A Winston-Salem committee voted 3-1 Tuesday to recommend changing the name of the annual fair to Carolina Classic Fair, although the full council must act on the name before it takes effect for the 2020 season.
The split vote on the city’s general government committee guarantees a debate on Monday when the issue comes before the full Winston-Salem City Council.
It’s also clear that a strong faction on the council is in favor of a name that would include the word Piedmont as a regional identifier.
The one committee member voting against the Carolina Classic proposal said she favors Piedmont, and two members of the council not on the general government committee also said during Tuesday’s meeting that they like Piedmont or Piedmont Classic in the name.
Two members of the eight-member city council were not present for the discussion on Tuesday.
The annual fair has been called the Dixie Classic since the mid-1950s, but the city council decided over the summer to change the name. In April, a group of citizens had argued that the name Dixie retains too many connotations with slavery and the Old South.
A council member supporting the Carolina Classic name said Tuesday that the name would blend both fair names from the era when fairs were segregated.
Dixie Classic was one of the names used for the fair that whites attended during the segregation era. Carolina Fair was one of the last names of the fair that most black residents attended.
Putting Carolina and Classic together from both names recognizes the history of both fairs, said Southwest Ward Council Member Dan Besse.
Besse told how it was typical in southern communities, when segregation ended, for the name of the white institution to continue as the one that everyone took part in.
“When the city came into ownership of the fair, the city at that time simply retained the Dixie Classic Fair name unchanged,” Besse said, adding that the heritage of the fair that black people attended was lost.
“By retaining the Classic and adding the Carolina ... we recognize the diversity of that history and recognize the shared diverse history of our community,” Besse said. “That’s why I like it better. It is a history lesson in addition to a good regional name.”
It was West Ward Council Member Robert Clark who made the motion to go with the Carolina Classic choice, with Besse providing the second.
Joining Clark and Besse in support of the Carolina Classic name was North Ward Council Member D.D. Adams.
East Ward Council Member Annette Scippio voted against the Carolina Classic choice, saying after the meeting that she preferred a name with Piedmont in it.
“I have always identified this area as the Piedmont,” Scippio said, adding that the Carolina reference was “too broad” and might create confusion with the Central Carolina Fair, which is held in Greensboro.
During the meeting, John Larson, the council member for South Ward, and not a member of the committee, made a strong plea for Piedmont to be part of the fair name. He evoked associations ranging from the area’s designation in colonial times to the more modern Piedmont Airlines that was based here.
“It is something we can be very proud of because it identifies a specific part of the state of North Carolina that we particularly reside in,” Larson said. “Piedmont is a name I’d like to keep in the landscape. This is a way to lock it in as an identifying factor that makes us a unique part of the state of North Carolina and a unique part of the fair world.”
Northwest Ward Council Member Jeff MacIntosh, another non-member of the committee sitting in on Tuesday, suggested that the name Carolina might create the wrong impression.
“When I hear Carolina, I think Chapel Hill and I think blue,” MacIntosh said, adding that the Piedmont is the region from which the fair draws most visitors.
After the meeting, MacIntosh said he would probably vote against the Carolina Classic name on Monday.
With six of the eight council members staking themselves out on Tuesday, the pressure could be on council members Vivian Burke and James Taylor to decide the issue on Monday. If the council splits 4-4, Mayor Allen Joines would be faced with breaking the tie vote.
While the fair name debate has been a hot one both in meetings and on social media, on Tuesday the general committee meeting drew few people other than members of the press.
Richard Miller, a downtown businessman who had spoken against changing the name from Dixie Classic, came to Tuesday’s meeting intending to speak, but the floor was never opened for public comment. Miller said that if the name has to change, he favors the Piedmont designation.
City Manager Lee Garrity said last week that a council decision was needed soon to allow planning for the 2020 fair to go forward.
“We need a name by November so that we can begin the process,” Garrity said, nothing that fair personnel need the new name so that they can submit the information to groups that hold trade shows for fair promoters in late 2019 and early 2020.
Winston-Salem officials estimate that one-time costs for the new name will be almost $100,000, although that doesn’t include some marketing and supply costs that are already in the fair’s operating budget.
The 2020 fair takes place Oct. 2-11, but fair planners need to start this fall because of upcoming trade shows and other gatherings that fair planners attend to scope out the attractions for the coming year.
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting of the city’s general government committee, city officials had submitted a list of possible names from the many suggestions made.
The list included regional names like Blue Ridge Foothills Fair, Piedmont Regional Fair and Northwest North Carolina Fair.
A lot of the suggestions kept the word Classic in the fair name: Yadkin Valley Classic, Carolina Classic, Triad Classic and Piedmont Classic, for example.
Although city staffers at one point suggested Twin City Classic for a fair name, that idea got shot down for being too limited in scope. People said they wanted a name that suggested a bigger area than just Winston-Salem.
City officials said the fair has a marketing budget of $230,000 and a supplies budget of $65,000 already in place that can be used for some of the costs of transitioning to a new name.
The one-time costs include $30,000 to repaint the grandstand and other locations with the new name and logo, $12,000 to replace signs at two gates, and a variety of miscellaneous costs that include ticket-booth coverings, street signs to direct traffic, banners and other items. The total one-time costs are estimated at $97,000.
City officials said the marketing and supplies budgets can cover things that are done every year anyway, such as printing calendars, prize booklets, prize ribbons and other things.
The fairgrounds cash reserve totals $2.06 million, as the fair is one of the city’s money-making enterprises.
City officials say the timetable provides for the new name and logo to be released in November, with updates to social media and redirecting website traffic from the site name that makes reference to the current fair name.
Scippio said Thursday that no matter what the council picks, it won’t change how she refers to the fair:
“Truth be known, I will call it ‘the fair,’ “ she said.
A Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school board committee voted Tuesday in favor of a mandatory African American history course, sending its recommendation to the full school board for a vote.
Members of the Board of Education’s curriculum committee rejected a recommendation by Superintendent Angela P. Hairston to offer four courses as electives for students in every high school — African American Studies, Latin American Studies, American Indian Studies and Ethnic Literature.
She proposed that each course be worth one full credit and have standard and honors course options.
Currently, the African American Studies and Latin American Studies courses receive half a credit, while the Ethnic Literature course receives a full credit. American Indian Studies has not been offered before in the district.
Barbara Burke, the chairwoman of the curriculum committee and vice-chairwoman of the school board, said she supports Hairston fully, but she noted the many people who’ve attended board meetings to advocate for a mandatory African American history course, as well as comments and letters from local and state government leaders, along with a petition signed by community members in favor of such a course.
“I think that the reality of not moving forward to make a recommendation for the board to vote would delay this process,” Burke said. “If we go on the superintendent’s recommendation, we’re looking at least at another year before this could come up again.”
The school board could vote on the issue Tuesday.
In her list of seven recommendations, Hairston also suggested continuing the Cultural Infusion Project with an accountability measure.
The Cultural Infusion Project was started in the mid-1990s aimed at helping African American students see themselves within the K-12 curriculum.
These are Hairston’s other recommendations:
Hairston said in an interview that the DPI is rewriting the social studies standards.
“In rewriting the social studies standards, we want to make sure that multiculturalism is represented in our state,” Hairston said.
In an interview after the meeting, Rebecca McKnight, the director of social studies for the district, said that the Ethnic Literature course is now offered in just one school, “but we hope for it to be offered widely next year.”
McKnight said that students are currently taking the African American Studies and Latin American Studies courses in six or seven schools.
A number of community members and educators attended the Curriculum Committee meeting.
India Reaves teaches social studies and an African American history course at Parkland High School.
Reaves said she supports Hairston’s recommendations of putting the African American Studies, Latin American Studies and American Indian Studies courses in the course load at all high schools and making them full-credit courses.
“I love African American history,” said Reaves, who is African American. “However, adding it as a requirement, you’re going to run into some issues on where do you put it? Where does the time fit if the state is rolling out a new curriculum, new mandatory courses...?”
She said that the reason some students do not take the African American or Latin American history courses in the district now is because it is worth half a credit.
“Most of the students that I teach in the African American history course are juniors and seniors,” Reaves said. “What’s happened is most of those kids have taken care of their physical education and health requirements, but it’s hard to find another half credit class to pair with the African American history course.”
At Parkland, the only other course that is worth a half credit is World Geography, she said.
Al Jabbar of Action4Equity and a volunteer at Petree Elementary School said he thought Hairston provided some “good nuggets” in her recommendations.
“The only thing that I didn’t see was where there was going to be what I saw as some serious accountability with this process,” Jabbar said. “Because if you’re only going to meet twice a year to assess how something is working — a committee — then I think that’s a long time to wait to do that.”
Jabbar said he is glad that the vote on an African American history course will go before the full school board.
He said he is concerned that if the African American history course is not mandatory, some teachers might find ways to not teach it.
A recent WS/FCS survey by McKnight of 2,040 students in the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th grades found that if African American Studies were a full-credit course, 679 students out of 2,024 responding to the question would take it and 774 would consider the course.
Out of 2,030 respondents on Latin American Studies, 523 students would take it while 779 would consider it if it were a full-credit course. For American Indian Studies, 535 students said they would be interested in the course if it were worth a full credit.
The N.C. Court of Appeals issued a decision Tuesday that may put an end to a long-simmering legal dispute involving allegations that Forsyth County clerks conspired with others to steal more than $1.4 million from a Winston-Salem woman’s estate.
At the center of the court’s decision is a lawsuit filed in 2015 in Forsyth Superior Court against Susan Frye, who retired as Forsyth County clerk of court this year; Bryan Thompson, a public administrator who was appointed guardian of the woman’s estate; and several other people. No one has ever been criminally charged based on the allegations in the lawsuit.
In its unanimous ruling issued Tuesday, the appellate court upheld a Forsyth County judge’s decision to dismiss most of the lawsuit in 2016 and 2018 because it failed to make sufficient allegations of fraud and a criminal conspiracy.
The three-judge appellate panel did, however, vacate Judge John O. Craig’s 2018 decision to deny a motion to reconsider those dismissals. The court ruled, based on technical legal ground,s that Craig should have dismissed the motion to reconsider instead of denying it. A judge will have to issue a new decision in line with the appellate court’s ruling on that motion to reconsider.
Essentially, the lawsuit will likely be over once that is done.
Reginald Alston, who filed the lawsuit, will have to decide whether to petition the N.C. Supreme Court to review the appellate court’s ruling. Alston did not immediately return a message Tuesday requesting comment.
“We’re happy,” Andrew Fitzgerald, one of Thompson’s attorneys, said Tuesday.
Pam Duffy, also an attorney for Thompson, said the court found that Alston failed to state valid claims in the lawsuit, including those of false representation and actual damages.
Even though Alston filed the lawsuit four years ago, the overall legal dispute goes back much further. It started in 2007, when the family of Mary Thompson, a former nurse and businesswoman, challenged Bryan Thompson’s appointment as guardian of the estate. (Bryan Thompson and Mary Thompson, who died in 2014, are not related.) Bryan Thompson’s role as guardian of the estate was to manage Mary Thompson’s property and financial affairs after she was declared incapable of making those decisions on her own.
Alston has contended in legal papers that Bryan Thompson was illegally appointed because Teresa Hinshaw, a former assistant Forsyth County clerk, failed to file-stamp — essentially, enter — orders declaring that Mary Thompson was mentally incompetent and that Bryant Thompson was her guardian.
According to Alston, the failure to file-stamp those orders made everything Bryan Thompson ever did with Mary Thompson’s estate illegal.
The N.C. Court of Appeals ruled in 2014 that the appointment of Bryan Thompson was “without legal authority” because Hinshaw’s order on mental incompetency was not file-stamped.
Frye has said that was a mistake and that it had been standard practice for clerks to not stamp orders that had been prepared or executed by representatives in the clerk’s office. That policy has been changed, she has said.
And Frye retroactively file-stamped the orders, an action that the N.C. Court of Appeals later found to be proper.
Alston has alleged that everything having to do with Bryan Thompson’s appointment was intentionally fraudulent. He has alleged in court papers that Thompson, several Forsyth County clerks and others conspired in a criminal enterprise to illegally take over the estates of Mary Thompson and other people and steal their assets. Alston alleged that Bryan Thompson stole monthly retirement checks, Social Security checks, commissions, and all of her real and personal property. Alston has estimated the value of her estate at between $1.4 million and $1.6 million.
Attorneys for Bryant Thompson have argued in court that Alston’s numbers aren’t right and that he has no evidence showing anything fraudulent happened. According to a motion Bryan Thompson’s attorneys filed in Forsyth Superior Court, Mary Thompson had 48 properties that at one point they were valued at $1 million. But by 2012, a bankruptcy report indicated a net value of $66,120 for the properties.
Bryan Thompson sold seven of the properties, and then, after he filed for bankruptcy on behalf of the estate in 2011, the bankruptcy trustee sold 12 other properties. Another 29 properties were legally abandoned.
At a 2018 hearing on the lawsuit, Duffy, one of Bryan Thompson’s attorneys, said there was no evidence that he had bought a car, house or anything else for personal benefit with money from the estate.
The N.C. Court of Appeals said Alston failed to allege that Mary Thompson or any other party “suffered any actual damages or losses as a result of any of Thompson’s actions.”
“Plaintiff’s conclusory allegations that Thompson’s seemingly-legitimate exercise of his authority as Decedent’s guardian amounted to fraud cannot survive Defendants’ motions to dismiss,” the court ruled.