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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — New Hanover County Commission Chairman Jonathan Barfield has a lot on his plate this week. On Tuesday, he got into it with fellow Commissioner Brian Berger over a rambling rant of an email Berger sent to county staff. In it – Berger claimed other commissioners were having secret meetings and staff was keeping him out of the loop on an important air quality issue. Then Berger claimed Commissioner Rick Catlin stole his notes at a recent commissioner meeting. Catlin says he didn’t, and is worried about Berger’s mental health. It’s like a parent who can’t get control of their kids.

But it gets even better. We’re being told now Barfield has been bullying school board members. He is not a fan of neighborhood schools and some school board members say he’s threatening their budget to get what he wants. School Board Member Janice Cavenaugh says she feels pressured by statements made by Barfield. “It is very concerning when the chairman of the county commissioner makes such a statement to you,” says Cavenaugh. “It is threatening.”

That statement, Cavenaugh says, came from Barfield after the board voted 4/3 to approve neighborhood schools last year. She says he told her and the three other board members if they continued to support it, their budget could suffer. “I don’t want to be forced into going against my convictions simply because I’m being threatened financially for the school system,” says Cavenaugh.

Cavenaugh says she thinks Barfield doesn’t like the idea of neighborhood schools for personal reasons. “He lives in the suburbs and his neighborhood is predominantly white so the school his child goes to is predominantly white,” says Cavenaugh. “He is disturbed by that. He wants to have more minority children going to his daughter’s school. In order to do that, we would have to go away from the neighborhood schools concept.”

School Board Chairman Don Hayes says he will not be a victim to Barfield’s bullying tactics and refuses to back down on an issue he knows parents across the district support. “I will not tolerate being threatened nor will I tolerate the county commissioners micro-managing the school board,” says Hayes.

Cavenaugh hopes the other county commissioners will realize that neighborhood schools is what the county wants and will not allow Barfield to influence their decision when it comes to determining the budget. “I hope that parents are letting him know as they have let us know that they support neighborhood schools and that neighborhood schools are best for children,” says Cavenaugh. “I hope we’re not held hostage by the purse strings in order to effect our position.”

We attempted to speak with Barfield to find out if he intended to threaten the members of the school board. He has been too busy to answer our questions.

Comment on this Story

  • Guest

    Please proofread. It is difficult to take “news” reporting seriously when it seems to have been written by a 3rd grader. In addition,using incendiary language like “going around threatening” is hardly objective reporting.
    Our schools are very segregated compared to most urban areas- Barfield is right to want to encourage diversity. Neighborhood schools are great if you live in a neighborhood that is safe, has parental involvement, and high achieving students. If you are unfortunate enough to live in a poor neighborhood, you might rethink neighborhood schools.

  • Guest

    Encourage diversity my foot! Parents in the lower income areas don’t want neighborhood schools because many don’t want to have to get up and do anything when it comes to the education of their children. They don’t want to parent them and they don’t want to be a part of their education. (Notice I said many – not all). Unfortunately, because there is a lack of participation of many, the few who are active are the ones who suffer.

    And why should my child have to be bused 5 miles away from his home when there is a school less than one?

    And Mr. Barfield and Mr. Berger: if you can’t stop this bickering, complaining, whining like 2 year olds about every little thing, then maybe it is time for you take a permanent time out come next election (that is if we don’t recall you before you then!)

  • Guest

    I think this is a good meeting to have attorneys present. Someone who knows the limits of power for the power hungry. This could actually get some national news coverage!! I mean, when two thugs fight it out on the street it’s national headlines. Wow !! This is elected officials getting ready to slug it out in a meeting. Anyone got their phone handy??? CNN, FOX, ABC,NBC, Headline News… WECT WWAY Let’s give Wilmington and this area some more publicity. Everyone thinks this type of behavior is news worthy.. let’s see how worthy it really is!!

  • guest 333

    Last week, we made the headlines for being one of the “drunkest cities”, what will it be this week? Perhaps having commissioners act drunk! “Let me show you my freshly ironed shirt!”

    Let me ask you this, Who, who, who let the Dogs Out? (from the sublime to the ridiculous;.)

  • Guest228

    You are a racist old monarch who is an advocate for segregation..I applaud Mr. Barfield for standing up to your sneaky tactics of keeping the minorities separated from the white population..and then you have the nerve to get on TV and say Mr. Barfield children lives in a predominately white neighborhood and his children go to a better school, well you dont live in a black neighborhood and neither of your kids which I doubt you have any because of your age are going to any black schools..dont call out Mr. Barfield because he is trying to undo your “confederacy southern mentality”..you should feel threaten because voters are tired of your politically agenda for the upper class white children..Withhold that budget Mr. Barfield..WITHHOLD ITTTT!!!

  • Challengetheworld

    Clearly, WWAY’s top four stories on the website are all regarding the County Commisioners and how they are pissed because they won’t invite WWAYTV3 out to play with them.

    Cavenaugh has just as many skeletons in the closet as any other poltician. She seems about as in touch with public opinion as a homeless man. She is playing the race card and Barfield is simply saying they have the power to control the budget. This isn’t a threat. Though I disagree with busing in kids to various schools for the sake of diversity, I also disagree with people who have a 1950’s mentality of segregation. Cavenaugh needs to wake up and realize the social makeup of her community.

  • Guest

    Can you name one thing wrong with segregation? Because I’ve got a litany of things that are wrong with forced integration.

  • GuestLee

    If there is anyone who sounds racist here, it’s you. Racism goes both ways, and you are absolutely filled to the brim with it. Race wasn’t an issue here, until you brought it up. Blah, blah, blah….get over it! Get on with life, dude. Stop thinking of EVERYTHING as race related. It’s sickening and accomplishes NOTHING!

  • Guest

    I saw the segment last night and have been noticing this story HEAT up for awhile now, and actually, I applaud Janice for speaking up FOR THE PEOPLE who elected her to the School Board because I have been hearing of the strong-armed tactics of the Commission Chair,(who is NOT speaking FOR “WE THE PEOPLE”.

    He decided to LIVE in a WHITE neighborhood, what’s wrong with that or with Janice C.mentioning it?. He obviously wanted his family to assimilate into a culturally diverse neighborhood, and so it should be, but DID they? THE first thing he wanted to do is CHANGE the entire structure of the district. Was this his families alterior motive for moving into a white district in the first place. WHY would they move there if he and his wife could not feel comfortable sending their children to school? Their kids are guina pigs for their agenda, is that it?

    I read your comments and I do not know either of you, but if you have an open mind and re-read your comments, you should be able to see them as racist, just as I HAVE FRAMED MY COMMENTS. That is the first thing that I noticed about your extreme angry response, sadly.
    Why would you even WANT your children to go to school in a white neighborhood, if you think of white people this way?

  • Guest228

    You made it seem like this big black man threaten this frail white lady..complete the headline and say he threaten to withhold the budget..you make it seem like he is communicating threats and wishing bodily harm..ridiculous tabloid journalism..but I will be on here defending my people when its clear you only want to make black people look threatening with each story you do..You wont be winning any journalism awards with your outrageous stories.. you can count on it..

  • GuestLee

    The racism card again…people are sick of it! Get a life!

  • my peeplz

    Your comments are incompatible with the facts.


    “a poor excuse is better than none”.

  • Guest757

    I don’t see anywhere there is a mention of race ????

    DO YOU ????

  • Guest4396

    Sounds like he is better qualified ironing shirts than being a public official. Maybe he should open a laundry.

  • Straight Shooter

    Hey Barfield, you should know, the vast majority of NHC citizens are in favor of neighborhood schools. This fact has been proven over and over again year after year. If this doesn’t work for you and your family than simply move to the inner city. But don’t screw with the whole system for your personal gain!

  • Guest228

    um..she brought up the race card..did you even see the video..she said that Mr. Barfield is upset that he lives in a white predominately suburbs and his children go to a white predominately school..your monarch put the race card out there first, you might want to tell your good friend that her hoop under her southern belle dress is showing..its unbecoming of a southern lady..

  • GuestLee

    Just gotta beat a dead horse to death, huh? I was talking about THIS ARTICLE, in which you were the first one to raise the race issue. You wouldn’t know a southern lady from dipsh*t…and it’s obvious, you’re no gentleman, southern or otherwise. If you don’t like the south…LEAVE, please!

  • Guest228

    He is not complaining of his kids going to school in a white neighborhood, he is complaining of the lack of DIVERSITY in the white predominately school..when your children go to college, they wont just see their neighborhood, they will see a diversity of cultures..how can you raise your kids one way in thinking being with their social class is fine but expect them to be able to adapt to different environment when they are sent off to college..I guarantee you that Ms Cavanaugh has not visited Holly Shelter, Williston or Virgo not one time this year..hey WWAY, do a story on the school board members visits to the schools..how are they expected to vote on school redistricting when they have never even set foot in the school itself..now that would be reporting..

  • Guest333

    So, let’s see exactly who is missing the WHOLE point. No, you don’t seem to see what we, as AMERICANS (not race mongerers) See… We clearly see and understand that the schools HERE are indeed culturally diverse, with rich ethnic and various religious backgrounds, wonderful diverse social networks and rich cultural “familial” traditions… YOU KNOW, like Americans!

    It seems to me that you “choose” to use the word “DIVERSITY” when you really mean “RACE”. It is thrown around dangerously and causes stupid strife…hostility and teaches children the WRONG lessons…the lesson to keep the FIGHT ABOUT RACE going like the energizer bunny. Give it up!

    And … please don’t continue to fight the Civil War, with Antebellum comments, as they are not becoming of a modern, educated man or woman. You DO realize that most of our residents aren’t from here, right? They, YOU WILL BE HAPPY TO KNOW, are ALSO abundant in RICH CULTURAL DIVERSITY! Yes, those cool Northerners, fun Mid-Westerners, worldly Pacific northwesterners and vast (and growing) international visitors and less we forget, the wonderfully culturally diverse Latino population,talk about DIVERSE!!!
    They readily share their culture with all who are not ignorant enough to condemn them first. Latino kids are in the schools. Culturally, they share their strong religious, moral and FAMILIAL TIES OF Nuclear Families.
    Don’t forget that HOMELESS Children, sadly… are in ALL schools. THAT is DIVERSE and what lessons can be learned about life from those excellent students, who are often quite interested in LEARNING… and endevour to LEARN…which is WHAT THE fight should be about.
    Janice C. is apparently a VIBRANT, STRONG, ENGAGED, INTELLIGENT Woman, not an “OLD”, Queen or whatever you said. …when you tried to refer to her in derogatory 1800 Antebellum South verbiage. As a woman who shares many of those same qualities, I must say that I am proud of her many fine qualities and celebrate our DIVERSE SISTERHOOD. I like saying DIVERSE. I am going to say it A LOT from NOW ON!!!!! Just remember, someone, somewhere needs their shirt ironed.

  • Guest228

    “We clearly see and understand that the schools HERE are indeed culturally diverse, with rich ethnic and various religious backgrounds, wonderful diverse social networks and rich cultural “familial” traditions… YOU KNOW, like Americans!”

    if you clearly see your America as such, then why is your “VIBRANT, STRONG, ENGAGED, INTELLIGENT Woman” trying so hard to push for neighborhood schools with races clearly lacking in some schools..Go to Virgo..count the white children there and then tell me how is that diversed..go to Williston, count the white children there and tell me how that is diversed..Go to Holly Shelter, count the white children there and tell me how that is diversed..and now they are about to close Virgo and send them all the way to Holly Shelter road..How is that neighborhood schools? Is Castle Hayne part of Downtown neighborhood..last time I checked it wasnt..this “neighborhood BS” is only applicable to white upper class children..You were right in putting the $$ in your subject line because thats all Ms. Cavanaugh is concerned with..greasing the hands of the rich white conservative voters..Your sisterhood is diversed alright..as diversed as rural west virginia..

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday

    I grew up in a neighborhood where *I* was the minority, because I wasn’t Irish, Italian, or Jewish. My grammar school had zero Blacks. My high school had eight in a class of three-hundred. My sole exposure to Blacks was watching them exit the subway to walk the four blocks to the factories on 14th Avenue, then go back down into the subway after five.

    I grew up in a house with a mother who always sent out mixed signals about Blacks. I had my mouth washed out with Ivory soap when I was seven and used the “N word,” but I can remember her advising me as a teen to avoid getting into a fight with any Blacks “…because they ALL carry knives.”

    Then, knowing nothing whatsoever about Blacks or their culture, I joined the military and I was up to my eyeballs in Blacks.

    Now this will amaze you – we got along just fine. We didn’t kill each other. The great equalizer is having the same job, the same social status, the same economic status, and being shot at by the same guy. That said, when we took off our packs and showered, most of the time they went out to their clubs and we went to ours.

    People naturally gravitate toward those who most are like them. (Keep that in mind during the last few paragraphs.) There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and it’s perfectly normal for Blacks and Whites. I highly doubt that you want to come over and hear my amazing collections of Bill Monroe or Ernest Tubb. Likewise, I’m not sure that I’d enjoy your taste in music. And with that said, you see lots of rich Whites with rich Black friends, but you rarely see rich Whites or Blacks really close friends with poor people of any race.

    If Barfield feels that his children are missing something important by not having lots of Black classmates, he can move back to the inner city if he chooses to do so.

    However, all of my Black friends report that when they got out to the suburbs they immediately uttered “Thank God,” and were happy that the ‘hood couldn’t follow them.

    It’s not about race. It’s about success. It’s about looking out for your family. It’s about realizing that you did it! You escaped the madness, and if you can do it, anyone can.

    There’s no reason to feel guilty or like an Uncle Tom if you move to the suburbs and enjoy a better lifestyle, where your children attend newer schools and hang out with White kids. Because here’s something that you don’t understand and Barfield hasn’t yet realized – throughout history, economic status has forged much stronger bonds than race ever could.

    Do you think I’d rather go out to dinner with Jonathan Barfield or Jenelle Evans? He’s a liberal Democrat (which I hate), she’s a little hottie of loose moral virtue (which I’ve always capitalized upon and appreciated) but trust me, Barfield and I have a lot more in common than Jenelle Evans and I do.

    Barfield and I are more culturally bound than Barfield and the average resident of Tenth Street are.

    He just hasn’t figured that out yet.

  • michelle jones

    with segregation; one race always is made to feel less than the other. that is just one thing wrong

  • randydandy

    That’s a very generic response. I’ve never gone out of my way to mistreat others that are not of my ethnicity. Segregating is a basic instinct of human survival and is evident even in the most primal of civilizations. Even if you’re purple with yellow polka dots, you have just as many opportunities in this country as I do. Just because Whites, Blacks, and Latinos all live in separate communities and each go to different schools, they are not withheld chances in life that are available to everyone. If you want an example of one race feeling lower than the other, look no further than Affirmative Action.

  • Guest333

    Seriously? okay, then…. Remember to teach your children that they can only “be made” to feel inferior, IF they “believe” that they can be made to feel inferior. Here’s a good example, so you’ll be able to refer back to it when you need to…and YOU seemingly NEED TO, to help you to understand that you should not cow down fo anyone because of your race. What warped time zone am I in down here? Geez!

    The one commissioner likes to try to “intimidate” School Board members…BUT they have been raised to BELIEVE that they also HAVE a VOICE…and don’t subcumb to idle threats of tightened purse stings of THE PEOPLES MONEY. See, we average citizens KNOW that WE pay TAXES to run schools, and we have the POWER to elect officials to represent us in the WAY that we want our schools run. IT is a nation of Strong Men and Women who WON’T be easily intimidated and especially not intimidated by a wrinkley shirted goon. Teach your children well!

  • ????

    I Don’t understand, are you upset that they think segregation is bad. The OP said name one thing bad and one thing was named. Why go off on a rant? As I read these three comments I see that one person was for segregation and one against and then you blasted the one against for being “weak” (not your words I know but it was your intent). For you to judge so fully as you have, you must know much more about this person than even they know. All I can take from that post was that they think its wrong. I guess you are better person than I… congrats.

    ps… Please don’t stay “down here” if we offend you so much


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