RALEIGH — At a special meeting on July 19, the Moore County School Board voted 6-0 to remove David Hensley from his vice chair position and all committee assignments.
The board also voted unanimously to censure and remove committee assignments from Hensley, who was absent from the meeting.
Including the removal of Hensley as vice chair, board member Philip Holmes also made both of the motions to remove Hensley from “any and all committees” that he serves on as well as the motion to censure.
Holmes described his colleagues as handling Hensley’s “attacks” with “dignity and grace.”
Of the censure motion, Holmes said it was “based on inappropriate behavior, his lack of civility which is inconsistent with board policies requiring civil behavior and respectful dialogue with fellow board members on matters being considered by the board at all times.”
Later in the meeting, Robert Levy explained he could have removed Hensley through his powers as board chair, but the board has chosen to do it instead. He also clarified with Holmes that the censure applied to statements made by Hensley inside of the board and not outside remarks he may have made.
Board member Pauline Bruno remarked after the votes were taken that the actions were “very difficult” for the board to take.
The three votes were taken following the conclusion of a closed session.
“I am very proud of this board; that this board recognizes the need for civility and the need to get along with each other and to remember that our number one priority are our students,” Levy said as the meeting resumed.
Levy went on to speak about the importance of the district’s strategic plan of raising grade-level performance before addressing policy 1419 regarding board conduct.
“We have a policy and that policy is called 1419. That policy basically says that we have to conduct affairs of the board in an open and public manner and that we also have to model civility and integrity,” said Levy. “Because, after all, we are the models for our students.”
In his remarks, Levy described the “turmoil all around us in daily life” and that he believes the public wants to see the board conduct business with the “utmost respect” for each other.
As he ended his remarks, Levy asked if anyone had a motion to make.
Holmes spoke up and made a motion to remove Hensley as vice chair of the board.
“He has continuously and flagrantly attacked individuals, constituents, teachers and members of this board. He has failed to recognize that his words do have impact,” Holmes said of his motion to remove Hensley as vice chair. “His words are harsh, unwarranted and disruptive. His vile conduct does not reflect good leadership.
“David is a very intelligent man and has great ideas, but how can we expand on those ideas when the vice chair continues unwanted banter and unilateral thinking while at the same time crucifying members of this board and the public,” said Holmes. “This does not reflect leadership. And, with that being said, I do make a motion to remove David Hensley as vice chair.”
Ken Benway seconded the motion and also made a brief statement about the role of the board and restoration of academic performance and order in their schools.
“In the last few weeks, however, we have been diverted from our mission by statements made by Mr. Hensley, vice chair of this board, creating entirely avoidable distractions,” said Benway.
Benway went on to say we now have “chaos in public meetings” and that the “toxic pursuit of antagonism and character assassination of the elected chair of this board as well as the gratuitous and unfounded attacks on the superintendent show no signs of remorse on the part of Mr. Hensley.
“This board cannot and will not operate under those conditions,” Benway added.
“A singular point of no return was reached earlier on. Mr. Hensley’s statement in June on WEEB radio that Mr. Robert Levy, a practicing Jew, a highly competent lawyer, and proven public servant is, quote ‘a Nazi,’ unquote,” said Benway. “That statement is freighted with profound malice and attempted character assassination that cannot be ignored nor will be tolerated by this member of the board of education or by the citizens of Moore County.”
The statements made by Hensley on WEEB radio occurred on June 13, the day after the board had held a meeting in which Levy and Hensley had a heated exchange over some of Hensley’s items being removed from the agenda. Some of the items were referred back to being heard by committees, which Hensley pushed back on since at least one of them had already been approved by a committee he sat on.
During the interview Hensley remarked that Levy had “used a parliamentary trick to make it clear that he is going to remove things. … He and only he will decide what’s on the agenda.”
In the second half of the interview, the Hensley, apparently frustrated with the removal of the agenda items, joked about past comments by former board member Pam Thompson in which she had allegedly referred to Levy as a “Nazi.” The host of the show seemed to acknowledge such a comment was made, laughed, and then moved on.
The same day the interview aired Levy wrote a lengthy Facebook post about Hensley’s remarks and characterizing Hensley as holding the agenda “hostage” over items he wished placed on the June 12 agenda.
“A Nazi?” wrote Levy. “I recently listened to WEEB, a radio station in Southern Pines, North Carolina. On their air I heard David Hensley, a fellow member of our school board and my now former friend, call me a ‘Nazi.’ I’ve heard it before. I just never thought that this friend would infuse his radio show with such abject bigotry.
“If I was not Jewish, do you think he would have used that slur? Of course not. But it was not to be unexpected,” Levy wrote. “When a person is mad at someone else… really mad… he or she reach deep inside to find the most offensive and vulgar phrase possible. The hurt becomes more important than the issue. The hurt even obscures the issue itself. And, it worked.”
In a June 21 Facebook post on Hensley’s official school board page, Hensley posted an image of himself and Levy with a sign pointing to each of them along with the word “besties.”
“An occasional fight doesn’t mean you aren’t Besties,” Hensley wrote in the post. “Perhaps next time, Bob and I will just work things out in the boxing ring. Imagine how much the ‘Pay Per View’ would raise for MCS Fine and Performing Arts Programs.”
On July 20, Hensley responded to the events of the special called meeting on his official Hensley School Board Facebook page.
“Some people may have noticed that I was uncharacteristically missing at Wednesday’s Special Called session and thought it odd why, the guy who has only missed one meeting in over two years, did not attend to defend himself?” asked Hensley in the post. “The answer is that Chair Levy intentionally scheduled the meeting on a day which he knew I would be unable to attend.”
Hensley’s post goes on to describe he had notified the board “several weeks ago” that he had scheduled treatments on July 18-19 for an ongoing issue with his vocal cords.
“Armed with this knowledge, Levy scheduled the special session when he knew I had an unmovable appointment,” wrote Hensley. “The notification went out via e-mail. Since I don’t routinely check my MCS e-mail, I did not know about the meeting until I saw the meeting notice posted on Facebook mid-morning on Monday.”
Hensley went on to say the board scheduled the meeting when “while both the Superintendent and the Superintendent’s Assistant were on vacation,” noting that the superintendent’s assistant is the person “who reaches out via phone call and/or text to notify board members of emerging events.”
“If you are going to make accusations and pass judgement on someone, you could not have done it in a more cowardly way then Levy and Holmes did this,” Hensley wrote. “They ensured I wouldn’t be there to counter their accusations and that they would be free to say whatever they wanted without any rebuttal. That is 100% what they did.”
Hensley reaffirmed the main points of his July 20 post to North State Journal.
In an interview with North State Journal, Levy responded to some of Hensley’s claims, noting that he had sent the board an email on July 13 that the special meeting had been set for July 19.
Levy reiterated that he did not call the meeting; Holmes did. He also cited the response from Hensley on July 17 in which Hensley said he “just saw” the notice of the meeting.
“OK, before the Wednesday meeting…Well into the day… this is his words, ‘I just saw this meeting’ and he attaches my email from the 13th,” Levy said. “[It] said ‘I just saw this. As I do not routinely check my MCS e-mail.’ Let me repeat that – ‘I just saw this as I do not routinely check my MCS e-mail.’
“So he’s not checking his e-mail,” said Levy. “Now, we have meetings which could be called on 48 hours’ notice. He not only had notice of it one day, but he had the notice the following day when I chose the date.”
Levy also noted that planning for the special meeting had more than 48 hours’ notice with a window of five days’ notice from start to finish.
A copy of the email provided to North State Journal confirms Levy’s account.
“I just saw this, as I routinely do not check my MCS email,” Hensley wrote on July 17. “I have my semi-annual voice treatment at Duke Medical Clinic on Wednesday morning. That appointment cannot be rescheduled, as they do that treatment monthly and I must stick to my schedule.”
Levy said Hensley did not make any further replies about the meeting and that “after the work had been done, he then says, ‘I can’t make it.’”
Levy called Hensley’s inability to attend “unfortunate” and said “I knew nothing about any of his doctor’s appointments at any time” before the July 17 response.
He also said he and Hensley had “not been in communication for many weeks” other than in board meetings.
Given the time span between July 13 when the meeting date was decided and announced as July 19 along with the proper publication of the meeting date, it would appear Levy and the school board followed state statute with regard to holding the special called meeting.
The board acted “with unanimity” on the matter, Levy told North State Journal.
“What we have here is a situation where we must work for the students and for the kids,” said Levy. “We need to get this behind us. This is a message that was set by the entire board, not just by me.”
Levy added “I could have removed Mr. Hensley from his committee positions simply on my own accord. I elected not to do that because I wanted the message to come from the board.
“The message is Hensley needs to join us in concentrating on the needs of the students and the efficient running of the school district and the accomplishment of our strategic plan,” said Levy. “It is not to make accusations against fellow board members. It is not to make accusations against previous board members.
“We have been on the board for almost 2 years now. What happens at the schools right now we are responsible for,” Levy added. “And it is our responsibility to educate these students. The people of Moore County have given us that responsibility and we have to work together.”