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News
Wilkes K-12 summer school plans told
  • Updated

The Wilkes County School District’s plans for summer school have been announced.

It’s scheduled June 14 to July 29, Monday to Thursday each week, with a week off for the July 4 holiday.

“We hope to be able to offer summer school at each of our 22 schools. The plan is to have a regular school day of 7:45 to 3 for elementary and 8 to 3:30 for middle and high school,” said Dr. Donna Cotton, chief academic officer for the Wilkes schools.

“This is all dependent on the number of students who participate.”

School districts must provide in-person summer school this year under legislation signed into law April 9 by Gov. Roy Cooper. The law doesn’t provide new state funding for summer school, but districts can use federal COVID-19 relief funds to run the program.

Cotton said the law requires that districts invite “at risk” students to summer school first. Parents have the final say on whether children attend summer school.

She said “at risk” includes students being retained at a grade level, as well as students promoted to the next grade level but at-risk of not being successful.

“There are also students who are not retained but are still at-risk because they aren’t progressing at the rate they should be. Teachers would watch them closely and provide interventions where needed,” said Cotton.

“There could be many students retained this year because they did not do the work during the school year that would show their teachers they are capable of what is needed at the next level — they are simply not prepared,” she said.

“We will have many students moving to the next level who are at-risk because of the nature of earning this year. They may have been quarantined for several weeks and missed a good bit of instruction. They may have worked hard during in-person days but not on remote days.”

The law requires that district’s offer at least 150 hours or 30 days of instruction, excluding lunch, transition time and physical activity, said Callie Grubb, director of pre-K and elementary education for the Wilkes schools.

Speaking during the April 12 school board meeting, Grubb said the law doesn’t allow classes on Saturdays. She said the Wilkes District will provide meals and transportation.

Also under the law:

• students in grades K-8 must be offered in-person instruction in reading, math and science, plus at least one enrichment activity up to the discretion of the district;

• students in grades 9-12 must be offered in-person instruction in Math I, Math 3, English 2 and biology and access to credit recovery modules;

• time must be allowed each day for small group or individual instruction for students considered “at risk.” A period of physical activity must be allowed each day.

Grubb said the annual summer reading camp will be integrated into summer school using COVID relief funds.

She said that by Oct. 15, districts must report results of competency-based assessment given to students in grades K-8 at the beginning and at end of summer school to the N.C. Department of Instruction.

Districts must report the number of students who progressed to the next grade level and the number who didn’t after being in summer school.

The law requires that teachers be employed during summer school as contract workers, which means it doesn’t contribute to their retirement benefit. Retirement benefits of those who retired by March 1 are not impacted if they teach in summer school.


News
Oakwoods Road bridge closed due to findings in inspection
  • Updated

The Oakwoods Road bridge over Cub Creek in Wilkesboro was closed to traffic about 1:30 p.m. April 15 “out of an abundance of caution” after an inspection earlier in the day revealed that repairs are needed, stated an N.C. Department of Transportation press release.

It remains closed while officials with the DOT bridge section in Raleigh conduct analysis to determine what is needed to maintain safety, said Andrew Glasco, transportation supervisor II in bridge maintenance for the DOT’s Wilkes and Caldwell districts.

Glasco said Tuesday that he is still waiting to learn plans for the bridge from officials in Raleigh. The bridge’s weight limit was already reduced to 19 tons for single vehicles and 25 tons for tractor-trailers some time back.

Glasco said an inspection conducted every two years found that some of the longitudinal and transverse steel cables holding the bridge deck’s 12 precast slabs of concrete tightly together had failed. Longitudinal cables run vertically and transverse cables run horizontally.

Exposed steel hardware placed on ends of three transverse cables became deteriorated to the point where they no longer maintained cable tension. A bridge inspector was able to pull the end of one of the cables out from the side of the bridge.

Two longitudinal cables, broken due to deterioration, dangle from the underside of the bridge. A slab of concrete about the size of a shoebox is attached to the end of one. Surfaces of the concrete slabs are deteriorated elsewhere, in some cases leaving portions of longitudinal cables exposed.

Glasco said salt placed on the road surface to melt winter ice is a key cause of the deterioration.

On the north side of the bridge, Oakwoods Road is now closed where it intersects with Main Street, Wilkesboro. On the south side of the bridge, signs tell motorists the bridge is closed ahead but Oakwoods Road isn’t closed until immediately before the bridge due to intersecting roads.

The official detour, marked with detours signs, calls for taking Old U.S. 421 east from Wilkesboro to N.C. 115, then to U.S. 421 Bypass near C.C. Wright Elementary School.

The two-lane, three-span Oakwoods Road bridge over Cub Creek was constructed in 1969, and underwent major repairs with placement of a couple of steel I-beams lengthwise under the bridge several years ago.

In the DOT’s current Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), right of way acquisition for a new Oakwoods Road bridge over Cub Creek is scheduled to start in June 2026 and construction in June 2028.

DOT plans about 10 years ago called for a new four-lane Oakwoods Road bridge over Cub Creek to already have been constructed at a site west (upstream) of the existing bridge to help reduce the severity of a curve.

In the 2012 TIP, construction of a new Oakwoods Road bridge over Cub Creek was scheduled to start in fiscal 2014-15. This was also part of the proposed widening of two-lane Oakwoods Road.

Oakwoods Road is considered a major gateway to Wilkesboro and to a lesser extent North Wilkesboro. The road, including the bridge, was re-paved earlier this month.


News
Supreme Court suspends Judge Brooks for 30 days
  • Updated

The N.C. Supreme Court suspended District Court Judge William F. “Bill” Brooks of Wilkesboro from the bench without pay for 30 days on Friday for violating the N.C. Code of Judicial Conduct.

The court took this action after it and the N.C. Judicial Standards Commission found that Brooks violated the code by serving as executor of the estates of a couple not related to him and by not properly reporting nearly $90,000 he received for this.

The code prohibits judges from being executors for estates of non-family members. It requires that they disclose receiving more than $2,000 for activities beyond judicial functions in a Judicial Income Report and Statement of Economic Interest (SEI). They also must tell why it was received.

Brooks serves in the 23rd Judicial District counties of Wilkes, Ashe, Alleghany and Yadkin. He practiced law for about 30 years before Gov. Pat McCrory appointed him to fill a vacancy created when Judge Mitchell L. McLean died in September 2013. Brooks, a Republican, was elected to four-year terms in 2014 and 2018 and is up for reelection in 2022.

In January 2020, the commission filed a statement charging Brooks with violating the code of conduct. In his March 2020 response, Brooks admitting serving “as a personal representative for the estates of two former family friends, who were clients, not members of his family.” He admitted collecting fees for this and “inadvertently” not disclosing this as required.

The commission stated that on an SEI form for 2016, Brooks acknowledged that he understood failure to disclose required information is a Class I misdemeanor.

Attorneys for Brooks and the commission jointly filed a statement of facts in May 2020 saying that about 3 ½ years before Brooks was appointed a judge, he prepared wills for Robert and Mary Grace Crawford of North Wilkesboro. In each will, Brooks was named executor.

The statement said Brooks “had known the Crawfords for many years and considered them to be like family, but acknowledges he was not related to them by blood or marriage.”

The statement said Brooks received a copy of the Code of Judicial Conduct and ethics training during Orientation for New District Court Judges in early December 2013.

Brooks received a $2,550 commission for being executor for the estate of Robert Crawford, who died in early March 2014. He received $85,320 for being executor for the Mary Grace Crawford estate after she died in late November 2014. He handled filings for these estates with the Wilkes Clerk of Superior Court until both were closed in 2017.

The statement said Brooks “knew or should have known” that he was required to report the extra-judicial income he received for serving as executor for the Crawford estates.

In a hearing before the commission on Sept. 11, 2020, Brooks made a statement in which he accepted responsibility for his actions, acknowledged that they were wrong and apologized for them. He also said, “I just did not realize for whatever reason that this could not be done.”

When called Friday afternoon, Brooks asked that his attorney, David B. Freedman of Winston-Salem, be contacted for comments on his behalf.

Freedman said by phone Friday evening, “Judge Brooks intended no harm. He should have been more aware and is very sorry for what he did.”

Freedman added, “Judge Brooks is thankful to have been elected by the people of Wilkes, Ashe, Alleghany and Yadkin counties and he appreciates being able to continue serving them.”

As mitigating factors, the commission found that Brooks cooperated, admitted error and showed remorse. The commission also noted that the misconduct at issue appears to be a single event and not recurring.

The commission said the large amount of extra-judicial income Brooks received and that it came from activity expressly prohibited in the code of conduct made his failure to disclose it particularly egregious.

The commission recommended that Brooks be censured by the Supreme Court. By censuring a judge, the Supreme Court finds that a judge willfully engaged in misconduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute.

The Supreme Court found that justification for censuring Brooks existed and adopted the commission’s findings of fact without exception, but added that harsher consequences were appropriate and ordered a 30-day suspension without pay.


News
Meth's dominance in Wilkes grows
  • Updated

Methamphetamine has become even more dominant among illegal drugs in Wilkes County, said Wilkes Sheriff Chris Shew when he announced the arrest of 20 people on felony drug charges on April 15.

The arrests resulted from investigations underway within the last 2 ½ months and all but one primarily involved meth.

Drug cartels south of the U.S.-Mexican border are the primary sources of meth sold here and Shew said it’s become easier to bring it across the border into the U.S. under Biden administration policies. He said the result is more meth here.

Shew said the cartels “are getting their operatives here (in the U.S.) to do business and have more people selling” meth. Shew said fentanyl is also becoming more common in Wilkes, as well as deadlier.

According to news reports, federal authorities seized record amounts of meth and fentanyl on the U.S.-Mexican border in 2020. Authorities said drug cartels shifted more to producing these illegal substances due to their increased profitability.

Capt. Craig Dancy, who heads the sheriff’s office’s narcotics division, said 652 grams of meth with a street value of about $65,000 were seized in cases culminating in the latest 20 arrests.

Dancy said that within the last year, the street value of meth in Wilkes fell from about $1,100 to about $600 per ounce due to the increased supply.

He said 11 grams of fentanyl worth about $1,500 and 122 pills worth about $5,000 were also seized, as well as 35 grams of marijuana and three grams of cocaine.

Trafficking charges

Among those arrested, eight face trafficking charges as a result of larger amounts of meth in their cases. Each trafficking charge is for a different undercover buy.

The trafficking cases include:

• Bobby Lee Bowers, 40, North Bridge Street, Elkin, possession with intent to sell and deliver (PWISD) meth and pills, sale of meth and three counts of trafficking in meth. Dancy said 168 grams of meth were seized in the Bowers case;

• Antoine Montea Springs, 34, Winston-Salem, PWISD meth and three counts of trafficking in meth. Dancy said Springs was supplying people in eastern Wilkes with meth and was arrested by the Yadkin Sheriff’s Office on the Wilkes charges;

• Trisha Marie Nelson, 44, Country Square Drive, Moravian Falls, trafficking in meth, PWISD fentanyl, maintaining a vehicle for controlled substances and two counts of PWISD meth. Dancy said Nelson already faced similar charges filed earlier by the Wilkes and Iredell sheriff’s offices;

• Richard Nathan Ward, 42, Shumate Drive, North Wilkesboro, PWISD meth and two counts of trafficking in meth. Fifty-one grams of meth were seized in Ward’s case. Dancy said Ward, now in prison, has drug connections in Mexico;

• Jimmy Carl Anderson Jr., 42, Shepherds Crossroads, Roaring River, PWISD meth, maintaining a vehicle for controlled substances and two counts of trafficking in meth;

• John Walter Demeny, 24, Country Club Road, Moravian Falls, trafficking in meth, PWISD meth and fentanyl, maintaining a dwelling for controlled substances and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon;

• Scottie Lewis Pawelski, 25, Wilkesboro, trafficking in meth and PWISD meth and marijuana. Dancy said Demeny was supplying Pawelski with meth and Pawelski was selling it from where he lived at Holbrook Motel. Thirty grams of meth were seized from Pawelski;

• Michael Gene Brown, 43, Lincoln Mill, Millers Creek, PWISD meth and pills and two counts of trafficking in meth. Dancy said someone in Rowan County was supplying Brown with meth.

Other meth cases

Dancy said Melissa Lynn Brown, 51, Winkler Mill Road, Wilkesboro, is charged with maintaining a dwelling for meth in connection with the Michael Brown case.

He said Damion Dontrell Horton, 31, Carlton Road, Boomer, is charged with PWISD meth in the case in which Trisha Nelson is charged.

In other meth cases,

• Ashley Brooke Jarvis, 32, N.C. 18 South, Moravian Falls, PWISD meth;

• Kristen McNeil Williams, 35, Pineridge Circle, North Wilkesboro, maintaining a vehicle for controlled substances, three counts of PWISD schedule III pills and four counts of PWISD meth and pills;

• Nichole Ashley Parke, 21, N.C. 268, Lenoir, and Brandon Shane Kilby, 38, Traphill Road, Traphill, were arrested at the same time and charged with one count each of PWISD meth;

• Also charged in the same case were Misty Lynn Minton, 35, Moravian Creek Drive, Moravian Falls, PWISD, and Jonathan Russ Minton, 41, Homestead Drive, Hays, maintaining a vehicle for meth;

• Jason Darren Love, 42, River Mist Drive, Ronda, PWISD meth, possession of oxycodone and destruction of evidence. Dancy said Love is charged with consuming illegal drugs he was charged with having;

• George Tucker Kelly, 65, F Street, North Wilkesboro, possession of meth and fentanyl and possession of drug paraphernalia. Dancy said Tucker was selling powder fentanyl;

Eric Catalan-Garcia, 41, Pine Avenue, North Wilkesboro, possession of fentanyl. Dancy said Catalan-Garcia was selling fentanyl made to look like oxycontin pills.

In the one case not involving meth, Kevin Moreno, 22. Of N.C. 268 East, North Wilkesboro, was charged with two counts each PWISD cocaine and sale or cocaine.

Fentanyl often made to look like prescription pain pills but increasingly is being sold in its original powder form.

He said people arrested in the latest Wilkes drug cases had been supplied with meth and/or fentanyl by as many as a dozen different drug dealers. Dancy said this reflected the fragmented nature of the drug trade now.

Although originally from Mexico or other countries south of the U.S. border, Dancy said much of the meth and fentanyl in Wilkes comes from Charlotte or Atlanta.

Meth is a stimulant and fentanyl is a synthetic opioid often added to heroin and other drugs. Both are highly addictive and primary causes of overdose drug deaths.

Assisting the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office in some of the cases were the Yadkin Sheriff’s Office, Elkin Police Department and Det. Tim Sims of the Alexander Sheriff’s Office and a drug dog assigned to him.


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