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Justine Hollingshead with N.C. State prepares to fly a drone to show how drones and emergency responders work together to share the airspace.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is hosting the 2019 Drone Summit and Flight Expo in Greensboro, a popular event that started Sunday and ends tonight at the Grandover Resort & Conference Center. The three-day summit is the largest such gathering in the Southeast focusing exclusively on drone and unmanned aircraft technology. Hundreds of people are attending to hear from leaders in the aerospace industry. The summit includes talks, panel discussions and live flight demonstrations.

Photos by Woody Marshall/News & Record  

Miles Kelly with Sensefly launches a drone Monday for a flight demonstration at the N.C. Drone Summit at Grandover Resort in Greensboro. The three-day event is organized to showcase how North Carolina has advanced in using of drone technology in public and private sectors.

Woody Marshall/News & Record 

Richard Karemer and other attendees video the flight of a drone at the N.C. Drone Summit.

Greensboro's Elsewhere museum co-founder to lead New Orleans arts center

The South Elm street front for Elsewhere, the downtown living museum and artists' residency, on Wednesday, September 30, 2015, in Greensboro, N.C.

GREENSBORO — After turning a defunct local thrift store into an internationally recognized living museum and artist residency, George Scheer will move on to a new challenge.

Scheer will become the executive director of the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, effective Oct. 1.

Sixteen years ago, Scheer and Stephanie Sherman co-founded Elsewhere in his grandmother’s former downtown thrift store at 606 S. Elm St.

Now, artists come to Elsewhere from around the world to create art.

“Everywhere I go, I run into people who know and are excited about Elsewhere,” Scheer said. “There’s a great legacy of important creative experimentation that Elsewhere is a part of. It reflects back on Greensboro as a creative city.”

In New Orleans, the 38-year-old Scheer will oversee visual and performing arts, exhibition areas, a theater and event spaces.

“There’s a lot of opportunity to explore issues critical to people in New Orleans and to national arts audiences,” he said.

At Elsewhere, Scheer led the effort to establish a residency program now attracting more than 50 artists each year, as well as create public programming, fellowships and internships.

He garnered grants and other assistance to restore the historic building and support the nonprofit organization.

Elsewhere’s South Elm Projects added more than 20 public art commissions downtown, such as the hopscotch course along South Elm Street.

This summer, the music website Soundfly named Elsewhere among “North America’s Most Beautiful Arts and Music Residencies.”

“It’s a one-of-a-kind, very unique place that brings a lot of value to Greensboro, especially to the south side of Elm Street,” board President Chris Musselwhite said.

For much of the 20th century, thrift-store proprietor Sylvia Gray, Scheer’s grandmother, packed the place with toys, board games, fabric, books, Army-surplus items, records, kitchenware, suitcases and furniture parts.

The store had been boarded up since her death in 1997 before college seniors Scheer and Sherman visited in 2003 while on spring break from the University of Pennsylvania. Elsewhere would be born.

Scheer stepped down as Elsewhere’s executive director in January. Travis Laughlin took his place on an interim basis.

The board will soon start its search for a new executive director and hopes to have that leader hired by January, Musselwhite said.

Scheer finished his doctorate at UNC-Chapel Hill, then moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., this year to search for his next post.

He will stay on Elsewhere’s board of directors alongside Sherman, who joined the board in 2011.

Local arts leaders praised Scheer’s work.

Laura Way, president and chief executive officer of ArtsGreensboro, called Scheer “one of the most insightful arts leaders of his generation.”

She added that Scheer and Sherman “took a giant leap of faith that our community would embrace a new way to experience art and interact with artists. They were right, and Greensboro has benefited from it.”

Nancy Doll, director of UNCG’s Weatherspoon Art Museum and a former Elsewhere board member, said the organization has called attention to different ways of making art.

“It has helped expand people’s thinking about what art can be,” Doll said.

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Background checks on N.C. gun buyers will strengthen under directive, Gov. Cooper says

GREENSBORO — N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper said Monday that he signed an executive directive meant to strengthen background checks for gun buyers.

Cooper said he signed the directive to his cabinet agencies to “build on the work we are already doing” around gun violence and safety, the News & Observer reported.

“A background check is only as good as the information in the database,” Cooper told hundreds of safety and education leaders at the Department of Public Safety’s Back To School Safety Summit on Monday afternoon at UNCG.

“Over the last 14 months, more than 284,000 convictions have been added to the federal background check system,” Cooper said. Those were added by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System working group, which Cooper convened last year to identify and fix gaps in firearm background checks. The State Bureau of Investigation was directed to lead the work.

Paul Valone, president of Grass Roots North Carolina, said the directive is nothing more than “political grandstanding for the purpose of re-election.” Grass Roots of North Carolina is a nonprofit devoted to defending the individual right to keep and bear arms, according to its website.

“I don’t feel any threat because we have yet to see how he’s implementing these things.” Valone said, noting that Democrats have been unsuccessful with passing new gun regulations.

Cooper expressed disappointment in Republican leaders not wanting to take up two House bills — HB 86, which includes several gun regulations, and HB 454, described as a “red flag” bill.

Rep. Marcia Morey, a primary sponsor of HB 454, said last week it would allow family members or law enforcement to petition a judge for what is known as an extreme risk protection order, which would restrict a person’s access to firearms if there was evidence of them posing danger to themselves or others.

Last week, House Democrats filed two discharge petitions in an attempt to move those two gun regulation bills from committee to the House floor for debate. So far that has been unsuccessful, as has another discharge petition filed for HB 312, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would make hate crimes and felony and require training for law enforcement and prosecutors.

Mandy Cohen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said Monday that gun violence is a public health problem.

The executive directive also tells the:

  • SBI to “provide Behavioral Threat Assessment training to local law enforcement agencies to help local law enforcement connect these individuals identified as a potential risk to harming others with supportive community services.”
  • SBI to “increase the North Carolina Information Sharing and Analysis Center’s outreach to businesses and community groups in order to build community awareness of domestic terrorism indicators.”
  • Department of Health and Human Services to “promote safe storage of personal firearms.”
  • DHHS and the Division of Emergency Management to “develop guidance for local governments to help share information and reunite loved ones in the wake of a mass shooting or other major incident.”
  • DHHS to update the state’s Suicide Prevention Plan.

Mental Health Access

Cooper also said that Medicaid expansion would increase access to mental health care that some elected officials have called for in the wake of mass shootings.

“I agree we need more mental health care, but let’s be careful not to stigmatize mental illness,” Cooper said.

“We need to keep guns from those who would use them to harm themselves and others, and we need health care to be accessible,” he said.

Cohen said in a speech at the School Safety Summit on Monday that she and fellow physicians have made it clear they must address gun violence as any other crisis, with research and action.

“I know this issue is personal to all of us, and as I think about my 5-year-old, who is starting kindergarten in just two weeks, it is very personal to me,” Cohen said.

She also emphasized that mental illness should not be equated with violence. People with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, Cohen said.

“We can certainly do better on the access to treatment end,” she said.

Status of State Budget

The fiscal year started in July, but the state government has yet to pass a budget.

Cooper vetoed the conference budget on June 28, and the Republican-led House has kept an override vote on its calendar but has yet to call for it. A supermajority would be required to override the veto, meaning all Republicans plus seven Democrats. Cooper announced a proposed budget compromise about a week after his veto, but has not received a compromise offer in response from Republican leadership.

Budget negotiations are stalled out over Medicaid expansion. Cooper wants to discuss it as part of budget negotiations, but Senate Republicans do not.

Last year’s budget has rolled over into the new year and some stopgap measures have been passed by the General Assembly.

Andrew Dye/Journal 


Woody Marshall/News & Record 

Justine Hollingshead with N.C. State prepares to fly a drone to show how drones and emergency responders work together to share the airspace.

Minor misconduct in the classroom may be diverted from court system under 'School Justice Partnerships'



GIBSONVILLE — Stealing another child’s shoes, slapping a classmate or yelling at a teacher: any of these acts could get a student charged with a crime in North Carolina. But state leaders are advising that sending juvenile students to court for these types of behaviors often hurts more than helps.

Gov. Roy Cooper and North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley held a news conference at Eastern Guilford High School on Monday to announce the release of a new state guide to help courts, school districts and law enforcement work together to minimize school-based referrals to court for “minor misconduct.”

“In our schools, even minor offenses can cause class disruption, can frustrate teachers and keep other students from learning — that’s a problem that has to be addressed and we need to help them deal with that,” Cooper said. “ At the same time, we know that too many suspensions and expulsions and court appearances have a negative effect on children and on school safety.”

In 2017, as part of a broader bill, state lawmakers directed the state Administrative Office of the Courts to come up with policies and procedures for chief district court justices to organize School Justice Partnerships.

Some district judges have already begun partnerships, state leaders said. Guilford County was just starting to gear up.

“God bless his soul, Chief District Court Judge Tom Jarrell, who recently passed away, had already started having conversations with stakeholders in this community to form a School Justice Partnership and was on his way to convening his first meeting,” said LaToya Powell, assistant legal counsel of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

She said Jarrell was helping organize local leaders to attend Monday’s news conference.

Jarrell died unexpectedly on Aug. 3.

His enthusiasm and that of some Guilford County School Board members helped state leaders decide to hold the news conference in Guilford County, said William Lassiter, Deputy Secretary for Juvenile Justice with North Carolina Department of Public Safety. Plus, the governor was attending a school safety summit in Greensboro later in the day, so the logistics worked out.

Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras said she and Jarrell hadn’t spoken about the partnership, but she had prior insight about the model because she served as chief academic officer under Barbara Pulliam, former Clayton County (Georgia) schools superintendent.

Pulliam and Juvenile Court Judge Steven Teske implemented a partnership in Clayton in 2004 that resulted in 83 percent decrease in referrals to juvenile court. That went along with a 43 percent decrease in referrals among youth of color and a 24 percent graduation rate increase, according to information provided in the guide. Their partnership has served as a model across the country.

Contreras said that Georgetown Law Center recently released a report that said people of all races see children of color as less innocent, more adult-like, and more responsible for their actions than their peers.

“Consequently, normal childhood behavior like disobedience, tantrums, and back talk is seen as a criminal threat when black and brown children do it,” she said.

Mecklenburg District Court Judge Elizabeth Trosch spoke about her own experiences with implementing a School Justice Partnership in Mecklenburg County.

Each partnership, she said, might target different offenses for which they want to develop alternatives to criminal charges. In Mecklenburg County, for a student caught with alcohol at school, rather than arresting them, they might be referred to either a drug education class or a substance abuse assessment. For a minor fight, students might be referred to mediation to hash through their issues.

These responses don’t take the place of a school punishment, it’s additional, she said. And there’s a strong incentive for students to comply with the alternatives, because they otherwise could be prosecuted.

School resource officers often say they don’t want to make an arrest or a court referral for minor crimes, but they don’t feel comfortable doing nothing, she said. The partnership gives them another option.