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Eyes on the birdie

The Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro this week draws golf fans young and old. Sully Graham, 7, uses binoculars to watch golfers coming up the 9th fairway Wednesday at the Wyndham Championship Pro-Am. Sully, who took some golf lessons and attended a golf camp recently, says the binoculars get him up close to the action. “I can see the ball when they hit it.” Find more photos at Check out more Wyndham coverage in Sports.

Local, state Democrats question Rockingham sheriff's role in Trump's re-election campaign

WENTWORTH — Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page is the newly-tapped state chairman of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign — a role Page and his supporters embrace while local and state Democrats question how he’ll juggle both jobs.

“I consider it an honor to have been asked to serve on President Trump’s re-election campaign in North Carolina,’’ Page said in an email last week. “I look forward to working with all of the campaign staff and volunteers as the campaign moves forward.’’

Typically, the people who chair political campaigns, even presidential ones, are faceless and nameless to the general public.

Not Page. Which may be part of an effort by the GOP to tap into his statewide connections and name recognition.

In two decades as Rockingham County’s sheriff, he’s been an omnipresent figure, amassing political capital along the way.

In recent years, he’s made national news for his overt support of Trump and his policies, serving as a member of the National Sheriff’s Association’s Border Security and Immigration Committee.

Diane Parnell, who chairs the Rockingham County Republican Party, was pleased with the news of Page’s appointment.

“He is well-respected and will do a great job for President Trump, North Carolina and Rockingham County,” she said.

Trump formally launched his re-election bid in June. Meanwhile, no less than 24 Democratic candidates have announced they want to run against him in 2020.

Regardless of who Trump faces, North Carolina’s reputation as a swing state will likely come into play.

In 2000, George W. Bush won North Carolina by about 13 percentage points. In 2004, Bush won it by 12 points.

But since then, this traditionally Republican state for presidential elections has been up for grabs. Democrat Barack Obama barely won in 2008 while Mitt Romney claimed victory for Republicans in 2012.

For the 2016 election, Trump narrowly took the state after making 23 appearances here — further highlighting the need to have a well-organized campaign presence.

Some question whether Page, who oversees a staff of about 150, will have the time needed to manage Trump’s ground game.

“I can certainly understand why Sam was chosen — he is very personable,’’ said Madison’s Roxanne Griffin, who chairs the Rockingham County Democratic Party. “But my main concern is how do you do your job here and work as a North Carolina campaign chair for a major campaign?’’

Page, 62, dismissed the notion that he can’t handle both.

“With all due respect ... I will continue to execute the duties of the office of sheriff as I have for the past 20 years,’’ Page said in an email.

For others, Page’s selection represents a more fundamental issue.

Matt Hughes, the second vice chairman for the North Carolina Democratic Party, questions how a lawman can support a “lawless” president.

“It’s deeply disappointing that an elected official has agreed to chair the campaign of one of the most lawless presidents we have probably had since Nixon,” he said. “I hope his constituents realize that and will question him as to how he can uphold the law.”

An interesting article in today's newspaper

Lawsuit settlement: Guilford College adds two women’s sports and promises to spend more on female athletes and teams. Page A5

High Point mayor raises possibility of taking city's schools out of Guilford County system


High Point’s mayor wants to look at whether the city’s schools should pull out of the Guilford County school system.

Mayor Jay Wagner is calling for a new committee to study whether schools in High Point have benefited from being part of Guilford County Schools. If not, he wants to look at other options, such as pulling them out and forming a school system just for High Point.

“Philosophically, from my point of view, I’m kind of a believer in local control,” Wagner said in a phone interview Wednesday.

He said there was no particular recent event that triggered his interest in forming the committee.

Rather, he said, the idea came from conversations he has had with High Point community members over the years. People have questioned whether the quality of the schools in High Point has improved since the city school system merged with the former Greensboro City Schools and Guilford County school system 26 years ago.

He wants to find out and called for a new committee to look into the issue during his State of the City address Tuesday at a gathering hosted by High Point’s chamber of commerce. Since then, he said, he has heard from people interested in serving on such a panel. Forming a committee doesn’t require the City Council’s approval, he said, but he plans to seek the blessing of council members.

Splitting up a county school district would require an act of the legislature, according to the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research. Wagner said that is also his understanding.

In general, leaders of the High Point and Greensboro school systems were supportive of the 1993 merger at the time, while leaders of the county school system were opposed. The High Point and Greensboro school systems back then were smaller than their respective cities because they hadn’t expanded in concert with the cities’ annexations.

Since the merger, the combined school system’s enrollment has grown to more than 70,000 students.

Wagner said he thinks the public perception is that schools in High Point aren’t good. That perception, he said, hurts economic development and property values. He said some High Point schools are better than what some people think, and there are some high-quality programs within schools.

He would like the committee to look at how the schools are doing from a variety of angles, including educational quality, financial considerations and condition of buildings.

If the committee finds that the schools haven’t benefited from being a part of Guilford County Schools, Wagner said, they could talk about what to do next. That could be separating, working with charter schools or something else entirely.

Almost all of High Point is in Guilford County, but the city spills over a bit into Davidson, Forsyth and Randolph counties. Students in those areas attend school in those counties, Wagner said, and he doesn’t see that changing.

Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan said she had not been part of any talks about evaluating the results of the systems’ merger, or about High Point splitting off from Guilford County Schools.

“We have some really high-performing schools in Greensboro and surrounding Guilford County and I would hope High Point would find they have benefited as well,” Vaughan said.

She said she doesn’t hear people in Greensboro questioning the benefit of the merger but does hear people ask whether the county government is providing enough money for the school system.

pointed to five new career academy programs the school system is debuting this month, calling them “the wave of the future.”

She said the school system has had success with other career-oriented programs, including at Andrews High in High Point.

“I would hope,” “I think there could be more funding for the school system,” she said.

Vaughan said, “that the county would fund them where they could continue to be successful. ... It would be good if more of our students could benefit from them.”

In a statement, Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras argued that county students get opportunities that students in smaller districts often don’t, such as “world-class programs in Career and Technical Education, visual and performing arts and extensive Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate, early and middle colleges and our highly regarded magnet and choice schools.”

A smaller school system, she said, has to have its own leadership, transportation and food services. Breaking up, she said, would eliminate efficiencies, burden taxpayers, and make the problem of underfunded schools worse.

“Of our High Point schools that are struggling, 100 percent are in communities that are stricken by poverty, and the district and its community partners are working together to funnel resources into those buildings and lift up those leaders,” she said. “... Instead of moving to separate us, I invite our elected officials to join us in seeking solutions to eradicating poverty and advocating to our state elected officials for better funding for our schools, for our buildings and for our teachers.”

North Carolina’s state government has also taken an interest in recent years in the question of whether large school systems should be broken up.

In March 2018, UNC researchers presented findings on costs and benefits of different school system sizes to a joint legislative study committee looking into the issue.

Associate professor Eric Houck told the committee that some research points to about 10,000 to 15,000 students as the most efficient size for a school system, but he also said the research is somewhat inconsistent. That’s according to the committee’s report to the General Assembly.

The report concluded that existing literature and studies do not support a strong relationship between the size of a school district and educational outcomes for students. The committee recommended the there be additional study before any procedure be created to allow for the breakup of districts in the state.

Greensboro officials cancel recreation event after fights last week where 550 teens were gathered

GREENSBORO — In the wake of fights that broke out last week at a city-sponsored Summer Night Lights event for teenagers at the Greensboro Sportsplex, the city has canceled this week’s final event in the series at the multisport complex.

More than 65 first responders were dispatched to a large disturbance Friday at the complex, where 550 teenagers were gathered.

A Guilford Metro 911 incident report, released Tuesday, listed the nature of the call as “500 disorderly subjects.”

Carla Banks, a spokeswoman for the city of Greensboro, said about 10 small groups of teens starting fighting at different spots in the city-owned gym. A video of one fights shows several teenagers beating and kicking a male lying on the gym floor.

City officials and police had declined to comment on what happened at the Sportsplex, located at 2400 16th St. until Wednesday, when the city sent out a news release announcing that it had canceled this Friday’s event at the facility.

Because the fights happened at the start of the weekend, city staff members could not meet until Monday to discuss the incident, learn what happened and decide how to proceed, said Nasha McCray, the director of the city’s Parks & Recreation Department.

“We did have an incident” at Friday’s event, McCray said Wednesday afternoon. “We did have about 550 teens that were in attendance at the program, and during that program, there were a small number of incidents involving a small number of participants where we made the decision for the safety of all to dismiss a little early.”

She said she couldn’t comment on the exact nature of the incident or whether parents were notified.

When the fights broke out, there were 20 to 30 staff members, volunteers, and law enforcement officers present, McCray said.

The event was the fourth at the Sportsplex this summer, designed to provide 13- to 18-year-olds a chance to gather, dance to a DJ, and play video games, indoor soccer and basketball.

This was one of 150 Summer Night Lights events held across the city throughout the summer, McCray said. They include fitness and cooking classes, movie nights, and crafts.

“They learn a lot of new skills, they’re able to socialize and just engage in just healthy activities throughout the summer,” McCray said.

Afternoon offerings continued this week, and the city will extend the hours of the Lewis, Windsor and Lindley recreation centers from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday to give teen somewhere to go.

McCray said they canceled the Sportsplex activities for several reasons, including worries they might not have enough staff member and volunteers to supervise it.

City staff will continue to evaluate the program with community partners and consider changes for next summer, according to the city’s news release.