Local News

Cumberland County welcomes new school superintendent

08Marvin Connelly JrThe No. 2 man with the state’s largest public-school system is now No. 1 with the fifth largest school system. Dr. Marvin Connelly Jr. was formally sworn in as superintendent of Cumberland County Schools last week.

Connelly was named to the position by the county school board back in April, succeeding former superintendent Dr. Frank Till, who resigned in June 2017. Associate Superintendent Tim Kinlaw was the system’s caretaker over the last year and plans to retire. Connelly’s salary is $220,000.

Connelly said he was attracted to Cumberland County because of the success and opportunities in the school system, which he said has a good reputation.

“I think the experience I have had is a good match for what Cumberland was looking for in a leader,” he said. Carrie Sutton, chairwoman of the board of education, said the board is honored, proud and grateful to begin a new journey with Connelly.

Connelly was a military intelligence officer in the 82nd Airborne Division and served in the first Gulf War with a unit stationed in Germany. After his service in the Army, Connelly became a  teacher’s assistant and then a teacher in special education classes. He then became an assistant principal and principal before becoming an assistant superintendent and chief of staff for Wake County Public Schools.

He holds a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees from North Carolina State University and a doctorate in educational leadership from East Carolina University.

Connelly is a North Carolina native. He has begun a whirlwind tour of all the county’s schools.

“We’ll be ... out in the community, listening to the citizenry, meeting with schools, visiting all schools,” he said.

He’s also taking time to meet members of the staff of the school system. Connelly is talking to everyone about some strategic goals that he would like the school system to work toward over the next five years.

Cumberland County has 87 schools and enrolls about 50,000 students. It’s one-third the size of Wake County schools.

In his Ph.D. dissertation presented to the faculty of the Department of Educational Leadership at East Carolina University in July 2012, Connelly wrote about partnerships among schools and faithbased organizations. He said in part that “as school system leaders seek to expand partnerships with community and faith-based organizations, it is essential that student achievement be the focus of the partnerships.”

He asserted that such partnerships should focus on mentoring as compared to partnerships that focus on tutoring. He concluded that “to be successful, partnerships among schools and faith-based organizations should focus on student academic and behavioral outcomes.”

He echoed those thoughts in his acceptance speech last April, saying, “Together with the students, parents, teachers, system leaders, community partners and the board, we will establish a strategic plan to attain new levels of excellence for all of the students in the Cumberland County Schools.”


PHOTO: Dr. Marvin Connelly Jr.

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Senate race heats up

06Kirk deViere07meredeithCumberland County Democratic Senate nominee Kirk deViere is taking on one of the Republicans who redrew the district lines in what has become known as political gerrymandering.

deViere said he will hold a series of community meetings to help residents better understand their district. Senate District 19 encompasses most of rural Cumberland County and parts of the city of Fayetteville.

“Our team decided we needed to go into the community and bring people together to share their concerns, solutions and have their voices heard,” deViere said. “I’m going to meet the people in their own neighborhoods and listen to their frustrations.”

He said his meetings will be held in Hope Mills, Gray’s Creek, Pearce’s Mill, Stoney Point, Eastover, Godwin, Wade, Stedman, Vander, Cedar Creek and some neighborhoods in Fayetteville.

deViere is a former Fayetteville city councilman. He is opposing four-term Republican Sen. Wesley Meredith, who is also a former member of Fayetteville City Council. Both men are Army veterans and own local businesses.


Cumberland County Schools safety enhanced

The Cumberland County Schools system has spent $2 million on security upgrades. The projects, which were scheduled over a three-year period, were stepped up after a gunman killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in February. Upgrades have been completed at all but half a dozen elementary schools, and that work should be finished before the start of the traditional school year.

CCS Associate Superintendent Tim Kinlaw told The Fayetteville Observer that securing some campuses was challenging because nearly all classroom doors opened to the outside rather than a hallway. Chain link fences had to be built around all the buildings at those schools.

“Every school is different,” he said. “Our newer schools are easier because they were built with security in mind.”

The school system, which is the fifth largest in the state, has 52 elementary schools, 18 middle schools and 17 high schools. Kinlaw said elementary schools will have buzzer systems with cameras so visitors can be seen by school officials before they are admitted to the building.

Kinlaw said he understands that fences and gates are not pleasing to the eye. The upgrades are meant to give staff members time to lock down campuses when need be to protect students and faculties.

Air drops resupply troops in Afghanistan

U.S. forces in Afghanistan are being supported by way of an unconventional supply line familiar to Fayetteville/Fort Bragg residents. Supplies have been increasingly delivered to remote areas of the country via cargo aircraft and parachuted into Afghanistan to sustain operations against the Taliban this summer.

More than 327,000 pounds of supplies were airdropped into Afghanistan by the end of May this year, with the bulk of those drops occurring in April and May, according to numbers provided by U.S. Central Command’s Combined Air Operations Center.

That number stands in stark contrast to 2017, when the Air Force air dropped only about 33,000 pounds of supplies.

Officially, the Air Force said the spike signals an increase in combat operations against insurgent forces. Capt. Mark Graff, an Air Forces Central Command spokesman, could not expound on where the airdrops were focused, but he did say supplies are not distributed evenly across the country.

Airdrops are often used to resupply or build up smaller and more remote outposts, which heavily dotted Afghanistan before the drawdown in 2014.

Bomb squad robots

Then North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation has three new robots to join the battle against violent crime. With 64 calls since January, the members of the SBI Bomb Squad welcome the new robots that weigh about 70 pounds, can go up and down stairs, have six cameras, can lift about 15 pounds and can cut wires. They have the capability to remotely locate and neutralize improvised explosive devices in confined spaces, such as aircraft, buses and trains.

“These new robots will be small enough to enter tight spaces where bomb technicians had to go before,” said Tim Luper, commander of the SBI Bomb Squad.

The unit serves all 100 counties in North Carolina as needed, and assists local authorities in situations involving IEDs, weapons of mass destruction, suspicious packages, homemade fireworks and other explosive hazards.

“The whole reason the bomb squad exists is for public safety,” Luper said.

The three robots were purchased through a $153,000 grant from the Governor’s Crime Commission.


PHOTOS: N.C. District 19 Senate candidates Kirk deViere & Wesley Meredith

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FTCC hosts Youth Entrepreneur Camp for ambitious youngsters

12youthcampFayetteville Technical Community College’s Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Small Business, along with Wells Fargo, presents the 2018 Youth Entrepreneurship Camp. It is set for Monday, July 30, through Friday, Aug. 3, from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. on the campus of FTCC. Friday’s schedule is 8:30 a.m.-noon. The camp is open to rising seventh- through ninthgraders who are interested in future business and entrepreneurship goals.

“This will be the ninth or 10th year of having rising seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders for five days – and it is a fun camp – but they actually learn something in the process,” said Kent Hill,  FTCC director of the Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Small Business. “We have a lot of simulations and games, and the students come up with a team business plan or an individual project in which they will compete.”

Successful entrepreneurs will speak to the students and share their insights about their journey with their businesses. “We have a lot of young guest entrepreneurs and they will speak to the students,” said Hill. “We have a young man from Athens, Georgia, who is building a really big business, and he is a freshman in high school.”

Hill added they have had young people take hobbies and monetize them into income streams to help pay for things they want or to save for college.

“We have had the most awesome support from Wells Fargo, and it is not just financial support, it is their involvement,” said Hill. “One of the things the kids do in their teams is to pitch their elevator speeches to get funding from Wells Fargo bankers.” Hill added there is a panel of Wells Fargo bankers who gently coach the students. He said it is a blast to watch the students in action.

“Some of the students who are goofing off get in front of the bankers and get really serious and are really focused,” said Hill. “They are pretty good salespeople when money is involved, and that is a pretty good motivator.”

“We also have some fun games and competitions, and they will compete for prizes,” said Hill. “We are doing something different this year in which the students will tie-dye their own camp T-shirt.”

Hill added the students will also tie-dye additional shirts that they can sell. They will have to buy them from FTCC and sell them for a profit.

“We try to feed them a dozen or more potential businesses that they can reasonably operate in school profitably as a student, legally,” said Hill. “We really want this to be meaningful and want these young people to go out and say they have some alternatives.”

Applications can be found online at www.facebook.com/FTCCSmallBusinessCenter or at http://tiny.cc/ftccsbc. The camp fee is $52 and is due by July 20. It includes a camp T-shirt and lunch Monday through Thursday.

For more information, contact Hill at 910-678-8462.

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Highland House hosts open house

09Highland House Outside3When Highland House Rehabilitation & Healthcare, Inc. opened its doors in 1968, it had the same goals it does today – caring for friends and neighbors. The facility originally had 52 beds. It has expanded twice since then, once in 1971 and again in 1991. In celebration of its 50th anniversary, Highland House is hosting an open house Friday, July 27. There will be barbecue, door prizes and special guests and speakers.

Samantha Inczauskis is the director of transitional services at Highland House Rehabilitation & Healthcare. One of the many things she loves about working there is the fact that it is a locally owned facility.

“It is not owned by a conglomerate – that is one of the most outstanding things,” she said. “This house that started 50 years ago is still serving the community. It allows the facility to make decisions based on the needs of our patients versus what someone in another city or state thinks is the right thing to do.

“One of the things that impressed me most is the family-oriented nature of the people who work here. We are a very clean facility, and the care that our nurses, CNAs and med techs provide is something that really stands out to me. It is why I took this job.”


In addition to spacious rooms, planned diets and dining options, Highland House offers a quiet environment with amenities guests and residents can enjoy. These include:

• Four patio gardens
• Barber and beauty shop
• Complete pharmacy services
• Private phone hook-up available
• Televisions in every room with cable TV included
• Planned activities and community outings
• Resident and family councils
• Religious, inspirational and educational programs
• Daily housekeeping and laundry services
• Financial services and social services from pre-admission to discharge
• Nutrition and dietary consultation and planning
• Private spaces for resident/family gatherings
• Pet visits

Motivated by compassion and committed to providing the best care possible, the staff at Highland House work hard to meet the needs of their patients and residents. And with the variety of services offered there, that is not always an easy task.

“We have 53 beds for assisted living. We have 16 beds dedicated to short-term transitional rehab, and the rest of the 159 beds are for longterm care and patients requiring skilled nursing,” Inczauskis said.

Knowing that quality of life is also an important part of healing and happiness, the facility works with volunteers to offer activities for residents. The facility also partners with local groups, including the Tokay Rockers, and participates in the community, including partnering in a lot of the Fayetteville Parks and Recreation department senior sponsored activities.

“We do blood pressure checks every month at the senior center right before bingo the first Thursday of the month,” Inczauskis said. “We are always looking for volunteers, too. There are many ways to engage with Highland House.

“We are trying to be more active in the chamber, and we support senior-focused nonprofits like Better Health. Our medical director is part of the Cape Fear Valley Senior Health Service. Just like any other facility, we participate in the referral system.”

The July 27 open house celebration starts at 5 p.m. “We hope people come and see what we are about,” Inczauskis said.

To learn more about Highland House, visit www.highlandhousenc.com or call 910-488-2295. Highland House is located at 1700 Pamalee Dr.

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Commissary seeks to expand options, bring back customers

07Ft Bragg CommissaryCommissary officials are lowering prices on popular items and attacking the problem of poorly stocked shelves as part of a nationwide effort to bring military customers back into their stores. Discounted shopping is the big benefit for qualified shoppers. The Defense Commissary Agency wants to regain its customers’ trust as it deals with a 20 percent decline in sales over the last five years.

Interim Agency Director Robert Bianchi gave an example of customers seeing individual items such as bananas priced higher in a commissary than a civilian store. That leaves the customer with an impression that the rest of the commissary prices are just as high, even though shopping there should, on average, save them 23.7 percent.

“Hopefully ... we’ll tamp down some of that perception (commissary customers) may have about some of our pricing,” Bianchi said.

One change customers will notice right away is bright orange “YES!” labels and signs that highlight reduced prices on about 100 types of items frequently bought by commissary shoppers.  “YES” is short for Your Everyday Savings. With different brands and sizes covered, that means deals on about 500 items such as baby food, pet food, bottled water, toilet tissue, nutritional shakes, potato chips and other snacks, plus flavored iced teas, pasta, cheese, yogurt, cereal, coffee and more.

Plans call for an expanded selection of natural and organic items, and officials are considering offering more meal kits and prepared-food options for shopper convenience.

There’s also another 100 private-label commissary-brand products on the way. The 500 items available now under the year-old “YES” program have accounted for $40 million in sales, Bianchi said.

Over the last year, commissary officials have been implementing a new pricing program that allows them to mark items up or down rather than sell them at cost (plus a 5 percent surcharge for overhead), as they did for decades. Some defense officials have sought for years to reduce the amount of taxpayer dollars that go to commissary operations, about $1.3 billion a year. By law, variable pricing can help defray those dollars so long as the system maintains an overall level of savings of 23.7 percent when compared with civilian grocers.

Coming soon: Beer and wine. “The availability of beer and wine  at military commissary stores will increase customer satisfaction and convenience, and align with common commercial grocery store practices,” said Robert Wilkie, DoD’s undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, in a recent memo quoted by Military Times. Commissary alcohol prices will be comparable to those at military exchanges, he said. Wilkie, a Fayetteville native, was recently named by the president to become Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

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