State Politics

New spokesman for NC school-takeover program had sued Gov. Roy Cooper

Durham is fighting the potential takeover of one of its elementary schools by a charter organization

A wealthy retired businessman from Oregon says his "significant economic resources" helped get passed a state law that will have charter operators over up to five low-performing elementary schools.
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A wealthy retired businessman from Oregon says his "significant economic resources" helped get passed a state law that will have charter operators over up to five low-performing elementary schools.

A former McCrory administration spokesman who sued Gov. Roy Cooper after he was fired has been hired as a spokesman for a new state program in which low-performing schools will be turned over to charter school operators.

David Prickett will handle communications for the Innovative School District, a controversial program created by Republican state lawmakers who said it was a way to raise performance in struggling schools. Prickett, who was communications director for the Office of State Human Resources until Jan. 19, claimed he was fired by Cooper’s Democratic administration because he is a Republican.

Eric Hall, superintendent of the Innovative School District, said Monday that Prickett had expressed interest in the communications job and his name was forwarded by a temporary staffing agency. Hall said Prickett’s communications experience both in and out of state government would be needed as the new district moves forward.

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Deborah Prickett, second from right, reacts to hearing that she has won a seat on the Wake County school board in this 2009 file photo. Pictured on the left are Prickett’s son Grayson, her husband, David Prickett, and Mike Swanson, back center. News & Observer file photo News & Observer file photo

“It’s going to be important to help the state understand what is and what is not in the program,” Hall said.

Eric Hall, superintendent of the new N.C. Innovative School District, says communities should embrace and not be afraid of a new program to turn five low-performing elementary schools into charter school operators.

On Friday, Hall announced he’s recommending that Southside Ashpole Elementary School in Robeson County be taken over by the state for the 2018-19 school year. The State Board of Education will vote on the recommendation by Dec. 15.

Hall could have recommended up to two schools in the district for 2018. But school leaders in other districts, notably Durham, had fought against their schools being included in the new state program.

Nine groups have said they want to run the schools in the new district, including a company connected to a wealthy Libertarian donor who helped pass the school takeover law.

In his legal filings, Prickett contended that he was protected from being dismissed without cause under a new law that the GOP-controlled General Assembly and former Gov. Pat McCrory enacted in a special session in December. That law excluded the state human resources and budget offices from the agencies in which Cooper can designate workers as exempt from personnel protections.

An administrative law judge granted Prickett’s motion for summary judgment against the state, according to Michael Byrne, Prickett’s attorney. Prickett is married to former Wake County school board member Deborah Prickett, who is a program administrator at the state Department of Public Instruction.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

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