5/4/2023 5:03:00 PM Looking past the school board controversy
Bill Goebel plans to seek the District 3 school board seat next year after his appointment last month led to his censure by the Guilford County Republican Party
Photo by Chris Burritt/NWO | District 3 school board member Bill Goebel (center) talks to (at left) Rebecca Kaye, senior adviser to the districtís superintendent, and Board of Education Vice Chair Bettye Jenkins after GCS Superintendent Whitney Oakley presented†her strategic vision for the district earlier this week.††
by CHRIS BURRITT
NW GUILFORD - Looking past his divisive appointment to the Guilford County Board of Education (BOE) last month, Bill Goebel said he's already decided to seek election to the District 3 seat next year.
"I'm going to run," Goebel said in an interview earlier this week. The northwestern Greensboro resident said he's going to create a political action committee - called Citizens for Common Ground - to raise money for himself and other local Republicans running for office.
For now, Goebel said he's planning to visit schools and meet with parent, teacher, student organizations in the district to understand his responsibilities. Earlier this week, he sat on the front row in downtown Greensboro's Tanger Center to hear Guilford County Schools Superintendent Whitney Oakley unveil her strategic vision for the district.
Sitting further back was Michael Logan, the choice of the county Republican Party's executive committee to succeed Pat Tillman, who resigned from the board after his election to the county's Board of Commissioners last November. In an interview after Oakley's presentation, Logan said he's still exploring legal and legislative options to have Goebel removed from the board so he can fill the seat.
If those efforts are unsuccessful, Logan said he intends to seek the District 3 seat in the November 2024 election, pitting him against Goebel.
Goebel lives in northwestern Greensboro where his three children - now grown - attended a mix of public schools and Caldwell Academy, a private school in Greensboro. Logan's two children attended Stokesdale Elementary and Northwest middle and high schools.
Logan lives near Northwest High School and he's made a point of criticizing the school's reliance upon "temporary" trailers for more than two decades as classrooms. Improvements to the school haven't yet been scheduled as part of $2 billion in spending authorized by school bond referendums in 2020 and 2022.
Although he plans to follow the wishes of District 3 voters, Goebel said he doesn't plan to try to intercede on the timing of improvements to northwestern Guilford schools, laid out in the district's 2019 master plan for replacing and updating schools, starting with those most in need of improvements.
The northwest-area schools in District 3 are Oak Ridge Elementary, Stokesdale Elementary, Summerfield Elementary, Pearce Elementary, Kernodle Middle, Northwest Middle and Northwest High School.
Others in the district are Brooks Global Studies, Claxton Elementary, General Greene Elementary, Guilford Elementary, Jefferson Elementary, Lindley Elementary, Sternberger Elementary, Kiser Middle, Grimsley High School and The Early College at Guilford.
"Some people say it's a bad thing to say, but I've got a lot to learn," Goebel said. "I'm going to be very involved."
Educating himself about his responsibilities as a board member is the first of 10 steps Goebel plans to pursue. Focusing on students' success, practicing financial stewardship and embracing diversity are others, he said.
In the month since the board appointed Goebel to fill the District 3 seat, he said he's not spoken to Logan, although he intends to do so. "It's too new," Goebel said.
Since late last year, the board rejected Logan four times to succeed Tillman. Earlier this year, as Logan's appointment to the board became uncertain, Goebel said he discussed his interest in filling the District 3 seat in meetings with David Gleeson, then chair of the local Republican Party, and Chris Meadows, who now serves as the party's local chair.
Goebel said he told the GOP leaders that "I'm willing to serve. I'm not trying to push Michael Logan out."
Goebel said he also met with Logan in February and told him that he wasn't trying to push him aside so he could fill the vacant seat.
The board voted 6-2 - along party lines - to appoint Goebel to serve the remainder of Tillman's term representing District 3, which encompasses Summerfield, Oak Ridge and Stokesdale. Logan attended last month's meeting believing he would finally be sworn in as the District 3 representative.
Instead, T. Dianne Bellamy Small, a Democrat representing District 1, nominated Goebel. After Logan angrily stood up and shouted his objections to the board's decision, he declined to remain in his seat and was ultimately escorted from the board room at the request of board Chair Deena Hayes, a Democrat representing District 8.
Since then, Logan and his supporters have maintained the county's Republican Party followed protocol in nominating him and the BOE was legally obligated to seat him. In March, the state legislature enacted a bill intended to require the school board to seat the local GOP's nominee. However, school board attorney Jill Wilson cited a loophole in the law, giving the board the right to seat Goebel.
In its censure of Goebel, the local GOP's executive committee cited him for "Party disloyalty, deceiving Party leadership and circumventing the proper avenues for filling a vacancy on the Guilford County Board of Education."
In the interview earlier this week, Goebel disagreed, saying local GOP leaders knew he was interested in filling the District 3 vacancy if Logan's candidacy fell through. Goebel added that he learned he would be nominated in a meeting with Wilson and Hayes, just hours before the board's vote.
"I didn't do any collusion," Goebel said. "My name was out there."
On social media and in an advertisement in the Northwest Observer last month, supporters of Logan criticized the board's decision. The ad called Goebel a "self-serving traitor" and a "RINO (Republican In Name Only)" who wasn't elected by voters or nominated by the local Republican Party.
In response to the RINO label, Goebel said, "You know, you're right. I'm an American first. I'm an independent more than anything else."
He said some opponents on social media have gone as far as criticizing how he "combs over" his thinning hair. When relatives in Ohio saw the posts, he said they asked him, "What's going on down there in North Carolina? What are you drinking down there?"
In meetings with other local Republicans, Goebel said he's "noticed there's a pretty radical group that hates the school board. They just don't like any Democrat. There's no common ground. It's just hate, and I'm part of the hated group."