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State superintendent responds to Halifax Board of Education member’s allegations

Many changes have come to the Halifax County School District in recent months: a new superintendent was hired, new members of the Board of Education were elected, and the three Halifax school districts have agreed to come up with a revenue-sharing agreement. We will write about all of this next week. But while these changes have been going on, the state Department of Public Instruction has been answering allegations leveled by Halifax Board of Education member Charles Hedgepeth.

Back in September, Hedgepeth sent a complaint to the Inspector General’s Hotline at the United States Department of Education. In it, Hedgepeth alleges “potential fraud, waste, abuse, misuse and mismanagement of public funds by Halifax County Schools, which may include program funding from the U.S. Department of Education.” In a different part of the letter, he implicates the State Board of Education and DPI in addition to Halifax County Schools.

He goes on to level several allegations of problems in the Halifax County School District, including that, he says, Superintendent Elease Frederick doesn’t have a valid contract. We wrote extensively about this claim previously. Frederick is retiring at the end of June. Other allegations include:

  • Employees being overpaid
  • Employees receiving inappropriate bonuses
  • Money being spent on renovations without Halifax Board of Education approval
  • Outstanding checks dating back to 2003
  • Halifax County Schools executing a $700,000 contract without Halifax Board of Education approval
  • Employees not being reimbursed for travel expenses
  • Misuse of funds in regards to the contract of School Resource Officers

In response to Hedgepeth’s allegations, the U.S. Department of Education wrote to N.C. Superintendent June Atkinson. The letter informs her about the complaint, goes on to list the claims Hedgepeth made, and then asks that the Department of Public Instruction investigate the allegations and report back with a written response.

To see the U.S. Department of Education’s letter, along with Hedgepeth’s letter, and the full list and text of his allegations, go here.

On June 1, Atkinson responded. In her response to the U.S. Department of Education, she goes allegation by allegation and rebuts Hedgepeth’s claims —  including regarding Frederick’s contract — or explains how officials have rectified or are rectifying problems in Halifax County Schools. See her letter to read her explanations. Also in that document is a letter from Superintendent Frederick in which she rebuts or explains Hedgepeth’s claims.

A few of Atkinson’s responses do jibe somewhat with allegations Hedgepeth made. For instance, she admits that some employees have been and continue to be overpaid, though the situation has been improved and the Halifax County School District continues to try to rectify the situation.

At the end of her letter, Atkinson says: “Mr. Hedgepeth has repeatedly raised his concerns to the Halifax County School Board and NCDPI. Halifax County Schools as well as administration attempted to explain these issues on numerous occasions to Mr. Hedgepeth, but he has refused to accept the explanations.”

She also attached a response from current Halifax Superintendent Frederick which states: “the claims by Mr. Hedgepeth of ‘fraud, waste, misuse or mismanagement of United States Department of Education program funds’ are without merit.” She also says: “In terms of the scope of his assertions, most have nothing to do with the use of federal funds. Most also are years old, and Mr. Hedgepeth continues to raise them in any forum he can find.”

Hedgepeth said he will have no comment on Atkinson’s response until the U.S. Department of Education says something regarding the claims and information in his original letter.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.