he had to have his supervisor’s permission to make such a purchase and did not tell her. He knew he could not purchase anything over $1,500 on the County credit card and talked the salesperson into breaking the cost into two separate purchases to hide what he was doing. He even talked the salesperson into submitting the two bills several days apart to make it harder to be discovered. One of the purchases was listed as being the welder and the other was for some sort of accessory kit that was not carried by or sold by the vendor; in fact, the accessory kit did not exist at all.

To further conceal his crimes, Mr. Lawson arranged for the welder to be delivered to the bus garage to his attention and during a period when he would likely be the only person there. Unfortunately for Mr. Lawson, the welder was delivered on Thursday, March 30, 2017 instead of during the following week when everyone would have been off for spring break. Because of this, numerous other employees saw the new welder when it was delivered and began to talk about it. Mr. Lawson had the delivery driver unload the welder in the “tire barn” which is typically used to store tires and old equipment. Later that day an employee of the garage noticed the welder had been covered with black trash bags. By the morning shift the next day the welder had disappeared from the “tire barn” and remained missing until April 19, 2017.

Mr. Lawson was finally confronted about the welder and several other items missing from the garage on April 19, 2017. Then Transportation Director, Anne Lanan; Human Resources Director, Gwyn Ciemniecki and Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services, John Hutchinson were the confronters. When Mr. Lawson was first asked where the welder was, he said it was in the bus garage in the middle of the workstation; at that point the conversation ended, and Mr. Lawson was placed on administrative leave.

Ms. Lanan then went to the garage where she did not find the new welder. She informed Ms. Ciemniecki who then called Mr. Lawson and asked if there was anything else, he wanted to tell them. Mr. Lawson said he loaned the welder to Tabb Fox, a friend of his and owner of Fox’s Auto Repair. Ms. Ciemniecki told Mr. Lawson he needed to bring the welder back immediately and Mr. Lawson asked if he could have until 5:30 p.m. When he brought it back later that afternoon, he resigned from GCPS. No one ever saw the welder at Tabb Fox’s garage and its location was unknow for 19 days.

Well, all that sounds pretty cut and dry if you assume GCPS administration are the ones who contacted law enforcement. That is not what happened at all. They allowed Mr. Lawson to resign and walk away. If not for the due diligence of an anonymous source who reported the theft to the Sheriff, the Commonwealth’s Attorney and the State Police, Mr. Lawson would have been allowed to do just that, walk away. It must have been very disheartening for that anonymous citizen when they found out Mr. Lawson’s punishment was a conviction for only one of his crimes, no jail time, $500 in court costs and no way to verify Mr. Clemons or anyone else with GCPS submitted the required paperwork to revoke Mr. Lawsons Virginia Retirement System (VRS) benefits as required by Commonwealth law.

In late April the Sheriff, the anonymous source and the Commonwealth Attorney met, and it was decided to have the State Police investigate the anonymous source’s allegations. In a phone conversation after that meeting, the Sheriff informed Mr. Clemons of the complaint made by the anonymous source and let him know the State Police would be contacting him. Mr. Clemons “then” told the Sheriff about some returned stolen property and asked about filing a police report with the Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff told him that based on a conflict of interest, he should notify the State Police instead. Imagine that, Mr. Clemons was ready to report returned stolen property after being told the State Police would be making contact. On May 17, 2017 a police investigator met with the Commonwealth Attorney to commence the State Police’s involvement.

Mr. Clemons and his administration appear to have closed the book on Mr. Lawson on April 19, 2017 when they let him resign and did not contact law enforcement; or so they thought until the anonymous source threw a wrench in their coverup. If you don’t believe it, ask Mr. Clemons to show the report filed with the Sheriff’s Department reflecting GCPS’ allegations of the theft. Ask him to show any report they filed with any law enforcement agency before the late April 2017 phone call from the Sheriff’s Department. He can’t because none exist. If Mr. Clemons and his staff intended to do the right thing, they would have called the Sheriff’s Department on April 19, 2017 when Mr. Lawson supposedly first lied to them about the welder’s whereabouts. At this point it is hard to trust anything coming from Mr. Clemons or the School Board.

Why were they covering for Mr. Lawson? What were the other items missing from the garage referenced in the Commonwealth’s Bill of Particulars? Why did it take 19 days after the welder went missing for GCPS Administration to confront Mr. Lawson? What other systemic accountability problems does GCPS have that have not yet come to light? Has Mr. Lawson’s VRS benefits been revoked through application by GCPS and in accordance with the Code of Virginia? Have corrective measures been taken to prevent this type of theft in the future? Are other areas within GCPS being looked at for signs of the same or similar weaknesses in accountability and control? Etc. etc. etc. We deserve answers to these questions and many more.

One thing is for certain out of what we know so far, Mr. Clemons is not the kind of public-school superintendent the citizens of Gloucester County need, want or deserve. If you do not align with his vision for GCPS, he has no use for you. He has lost accountability and control of the transportation division and who knows how many other areas within GCPS. He participated in covering up for a felon employee. He has created a work environment where employees are afraid to speak up, express an opinion or even speak about matters of concern during public comment at School Board meetings. It appears to be all about Mr. Clemons’ image and his vision for GCPS; whatever that truly is.

What do we do about it all? I and many others believe the best thing that could happen at this point, would be for Mr. Clemons and everyone, including School Board members, who participated in the coverup to submit their resignations from GCPS effective immediately. They have irreparably broken the citizens’ trust. Maybe they can all get a job working for the welder thief who seems to mean more to them than the students and taxpayers of Gloucester County and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Kenny Hogge, Sr.
Gloucester Point, Va.

Here is a link to GCPS web page with the School Board’s and other email addresses. Let them know this is not how we want any area in our public schools managed and do not appreciate their lack of control over how our tax dollars are spent. Tell them Mr. Clemons has worn out his welcome in Gloucester County.

Be sure to checkout the legal documents about the welder thief in the SlideShare presentation below and emails with Mr. Clemons and School Board member Robin Rice. More Later………………..

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Gloucester County, Virginia Teachers’ Pay Neglected Like The Rest Of Our Infrastructure

The following SlideShare contains the salaries of all of our teachers and other school system employees. Our local government and school board have neglected our teachers by not investing the money to pay them competitive wages. This is just another area of Gloucester’s infrastructure that has been neglected for years and continues to be neglected today. Tell our Supervisors and School Board members enough is enough. And don’t forget to remind them this is an election year for six of them.