On Wednesday, I learned from school system spokeswoman Stephanie Knott that the donation to Rashkis Elementary School that resulted from the retirement party Penny Rich catered amounted to $25, a check the school received from Rich on Aug. 26. That cast a worse pall over what started out as a well-intentioned party to honor a well-respected school principal.

In trying to find some redemption in this mess, I looked to Rich’s gesture of making a modest donation to a school. I matched it with a $25 check to Carrboro Elementary School, a school that has a high percentage of kids who receive free or reduced-price lunches. I dropped the donation off with the school’s receptionist yesterday and was met with that look of delight tinged with skepticism you get anytime you give someone free money (not that I do that very often).

Ever hopeful that Rich will be more transparent with her colleagues and constituents going forward, I’m encouraging all readers to join Penny Rich and me in helping low-income students with an enrichment experience. Please consider donating $25 to a public elementary school so that no child is left behind when the bus pulls out of the parking lot on a field trip.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. John Kramer

     /  September 1, 2011

    What a great idea, I am sending a check to Carrboro Elementary today. Thanks Nancy!

  2. Road Warrior

     /  September 1, 2011

    This is disgusting. I am confused:

    – alcohol was served at a school function
    -She only donated “Net Proceeds” of $25

    If all of this is true, it is actually very disgusting. Our schools need all the help they can get, but we have local politicians helping themselves to fees.

    For perspective, Triangle Youth Hockey did a Breast Cancer fundraiser one year with 4 teams involved and raised about $3,000 – The Board would have never considered taking money away from UNC and Duke Cancer programs to charge them for the ice. Parents and sponsors paid all the expenses.

    It’s embarrassing what people call “fundraisers.”

  3. Terri Buckner

     /  September 1, 2011

    Road Warrior–the event was not a fund raiser. It was a retirement party. The tickets sold generated $25 more than the cost of the food and alcohol so the balance was contributed.

    While I applaud the efforts to generate more funds for our schools in need, continuing to prod Penny on this story is just wrong and mean-spirited.

  4. ActLocal

     /  September 1, 2011

    Terri, you need to corroborate with Penny, who told WCHL:

    “It was all a charity event… There were tickets sold for drinks, and we donated that money to a scholarship fund to the school so that children in the 2011-2012 school year that can’t afford to go on field trips can now go on field trips, because of the money raised that evening. Basically, my costs were just covered for food and wine and beer.”–Franklin-Controversy/10760290

  5. Terri Buckner

     /  September 1, 2011

    Read what it says. They sold tickets for drinks (that Penny purchased), used the sales to cover the purchase cost (reimburse Penny for her outlay), and donated everything above that amount. Obviously, they didn’t sell many drinks.

  6. Terri Buckner

     /  September 1, 2011

    Sorry–I hit enter too early. There are legitimate reasons to criticize any one of our elected officials. They are human and make mistakes, some big, some minor. But this horse is dead, so let’s please stop flogging it.

  7. ActLocal

     /  September 1, 2011

    Terri – I did not have a problem with this use of the building – read my comment on the previous story. What I have a problem with is Penny’s quote, as reported in the linked story. That quote was carefully crafted to create a false impression. The statements that “It was all a charity event,” and that underprivileged children “can now go on field trips, because of the money raised that evening,” mislead the reader to believe that the amount donated was greater than $25. Her overzealous defense, like yours, erodes her credibility. I hope for greater transparency on OWASA, but past experience leads me to believe that I hoping for too much.

  8. Nancy Oates

     /  September 1, 2011

    Thank you, John Kramer. And if you hand-deliver it and get to experience the thank-you, you’ll feel better than if you’d had a glass of wine.

  9. Terri Buckner

     /  September 1, 2011

    Transparency for what? I stated very clearly early on that Penny should have informed the council of her involvement in planning this event (notice from the article that she was researching a venue for the event prior to the petition being submitted). As you note, there are misleading statements in the Chapelboro post. Overzealous defense and overzealous offense. To what purpose? Four consecutive posts on the issue are creating a pallor over an event that was supposed to celebrate the career and contributions of a respected educator. The only positive outcome will be if people really do make a donation to one of the school field trip accounts.

  10. Mark Marcoplos

     /  September 1, 2011

    This may be breaking new ground – the first Inaccuracy Offset Program. If we could convince Fox News to instutute this kind of program, maybe they could retire the national debt.

  11. runner

     /  September 1, 2011

    Donation sent.

    Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School Foundation

    P.O. Box 877

    Carrboro, NC 27510

  12. Nancy Oates

     /  September 1, 2011

    Thank you, runner! (And I don’t use exclamation points lightly.)

  13. John Kramer

     /  September 1, 2011

    Watch out, OWASA! LOL

  14. John Kramer

     /  September 1, 2011

    “Thank you, John Kramer. And if you hand-deliver it and get to experience the thank-you, you’ll feel better than if you’d had a glass of wine.”

    Been there, done that. Glad to repeat.

  15. Mark Marcoplos

     /  September 1, 2011

    Fire, ready, aim — repeat.

    OK, sorry to break in on this smugfest with some facts. Penny made $265 over her costs at the event. $25 went to the school field trip fund. The other $240 went to The Public School Foundation. My free advice would be to admit that you pulled your socks on over your boots (and then did it again) and try to present credible information in the future.

  16. Nancy Oates

     /  September 1, 2011

    Kim Hoke, director of the Public School Foundation, said that her organization did not receive any donation from Penny Rich or anyone else in connection with the retirement party for the Rashkis principal.

  17. Don Evans

     /  September 1, 2011


    Please check your sources and facts before you post on this blog. You do a disservice to the community when you post unverified statements.

    Just as importantly, I’d like to know what was your source was for those figures. If it’s Penny herownself, I’d be a little skeptical given the fabrications she provided to WCHL.

  18. runner

     /  September 1, 2011

    Penny’s donation to the public school foundation was probably made sometime in September.

  19. Mark Marcoplos

     /  September 1, 2011

    I did a little research & found this:

    “The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School Foundation offers no refunds on donations. We respect your privacy and will not release your information to any third parties.”

  20. Nancy Oates

     /  September 1, 2011

    Mark, that refers to the donor’s contact information, so that other charities won’t solicit the donor.

  21. John Kramer

     /  September 2, 2011

    So, Mr. Mark, if they don’t give out information, how did you learn of her contribution?

    This should be really good.

  22. Joe

     /  September 2, 2011

    The ongoing saga on this blog would be more meaningful if it was clear that the blog writers didn’t have a seemingly never ending chip on their shoulders. It’s clear that Nancy Oates has, and always has a dislike for Chapel Hill and will do whatever she can to complain, complain, and then complain some more, even if there’s nothing to complain about. “Hey, kids, get off my lawn!”

  23. Don Evans

     /  September 2, 2011


    Nancy’s affection for Chapel Hill is manifested in her spending many hours watching and writing about town government and town businesses. She receives no compensation for that work other than the hope that something better will come from all this. More often than not all she gets is whiny readers who perceive their narrow political perspective is threatened.

    An open mind and a closer reading of her posts might give you better perspective. This whole Pennygate kerfuffle has to do with a town council member using her position for personal profit. That is a basic moral issue that I’m sorry you can’t comprehend. I’m even more appalled that you perceive bringing Penny’s actions to light as complaining.

    When pointing out government incompetence, bias and chicanery is perceived as “complaining,” then god help us!

  24. WJW

     /  September 2, 2011

    To Joe:

    I certainly do not always agree with Ms. Oates. For example, I thought her comment the other day of “As a white woman of a certain age, I can rest assured that if I don’t like my trash collector’s attitude, I can certainly do something about that, providing he’s black. ” was snide and petty.

    However, what is your proof for the blanket condemnations such as “It’s clear that Nancy Oates has, and always has a dislike for Chapel Hill…”? Your statement is a bit much, don’t you think?

  25. runner

     /  September 2, 2011

    Here’s how I see it.

    While there are a lot of good people with good intentions in leadership positions within our community, sometimes a little hipocracy or selfish behavior creeps in. We’ve also learned that we cannot count on the Chapel Hill News, or most of the other local media sources, to bring this kind of stuff to the public’s attention.

    Does this site sometimes fail to live up to the highest journalistic standards? Sure, but the other local media sources don’t either. In fact, the local media seems to avoid any controvery that doesn’t specifically come from the Orangepolitics crowd.

    I support anyone trying to bring more information and differing viewpoints to the people of this community, even if it’s not always New York Times worthy.

  26. John Kramer

     /  September 2, 2011

    The level of resentment and outright hatred and anger towards this site speaks volumes about how needed it is in this community. Thanks to Nancy and other contributors for being willing to post true news at their own expense.

    Hey Joe- “get your own blogsite and quit reading this one if you don’t like it” LOL

  27. Terri Buckner

     /  September 2, 2011

    I agree with Runner that anyone who is willing to bring more information and different perspectives to the community should be supported. Supporting their efforts doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they say. You can offer your own perspective, add your information, and create a bigger picture that readers are free to interpret in their own way. And those who have an open mind, may even change their mind sometimes. Silencing anyone who doesn’t agree with you in not just childish, it’s mean. Grow up and do what this community has always said it does…..respect diversity. It applies to thought as well as skin color and origin of birth.

  28. DOM

     /  September 2, 2011

    Well said, Terri.

  29. Joe

     /  September 3, 2011

    WJW: “However, what is your proof for the blanket condemnations such as “It’s clear that Nancy Oates has, and always has a dislike for Chapel Hill…”? Your statement is a bit much, don’t you think?”

    The proof is in the pudding. This particular blog has been a non-stop anti-Chapel Hill rant from day one. I briefly looked through all of the postings, and I didn’t see a single post that didn’t have something nasty or snide to say about Chapel Hill.

  30. John Kramer

     /  September 3, 2011

    Joey,Joey, Joey. If you don’t like the content then why do you linger? Liberals are so bothered by content they don’t like. I just ignore that kind of stuff. What do you want the blogsite to do, apologize to you? Change its content so that you are happy?

    Last time I checked it was still legal to post your personal opinion in the USA, thank the Lord God for that!


  31. runner

     /  September 3, 2011

    Yeah Joe. I’m so upset with this website that I just might stop paying my subscription fee.

  32. John Kramer

     /  September 3, 2011

    I love me some runner. Good one!

  33. Terri Buckner

     /  September 3, 2011

    If people are free to post their personal opinion, then Joe should be able to post his without being mocked.

  34. runner

     /  September 3, 2011

    It’s not mocking, it’s just some friendly banter. The last thing we want is another Roses and Rasberries column.

  35. Road Warrior

     /  September 4, 2011


    That doesn’t make it right. Alcohol at a school event? Didn’t you fight that fight, too. Is alcohol okay when you like the people? Situational ethics are very popular with you.

  36. Terri Buckner

     /  September 4, 2011

    I don’t think there should be alcohol at school events. I hate that UNC decided to allow it in the millionaire boxes (Kenan). But as far as I’ve read, this wasn’t a school event. It was a privately catered dinner to celebrate a retiring administrator. For as long as I’ve worked in academia (25 years), we have always had alcohol at “adult” events (i.e., when undergrad or lower level students are not present). The decision to do serve alcohol does not rest with the caterer. It is the customers choice, as is the menu and the venue. Penny, like any good business woman, did what her customer asked for. If that bothers anyone, take it up with the event sponsors. While I sincerely doubt they had middle school kids serving alcohol as has been implied by Don and Nancy, if that was the case then the school board needs to get involved and some parents need to take parenting classes.

  37. John Kramer

     /  September 4, 2011

    Road warrior: “Situational Ethics”, so perfect! Thanks for that one.

  38. Nancy Oates

     /  September 5, 2011

    Terri, I agree that the event was most likely a privately catered dinner, and I certainly hope the students were serving food and not alcohol. Penny’s first mistake in this mess was not mentioning that she was catering an event that would be held at 523 if alcohol could be served there. Her second mistake was trying to paint it as a school fundraiser when there is no indication that it was anything more than a private party by some generous parents. I’m not expecting Penny to apologize, but I hope that she reflected on her mistakes and will be more transparent in her dealings as a council member in the future.

  39. Terri Buckner

     /  September 5, 2011

    Nancy–where does Penny say this was a fundraiser? The only use of that word that I can find is on this blog and in Don’s comments on the Chapelboro story.

    Again, I have no problem with this issue being raised (initially). You were reporting. Penny should have responded to your request for details, so she can only blame herself for some of this confusion. She did not behave in the most transparent fashion and I too hope she learns from it.

    My objection is the conclusions that have been jumped to on this blog (middle school children were serving alcohol, this was a fundraiser, Penny had the law changed for her own financial benefit). This community needs a strong media outlet, and I personally had high hopes that you and Don would fill the void. When you publish editorial comments, as if they are truth, you fuel the misconceptions that get repeated as truth.

    Which is better (or worse)……when the media ignores real problem in favor of fluff or when the media publishes half truths that fuel misconceptions?

  40. runner

     /  September 5, 2011


    I pulled this line from the Chapelboro article. How would you interpret this quote?

    “It was all a charity event, (and) there was no money that was made by anyone,” she says.

  41. Terri Buckner

     /  September 5, 2011


    A “charity” event is ambiguous wording IMHO. Not sure if Penny used the word or if the WCHL writer chose it. And in some contexts, it would mean fundraiser. But taken in conjunction with “group of teachers who wanted to host a retirement party for their principal” and “she donated her time and did not make any profit” and “tickets sold for drinks, and we donated that money to a scholarship fund” it indicates to me that this was a dinner in which they couldn’t afford to provide alcohol so they sold tickets and contributed any profit from the drink tickets to the scholarship fund. What does it mean to you?

  42. Mark Marcoplos

     /  September 5, 2011

    Like I said before, your best bet to keep flaming up this innocuous event is to cast doubt that any recycling actually occurred. That way the self-righteuousness can continue as you raise yet another “when did you stop beating your wife?” type question and the usual cranky suspects can post more “I told you so’s” and “LOL’s”. The horse has been well-flogged and the corpse has been stinking for some time now.

  43. runner

     /  September 5, 2011

    Penny clearly mishandled the petition. Was it criminal? No way. Was it uninformed or somewhat selfish? in my opinion, yes. But to concoct a story to imply that the event was a fundraiser and make a token donation only after the matter was questioned, that’s insulting.

    Terri, You keep moving your argument. Penny said “it was a charity event”. If she didn’t, she would have corrected the statement.

  44. Don Evans

     /  September 5, 2011


    The stink you refer to surrounds Penny and can only start to dissipate after she admits she made a mistake, learns from it and then moves forward. That goes for her supporters, too.

    Nancy has introduced many facts concerning Penny’s actions and misrepresentations in this sorry affair, facts that have been double-checked, unlike the “facts” that you have presented. Nancy has made phone calls and checked public records. I don’t know what documents you have based your conclusions on, but they are obviously not official.

    I can only assume you get some sort of morbid thrill out of typing at a keyboard, because you sure aren’t contributing information to this discussion, and in fact have gone out of your way to trash verified information that Nancy has provided. I can only attribute your perverse need to obscure what has been a reasonably well laid out sequence of events to some sort of friendship with Penny. And I can see defending her to a certain point. But that point has been reached, and the facts need to be conveyed to her so she can learn from her mistakes.

  45. Mark Marcoplos

     /  September 5, 2011

    Best to let those who are paying attention decide which “facts” they believe.

    Others can – and this is possibly the most bizarre outcome, although positive in a perverse way – try to out-contribute the event organizers in what I can only describe in the same way that Nancy did – as “redemption”.

  46. John Kramer

     /  September 5, 2011

    If only we didn’t spend so much money fighting the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, they would have avoided needing a fundraiser and all of this would never have happened. So, Penny is yet another victim of this senseless war machine.

    Let’s march down Franklin St in protest, what do you all say?

  47. runner

     /  September 5, 2011


    I would love to look at all the facts. Too bad you’ve never actually presented one. Now, why don’t you tell us when Penny made that “other” contribution that you claimed in an earlier post.

  48. Deborah Fulghieri

     /  September 15, 2011

    The pity of it is that Ms. Mack was an excellent principal and leader, but those rare traits are obscured by the catering of her retirement party.