Controversial text messages between school board members raise questions

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STATESVILLE, N.C. — There is controversy over a 123-page document that includes text messages between Iredell-Statesville School Board members and the superintendent.

The board members with the superintendent created a group chat to discuss official business that dates back to December 2022.

Board Member Abby Trent began a series of text message in March by stating pride flags were handed out at an Oakwood Middle School event.

Board Member Michael Kubiniec then urged Superintendent Jeff James to invite the principal to explain why handing out gay and transgender flags is a good idea.

“This should not be pushed on a bunch of middle schoolers,” Trent messaged in the chat.

Kubiniec asked, “What is the best way to drive home to the IB schools (and to all schools) that the gay, transgender, and woke agendas being driven by these people (are) not acceptable?”

Elsewhere in the chat, while referencing a grant, Kubiniec texted, “Let’s see if this grant includes such things like gender identity/affirming ‘care’, LGBTQ+123abc ‘care.’”

County resident Beth Kendall said the texts were ridiculous and terrible and that it’s, “Something any elected official should be ashamed of.”

Now she wonders why they would want to serve on the school board.

“It was clear these members were much more into furthering their agenda rather than helping students,” Kendall said.

Meanwhile, parent Lisa Cox is calling for more open conversations.

“There is also a level of transparency that needs to take place,” Cox said. “Let’s represent all students and make sure we hear everyone’s voice when we’re making decisions and potentially try to make them on your own behind closed doors.”

Channel 9 reached out to Trent and Kubiniec about this report.

Trent didn’t respond. Kubiniec said to contact the school district.


Board member Bill Howell sent a text stating, “If you would like to tackle a redistricting plan, I feel that may be an answer.”

Another board member, Brian Sloan, texted, “We could have a sign-up sheet for fighting. Put them through some kickbox training and have an officiated match.”

VIDEO: Text messages between school board members raise questions

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Board member Anita Kurn suggested, “A Thunderdome in the middle of the football field,” and added, “We can charge admission.”

Former Principal Kelley James is also questioning the elected officials’ capacity to run the district.

“Now this thread has thrown into question the safety of some of these students,” James said.

James is referring to a series of text that show board members discussing how to handle disciplinary issues at Statesville High School after two fights broke out.

“These kinds of statements from the school board don’t help improve the school,” James said. “It casts a shadow on the school. They are kids and they need guidance. They are staff and they need support. They basically just got thrown under the bus. That doesn’t help Statesville High School.”

Channel 9 reached out to Kurn regarding her Thunderdome comment.

She said the comment was misinterpreted and it was sarcasm.

“Fighting in our schools is not a joking matter,” Kurn said. “My response was to exhibit strong disagreement with having students fight to resolve their issues.”

James said she wants board members to remember the oath they took.

“You don’t have to agree. You don’t have to understand. But you have to respect, and you have to serve the public – the whole school system,” James said.

Channel 9 also reached out to Howell and Sloan but they have not responded.

VIDEO: Iredell-Statesville Schools estimates it will end year with $30K in student lunch debt

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