Thanks for responding. Your response got me going in the right direction.
I resolved this.
Im updating this for anyone in the future with this issue.
I had all the collation right.
what ended up being the problem was so easy - but completely missed.
dreamweaver by default had used this in every page:
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html"; charset="iso-8859-1">
and i just changed that to
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html"; charset="utf-8">
digging deeper, on any update/edit pages, every "binding" of fields to form elements had this same character set tagged. So i had to change that too.
as soon as i changed this it was fixed.