Craven County Board of Education – Part 2:


After rocky start, Manning & Murphy leave local GOP scratching head

By Lori Ann Grady (Worley)

NEW BERN – The four new board members – all Republicans – have confirmed that during the campaign they were in communication about future board opportunities and priorities, if they could successfully “flip” the board, thus gaining a conservative majority.

This included informal conversations to align on important issues – safety and security, teacher recruitment and retention, academic improvements, curriculum oversight, meeting acumen, and partnering with County Commissioners to strengthen school morale and improve student outcomes.

Early in 2022, Murphy was recruited by key members of the GOP to represent western Craven County, and Dacey was later (July 2022) selected by the GOP to run after the successful Primary candidate for District 4 (Michael Genovese) was determined ineligible for the school board due to his status as a federal employee (The Hatch Act).

Murphy and Manning both serve full-time roles in local ministries, and the two represent constituent interests exclusive to western Craven County.

During the informal discussions (prior to any of the four being elected and installed), Dacey was a clear choice for one of the leadership roles. She came recommended and supported by some on the Craven County Commission, and by the local GOP, law enforcement partners, and presumably by her Republican counterparts in the school board district election.

Dacey was favored for a leadership role because of her experience and relationships with local and state lawmakers, her leadership and service with the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council (JCPC), her outspoken and active involvement in education issues over the past two years (especially during COVID restrictions) and her capacity to contribute extensive time and focus on key issues.

But in the week leading up to the installation of the new school board members, Murphy and Manning had a change of heart about who would assume leadership roles of the new board. MORE LIKELY THEY HAD A CHANGE OF INFLUENCE!. Insiders familiar with the matter confirm that former Board Chair Frances Boomer contacted Manning and Murphy to express concern about the possibility of Jennifer Dacey being named as Chairperson, citing her perceived “intensity” of demeanor, and apprehension among some current school system employees.

Boomer encouraged Murphy and Manning to break protocol with the newly-elected Republican majority! Instead, the two aligned with seated Democrat members (Ipock and Clark).

Boomer indicated to Manning and Murphy that she had secured the remaining two votes needed to have them both appointed into the leadership roles, if they would team up in support of the seated Democrats remaining on the board.

The real translation? The former board administration was employing scare tactics to remaining and new members. Murphy and Manning fell for the tactics, jeopardizing public trust of constituents and elected officials in both county and state partnerships.

Special note: Outgoing/Former Board Members, Victor Dove and Kim Smith, remained neutral, not trying to influence the new board, and have been welcoming to all new board members.

Why this Matters: Because Data Does Not Lie

Yes, you read that correctly! After more than 20 years of a non-conservative majority on the Craven County Board of Education – and a monumental win to change that in 2022 – it will be critical for members of the newly empowered majority to NOT TAKE ORDERS from the prior board administration. Essentially, working against their own team. One should note that Craven County Schools, under the prior board (notably in the past four years), has seen declining academic performance, declining enrollment, and an inability to recruit and retain classroom teachers on a scale so large that it outnumbers all competing counties in the east, combined!

Some will blame Hurricane Florence, but when the trends continued it became a COVID problem – despite the fact that our sister counties were experiencing the same circumstances, yet not the same (dismal) results.

The Plot Thickens
A week after the Installation Ceremony of the new school board, the first Work Session convened, with Manning and Murphy presiding as Chair and Vice Chair, respectively.
A series of public input comments were focused on budgeted spending (Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief and COVID monies). This led to questions about alignment with spending and actual issues identified in the district (teacher recruitment and retention, library books and capital outlay priorities). As suspected, Manning and Murphy appeared to be out of touch with constituents, the data and these concerns.

Constituents in Craven County remain hopeful that Manning and Murphy will not be divisive concerning future board issues – despite their inaugural actions. This remains a point of interest for all stakeholders as the new board gets to work.

Other Fun Facts:
• Scott Murphy’s campaign was largely funded by local Republican resources – including the Craven County Men’s Club, both Craven County Women’s Clubs and the Craven County GOP – all of these organizations have expressed discontent with Murphy over his support for the Democrat nominees for Chair and Vice Chair.

• Brent Manning appeared on the ballot as a county-wide candidate, having been appointed to fill a vacated seat earlier in the year. In his nomination of Manning as Chair, Carr Ipock boasted that Manning’s resounding support on the ballot qualified him for Chair of the school board. ALL Craven voters had Manning as a choice on their ballot, but only 65 percent (24,275) chose him. There were 539 write-in votes for the seat and another 12,316 voters did NOT choose Manning. Manning was unopposed on the ballot.

• Craven County Schools funding is largely provided by state (65%, $87MM) and local (24%, $32.6MM) sources – yet in the Special Meeting to elect the Chair and Vice Chair, Naomi Clark indicated that relationships with local and state governing bodies were not important or relevant for the Chair and Vice Chair.

• 41 school districts (out of 115) are partisan in North Carolina; this number is up from only 10 districts in 2013.

You can view the Board of Education Meetings and Work Sessions at

Editor’s note: Lori Ann Grady is a native of Craven County and resides in New Bern. For 12 years, she has actively supported and advised in local campaigns for candidates on both sides of the aisle; her focus is Craven County, and since 2015 she has also delved into the politics of North Carolina’s Third Congressional District.