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State School Board Gives Durham OK To Begin Wagstaff Investigation

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DURHAM, N.C. — A divided State Board of Education votedThursday to authorize the Durham school board's investigation of anew member who was recently convicted of two misdemeanors.

Board members said Wednesday that Jackie Wagstaff's criminalconduct was serious enough that the Durham board should investigatewhether to remove Wagstaff from office. They voted 6-4 on Thursdayin favor of an investigation.

Wagstaff pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor larceny charges inNovember, admitting wrongdoing but avoiding more serious felonycharges.

Wagstaff had been charged for falsifying two city check requestsin July after the city council froze financing for her nonprofitorganization, North East Central Durham Inc.

Wagstaff used the bogus check requests to convince a bus companythat the city would pay for two trips her group had arranged forinner-city children.

Phil Kirk, chairman of the state school board, said Wednesday itwas the first time in his five years on the board that he believeda complaint about a school board member was serious enough toexamine. He read from an anonymous letter he had received thatread, "We need to think about the message we are sending thechildren."

"If what she did was not disreputable conduct, no matter whatwas in her heart, then we don't have a very high standard in thiscountry," Kirk said.

If the investigation shows that Wagstaff committed "immoral"or "disreputable" behavior, the Durham school board will conducta hearing, in which Wagstaff could present evidence and testify inher defense, state school board attorney Harry Wilson said. TheDurham school board would also hear testimony from the investigatorand then decide whether to remove Wagstaff or to let her stay.

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