The following are unedited responses to questionnaires The News Herald sent to candidates for the Burke County Board of Education Western District. They are listed in the order received. Candidate Katherine Magnotta did not return a questionnaire.
Seth P. Hunt, Jr.
Candidate for: Burke County Board of Education — Western District
Profession/Work History: Began my work life as a deputy sheriff. Retired from State of NC with over 33 years of progressive leadership roles including Chief Executive Officer of two large, complex state operated healthcare facilities (with schools) and acting superintendent of the NC School for the Deaf. In charge of managing budgets of $15m to over $125m annually. Simultaneously, Vice President of a successful Chevrolet franchise dealership for 3 years. Vice President of the Southern United States State Psychiatric Hospital Association. Mayor, Town of Stantonsburg, NC (8 years)
Education: Bachelor of Science in Political Science, Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College), professional licenses, and much continuing education.
Family: one son, Seth Prior Hunt, III, Class of 2013 Patton High School
Community Involvement: Member of First United Methodist Church, Morganton, NC, service on the Burke County Chamber of Commerce, former chair of the State Employee’s Combined Campaign, many public speaking engagements in Burke County, former mayor of my hometown for 8 years, Honored and recognized for service to the state and my community by Governor Pat McCrory with the North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
Have you ever been convicted of a felony? No
Do you currently owe back property taxes? No
What do you think are the biggest issues facing Burke County Public Schools and how would you address them if elected? The biggest issues facing our school system are not necessarily material but how we rediscover our collective purpose during the challenging times we face. Our children are our greatest resource and we will be judged on our ability to provide our children with a better education and future than what we had. We accomplish this by continuing to employ the most qualified educational professionals we can and letting them do what they do best and supporting them. We challenge our children to do their best, to study hard. We teach them how to learn. Through these means, as they mature, they will learn the value of an education. We will prepare them to do the things they wish to do and to live the life they choose. We encourage and help them to prepare for college or to take full advantage of our Career and Technical Educational programs (CTE). We need lawyers, doctors, teachers, brick/block masons, plumbers, electricians, master carpenters, contractors. These professions, trades, and many more are how communities are created and enhanced. Finally, we fully engage our parents. Our children and our schools must have the involvement of our parents. Using all of these methods we must not let a single child fall through the cracks. Every child is important and we will not fail them. Not only are we educating children we are molding minds and lives. We are creating our future. There is nothing more important or sacred.
What motivates you to want to become a school board member? Every time I go to a school to judge a spelling bee, read books to the children, attend annual graduations, or attend sporting events the never-ending excitement of the children is addicting. As I age I have never forgotten that one special teacher that directed me and corralled my interest that would help mold me as an adult. Schools are not just a place to learn things but they are their own communities where you form lifelong friends. It’s a place where you begin to understand the importance of life and form those early ideas of what you want to be when you grow up. My motivation comes from seeing that excitement, hope, and the endless possibilities of what these children will grow up to do and be. My motivation is to play a part, ever how small, in these events and to contribute positively as others did for me.
What skills and/or qualifications do you believe separate you from the other candidates? One of the attributes of an effective Board of Education is the different views and skillsets that each member brings. A board, such as this, would be incredibly boring and perhaps not very effective if all members had the same sort of background and thought alike. So, diversity of life experiences and views are essential to an effective Board of Education. I offer a varied background of public service, enormous volunteer work in fire service, EMS, professionally in law enforcement, long term healthcare management/leadership, mental health management/leadership, exceptional children educational management/leadership, school management/leadership and private entrepreneurship. Not only have I taught leadership but I have successfully practiced it by directly leading large and complex organizations with staffs of 350 to over 1,600. Through this leadership I have turned poorly operated organizations into highly effective schools and hospitals that have excelled in qualitative growth and have been positively recognized on the state and national level. Our school system is a big business by any definition. With a budget of over $110m annually and nearly 2,000 staff one should understand the many nuances of such an organization. The governing body (which the Board of Education is) needs to include someone that understands those nuances and can work with other Board members and the superintendent to support this large, dynamic, and complex organization. I do just that.
After seeing many families turn toward the Virtual Academy during the pandemic, do you think the program should be expanded for post-pandemic academic years? If so, how do you think it can be improved upon? The Virtual Academy had become something that many turned to in the advent of the Covid crisis. Its use should be put into perspective. There are many children that can do well in this environment. They are self-motivated and perform well as many home schoolers do. In terms of the question of expanding the V.A. post pandemic, this is something that I do not necessarily support at this time. As of this writing the V.A. has an enrollment of around 450 students. It’s important to remember that the V.A. is staffed by existing teachers of which most have actual classroom duties as well. Covid has necessarily changed the way we organize ourselves however I still believe in the “seated” version of school. There are so many other advantages of being in school as opposed to virtually. There are emotional and social needs that cannot be met virtually. Student peer support is vital for a child to emotionally grow and to effectively learn. Careful thought and study must be given before we consider to expand our virtual academy as we still endeavor to fully support “seated” education.
What do you think Burke County Public Schools can do to recruit and retain teachers within the system? One of the largest issues of recruitment of teachers are the significant lack of college students majoring in education at this time. Perhaps some of the issues with the lack of admissions is the relative low pay for such professional services and quite frankly the lack of respect that exists for teachers now. The number one issue that effects retention of teachers is lack of respect and recognition followed closely with substandard compensation. An additional benefit that was removed from the Teachers and State Employee’s Retirement Plan was, if you were hired effective January 1, 2021 or after, upon retirement with an appropriate number of years they will no longer receive paid healthcare benefits. This benefit alone was so significant in the recruitment and retention of teachers. We should work closely and very intently with our state legislators to return this benefit to teacher’s retirement. This alone would be a big boost to recruitment and retention. Another successful strategy is to target recruitment to those colleges and universities, in and out of state, that have schools of education. Job fair attendance is mandatory. We are so blessed in that we live in the most beautiful part of our nation and state. We have great facilities, climate, many recreational opportunities, and a wonderful place to raise and educate our kids. We know that this is a great place to come to live and thrive. We must share our secret.
What is your definition of social justice and what role do you think it plays in public schools? The concept of social justice has been in our schools for a number of years. It has been taught and modeled by school staff nearly everywhere. Social justice is the knowledge and ability to access our surroundings for a sense of fairness, equity, and playing by the rules. It is the awareness that the “rules” apply to everyone, not just the privileged. We have learned and taught that everyone should have a fair chance in life understanding that some will be successful and some, unfortunately, not. However, there are many examples of where people have fought against all odds and have been successful. Success shouldn’t just be measured in money or titles but by one’s own quality of life/family. We all have many definitions of success. The most prominent example of trying to achieve social justice in our schools is the decades old Leandro court case. This case is North Carolina specific and is attempting to fairly distribute resources to those students in poorly funded schools (counties with a low tax base) to allow the same learning opportunities that others in well-funded schools have. Many low funded schools do not have new text books, technology, art and music programs that create a well-rounded education. Why does this matter? Simply put our social justice will be when our students in Burke County have the same funding and learning opportunities as students in Raleigh and Charlotte “to provide every child with a sound, basic education” (NC State Constitution).
Candidate for: School Board
Profession/Work History: Retired Construction/ Truck Driver
Family: Married Parent of two Burke County school students
Have you ever been convicted of a felony? No
Do you currently owe back property taxes? No
What do you think are the biggest issues facing Burke County Public Schools and how would you address them if elected? We are losing our kids. They need to teach basic subjects, these need to come back into schools. I’ve talked with owners of companies and they cannot get kids who have basic skills in reading, writing and math to do the job. Some kids cannot read a tape measure. We need to teach our kids.
What motivates you to want to become a school board member? I am a parent of two kids in the school system. I asked to sit in on a class and was told no. I have other kids with families and would go to sit in on their class. Why did this stop? We parents need to know what our kids learn. We need parents on the board, not just teachers.
What skills and/or qualifications do you believe separate you from the other candidates? I know a lot of other candidates have family as I do. I have over 47 years working in construction dealing with kids working for me in the summer, I have trained many of them. I understand school with many kids and grand kids. I think life and being a parent should be a good qualification.
After seeing many families turn toward the Virtual Academy during the pandemic, do you think the program should be expanded for post-pandemic academic years? If so, how do you think it can be improved upon? No, we have lost 2 years of our kids’ lives. Their lives will be changed forever. They need to be in school with other kids. Just teach the basic subjects and bring all the kids back together in classes.
What do you think Burke County Public Schools can do to recruit and retain teachers within the system? All I have heard for the last 20 years is that teachers need more money. When I was a kid, education in the USA was number 1 in the world, today the USA is 35th in the world. The best job and most looked up to was a teacher. Teachers love to teach. Today, kids don’t look up to teachers at all. What happens? Teachers get burned out. Let’s work teachers for 3-4 years then they should take time off for a year, then go back to teaching. There’s a lot we can try, but we need teachers and parents on the board to work these out.
What is your definition of social justice and what role do you think it plays in public schools? It should not be taught in K-11 grades. If in grade 12, it should be offered before graduation if a student wants to take it.
Candidate for: Burke County Board of Education west district seat
Profession/Work History: Edward Jones Corporation 1999-2014, Administration/Recruiting new Financial Advisors; WPCC 2006, Instructor Kings College, 2003-2005; Facilitator, Norrell Staffing Services 1998-1999; Recruiting Manager, The Horizon Group 1994-1997; Founder/Owner, Mainstream Access, Inc. 1994; Job Developer/Consultant, AT&T Corporation 1992-1993; Account Executive, Contel Corp/GTE Corp. 1987-1992; Account Executive/Sales Manager, Xerox Corp. 1994-1987; Sales Representative/Agent
Education: Bachelor of Science, Business & Marketing, 1984, University of Southern Indiana, Evansville, Indiana
Family: Married to Martin J. Sohovich for 49 years. We have two sons who own successful businesses.
Community Involvement: Some of the last 23 years include: Volunteering 23 years in 2 school districts in North Carolina, Options, Board of Director, 6 years; Finance, Fundraising and Nominations Committees, 1st VP and Chair Person of the Policy Committee; Morganton Kiwanis Club, 15 years President, Foundation President, Chairperson of Fundraising and Scholarship Committee; Burke County Endowment for the Art, Inc., 2 years, Board of Director and chairperson of Marketing; Burke County Chamber of Commerce, Chairperson of Golf Outing Committee 4 years, Chairman’s Award 2004, member 23 years; Burke County United Way, Board of Directors 3 years, Toast of the Town Committee 7 years, hosted 26 people in my home for Toast of the Town while Fundraising throughout my terms
Have you ever been convicted of a felony? No.
Do you currently owe back property taxes? No.
What do you think are the biggest issues facing Burke County Public Schools and how would you address them if elected? COVID-19 challenged the world to change the way people live, work and educate their families. We were forced to use remote learning during the onset of COVID. Some students adapted by using Zoom while others didn’t. Many students have the Internet at home while others who live in rural areas or can’t afford the Internet suffer because they aren’t physically connected with their teachers. Dr. Honeycutt and her incredible IT team provided over 600 hot spots across the county to provide a connection to their teachers. We know children learn better in the classroom. Therefore, keeping our schools open and students learning in the classroom is our biggest challenge. Today our teachers, nurses, custodians and others have worked so hard because of COVID, through added stress and longer hours, staff morale has taken a toll on everyone. To prepare a student to advance to the next grade level can be difficult, particularly during a pandemic. Today, we’re working hard to address those challenges and achieve a strong level of morale for everyone. With patience and perseverance, our dedicated staff will work together to achieve and help our students flourish in spite of COVID.
What motivates you to want to become a school board member? I’ve dedicated over 30 years as a volunteer in three school districts to improve education for children and to assist teachers. I’ve always been an advocate for strong education, safe schools and supporting teachers. I currently serve on the Board of Education, which has allowed me to continue as a leader in all communities of Burke County. My job is to prioritize the needs and find solutions for all students, teachers and families to ensure Burke County continues to thrive.
What skills and/or qualifications do you believe separate you from the other candidates? I hold a Bachelor Degree in business, majoring in marketing. I’ve served my communities in a leadership role for decades because I believe in building a strong community and giving back. I’ve volunteered on eight regional and nationally-recognized boards, foundations and committees. I worked several years for Kings College, facilitating life skills development for 3,000 high school students annually. In my career I’ve worked for several Fortune 100 companies. I founded and owned my own training and consulting company. As a manager for GTE I organized and facilitated a team of professionals to bid on a multimillion dollar project. My account, Crane Naval Base, the largest inland Naval base in the country, chose GTE to provide them a needed $2,669,036 upgrade. I worked with Western Piedmont Community College to educate Continental Teves employees. In a small community of 10,000 people, where we raised our sons, I helped found a soccer league that served 650 children while coaching six year old children. I founded and served as President of the Jasper Soccer Booster Club for 13 years prior to moving to a large city. I’m running to extend my time on the Burke County Public School Board because I believe the heart and soul of a community starts with healthy, well-educated children. Together, we can support the students and create Better Schools for a Better Burke County.
After seeing many families turn toward the Virtual Academy during the pandemic, do you think the program should be expanded for post-pandemic academic years? If so, how do you think it can be improved upon? I believe in every facet of life there is always room for improvement. Therefore, I believe the Virtual Academy should be expanded. Through continuing our well-established relationship with WPCC we can expand upon our current curriculum. Through this, for those who choose a vocational trade vs a formal college education, we can meet the needs of all students to achieve a well-balanced education.
What do you think Burke County Public Schools can do to recruit and retain teachers within the system? All school systems throughout the country are faced with the same challenges. Recruiting good employees in a county starts with a strong school system. Burke County has achieved that goal. Today we utilize universities to recruit, participate in job fairs and utilize a multitude of other marketing tools. My plan after November 2 is to lobby for higher salaries for our teachers. Teachers, who are highly educated professionals, who work many years to educate our future leaders should NOT have a cap on their salaries. We should provide them with smaller, more manageable classroom sizes. We should increase the number of teaching assistants. This can be accomplished through working with and through the North Carolina legislature. I plan to start those goals on November 3, 2021.
What is your definition of social justice and what role do you think it plays in public schools? Social justice is creating and ensuring equality among all levels of society. Regardless of an individual’s personal strengths, challenges, socio-economic background we should all be treated equally. We all have strengths and challenges that need to be taken into account when establishing and achieving our personal goals in life. Therefore, each individual student’s needs require careful consideration, planning, as well as ongoing analysis to ensure a proper balance. After spending a great deal of time meeting with parents, educators, and staff, as well as my peers on the Board of Education, I believe we have room for improvement. Can we do a better job, YES. Will we do a better job, YES. I have the desire, motivation, skills, education and tenacity to work through these issues. Through my service on the Board of Education I will help create Better Schools for a Better Burke because I believe everyone should strive every day for a better life for ourselves and our children.
Candidate for: Western School Board District
Profession/Work History: I have managed local businesses for over 30 years
Education: 1984 graduate of Freedom High School
Family: Parents Ronnie and Dottie Fox; Siblings Tami, Teri, Tina Tanya, Kaltan; Girlfriend Donna Ollis
Community Involvement: Coached for 17 years locally. 10 years of that in the Burke County Public School System. 4 years at Table Rock, 6 years at Freedom High Coaching Football
Have you ever been convicted of a felony? No
Do you currently owe back property taxes? No
What do you think are the biggest issues facing Burke County Public Schools and how would you address them if elected? Keeping kids in school. I’m against masks, but to keep kids in school we have to follow the mask mandate Toolkit by NC Public Health. This means that only the kid showing symptoms will be sent home not the whole class. I’m for what keeps kid in school
Critical Race Theory. Don’t believe in it. We should be teaching unity instead of division. No teacher should be teaching this in class
Keeping Principals in the same school. It builds relationships with kids as well as parents. Also benefits teachers.
Too many assistants to assistants in the central office. The money saved could be well spent at the school level
Get back to teaching the basics. Reading writing, Arithmetic
Vocational School. I feel like this is an area we are really behind in. Counties around us are having a lot of success with this for their kids. There is endless opportunities here.
What motivates you to want to become a school board member? I just want to give back. The school system was good to me. We live in tough times. I would like to be apart of making sure our tax dollars are spent on the very best for our students.
What skills and/or qualifications do you believe separate you from the other candidates? I am a very hard worker. I have coached kids peewee thru high school seniors. I have run successful businesses for over 30 years. Relationships you build are everything.
After seeing many families turn toward the Virtual Academy during the pandemic, do you think the program should be expanded for post-pandemic academic years? If so, how do you think it can be improved upon? I want to keep kids in school. A lot is lost for kids in a virtual classroom setting. Teachers teaching students in person works. But if the situation arises and parents think their child is better suited in a virtual classroom setting then I think All options should be explored.
What do you think Burke County Public Schools can do to recruit and retain teachers within the system? Have a great superintendent. fair compensation. Have a school board that has an open door policy. Teachers to some are the difference between success and failure. Can you put a price tag on that. (Thank you Libby Linker)
What is your definition of social justice and what role do you think it plays in public schools? Social Justice to some is used as a political tool. Penalizing some in order to help others. That has no place in the school system. (Example) Some parents think that when kids play sports there should be no winner or losers. All kids should get trophies. I think the winner learns life lessons. What it takes to win, hard works, long hours, practice. The Loser Also learns life lessons. Sees what it takes to win, character, giving it your best is sometimes not good enough, And never giving up. Win or Lose prepares Kids for what life throws at them.
Candidate for: Burke County Board of Education Western District
Profession/Work History: 2006 to present—Entrepreneur of a business which I founded and currently operate; June 2002 – August 2003 – Tax Manager at Grant Thornton, LLP; September 2000 – June 2002 – Senior Tax Associate at Arthur Andersen, LLP; May 1998 – September 2000 – Tax Associate at Arthur Andersen, LLP
Education: Associate of Arts – Tallahassee Community College; Bachelor of Science in Accounting – Florida State University; Master of Accounting – University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Master of Science in Finance – Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Family: Married for 18 years to my adoring husband, Michael. We have one son, Hunter, who 17 years old and a senior in Burke County Public Schools.
Community Involvement: Deacon at First Baptist Church; Active member and board member of the Morganton Service League — including four years as the Treasurer; Current treasurer for the Burke County Education Foundation; Previous board member of the Blue Ridge Healthcare Foundation; Previous board member of the Western Piedmont Community College Foundation, including Board President for a term
Have you ever been convicted of a felony? No
Do you currently owe back property taxes? No
What do you think are the biggest issues facing Burke County Public Schools and how would you address them if elected? There are a number of issues facing Burke County Public Schools currently. However, the biggest is how we continue to provide impactful and relevant education in this ever-changing environment. I have complete faith in our teachers but teaching in this current environment is challenging. Our teachers have to be concerned with the latest social media trends that encourage students to vandalize school property and physically assault teachers and staff. We can’t ban social media from students when they are not in school. However, we can provide additional support staff to help create a safer environment in which to teach and learn. We are also faced with a greater demand for vocational learning. Burke County Public Schools offers a number of vocational classes to students at the high schools and our partnership with Western Piedmont Community College provides students with access to more vocational classes. However, we need to expand the offerings so that we can better educate tomorrow’s workforce. Finally, I am an advocate for all students. We have to make sure that resources are allocated fairly across the county so that the same benefits and educational opportunities are offered to all of our learners.
What motivates you to want to become a school board member? I am a servant for children’s success. The children of today are tomorrow’s workforce and leaders. Their educational experience is vital to our country and our economy. I am motivated to become a school board member to help continue developing impactful and quality education for our students. It is imperative that we prepare our students to be contributing members of the workforce. This helps all our children live more productive and successful lives. I also recognize that our school system is central to our community. Therefore, it is important that we have strong schools, not only to educate our current students, but also to attract new families to join our community. Our school system is critical to the further growth and development of our community.
What skills and/or qualifications do you believe separate you from the other candidates? I have benefited greatly from the privilege of education. My life has been changed by the education that I have received, and I am profoundly grateful for that. Through my education and experiences, I have built a series of skills that have allowed me to co-develop and found businesses that depended on my education. My education and experiences allow me to understand complex organizations, understand their mission and intent, and clearly articulate how they meet the needs of their stakeholders. The school system is an organization that above all others must meet the needs of all of its stakeholders, especially the needs of its students and teachers. My understanding of accounting, finance, organizations, and operational execution will allow me to contribute to the school system. In the past, I have demonstrated my desire to contribute because of the education of my own child who is a Senior in High School in the BCPS. I have also been an active volunteer in the schools, volunteering to help when and where needed. My education, volunteering, and work experience bring a balanced perspective to the board that should allow me to contribute greatly to our student’s success.
After seeing many families turn toward the Virtual Academy during the pandemic, do you think the program should be expanded for post-pandemic academic years? If so, how do you think it can be improved upon? The Virtual Academy has provided a wonderful opportunity during the pandemic for students to continue to learn while staying safe at home. COVID-19 has made the past year and a half challenging from a number of perspectives. Obviously last year with schools either being closed to in-person learning or having a Plan B schedule, the Virtual Academy was a valuable and consistent method of learning. Over 2,000 students enrolled in the Virtual Academy for the 2019–2020 academic year and there are about 450 students currently enrolled in the Virtual Academy. The Virtual Academy is an asset to our school system. It provides another option for parents to have their children educated. It is ultimately up to each family to decide what works best for them. Burke County Public Schools has offered online learning to middle and high school students through the North Carolina Virtual Public Schools for many years. The Virtual Academy expands on this style of learning, while utilizing our own Burke County teachers and provides an opportunity for elementary school children as well. In the future, I would like to see additional instructional innovations be applied to the Virtual Academy which increase the level of student engagement and use technology to keep our children more active during the Virtual Academy courses.
What do you think Burke County Public Schools can do to recruit and retain teachers within the system? Recruiting and retaining teachers in Burke County Public Schools is vitally important to the education of our children. Our teachers are what make Burke County Public Schools. There are two primary factors to consider when recruiting and retaining teachers. To retain teachers, we must provide a healthy work environment. The work environment is determined by the school leadership, ability to collaborate with other teachers and staff, as well as access to resources and training. We must invest in our teacher’s growth because they are the ones educating our children. To recruit as well as retain teachers, their salaries must be competitive within Burke County and the surrounding areas. To choose to be a teacher is a calling. Their rewards come in the smiles of the students and knowing that they are educating students to be contributing members of our society. However, teachers should be fairly and competitively compensated.
What is your definition of social justice and what role do you think it plays in public schools? Generally speaking, social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities. However, within public schools, social justice is about the fair distribution of resources and treating all students equitably. In public schools, it is critical that there is fair distribution of resources across all students as well as across schools. Every student in public school should have the same opportunity and access to impactful and valuable education. Every school should have an equitable distribution of highly qualified teachers who are helping educate students for careers or college. Every school should also have an equitable distribution of school district funds that support each school.
Candidate for: Western District Burke Co. Board of Education
Profession/Work History: Sergeant North Carolina State Highway Patrol; Assistant Chief of Oak Hill Fire and Rescue; NCSHP Troopers Association Board Treasurer
Education: Freedom High School Graduate 1999, Western Piedmont, Numerous Professional Development Hours/Courses, Law Enforcement General & Specialized Instructor,
Family: Wife, Erin (Veteran Teacher in BCPS), Daughter, Gracie (Freshman at ECU, graduate of Forest Hill Elem., Walter Johnson Middle School, Freedom High School), Son, Copeland (3rd Grade Student at Mountain View Elem.), father, Stanley Johnson, Retired Trooper North Carolina State Highway Patrol
Community Involvement: *School Volunteer—Read Across America Day; Various Field Day Events; EOG Proctor; Mentored Senior Projects
*Community/Schools—Softball Coach over the years; Football Coach for both Middle School and Elem. level, as well as through the county rec. dept.
Have you ever been convicted of a felony? No
Do you currently owe back property taxes? No
What do you think are the biggest issues facing Burke County Public Schools and how would you address them if elected? *Transparency/Building Trusting Relationships — these relationships are vital in creating a positive work environment for board members, community members, school administration, teachers, staff and parents. With positive relationships, the students benefit the most. All of the above must feel that board members are there to listen, advise, and support them through whatever comes along. They also need to feel they have members who will stand up for them or speak out for them in a way that is both constructive and positive, without fear of repercussions or negative criticism.
*Budget — Being good stewards of our tax dollars: looking closely at where the money is currently being spent, where the most significant needs are, as well as where we can save or modify spending. There are several areas I want to further examine in the budget, but most importantly I want to be an advocate for the students, parents, and community with an aligned vision of what is best for students & teachers now and in years to come. The fact that teachers spend their own money on classroom items is a concern. Of course, teacher/teacher assistant pay, teacher bonuses, longevity, 10 or 12 month pay are also important issues.
What motivates you to want to become a school board member? I’ve always had an interest in the school system and in the leadership of our community. I’m passionate about being involved in the lives of my children and in the lives of the children in our community. Being involved in educational functions throughout the county, such as Read Across America Day, chaperoning field trips, volunteering at school functions, and coaching sports, I realize how valuable children and learning are. I currently have one child who just graduated from the system and one that’s in third grade. I want to create stronger ties between the school board and all stakeholders. I want to bring fresh thinking and investment to the board. I want to ensure the focus is on the children and we continue to invest in our children. I feel like I would be expanding our board to contain representation for our parents and staff. I believe we have a great school system, and I want to see that continue. I would like the opportunity to serve and continue the quality education of our kids. Given this interest, and with recent work changes, I have been afforded the opportunity to put in the time to serve.
What skills and/or qualifications do you believe separate you from the other candidates? I’ve been a lifetime public servant & have dealt with people from various backgrounds in many different situations. I have direct experience in leadership, community involvement, & governmental relations. I have in-depth experience in leading individuals in high-stake situations, communicating effectively with the public, & running operations of numerous capacities. Through my work & volunteer experiences, I’ve developed strong leadership, communication, & analytical skills. I’m willing to listen to concerns & will do my best to address them, ensuring the mission of educating our children is accomplished, first & foremost. I will work hard to ensure all stakeholders’ voices & needs are met (or at the least heard). A strong board member should be prepared to put in the time, energy, & effort the community needs — that could be to listen, agree or disagree, ensure decisions reflect the interest of every child, be a team player, be open/flexible, yet hold true to one’s beliefs. I believe I have these qualities. I’m willing to go against the grain if need be, but I’m also willing to compromise when necessary. I’m a level-headed, practical, forward visioned person who would like to see our school system further excel. I’m not afraid to speak my mind, I’ll do so in a positive, constructive manner. Also, I’m the same person, whether you see me on the street & say hello, or sitting behind a desk/round table as a board member. I believe in the kids & their families & want the best for them.
After seeing many families turn toward the Virtual Academy during the pandemic, do you think the program should be expanded for post-pandemic academic years? If so, how do you think it can be improved upon? I am grateful for the virtual academy and that opportunity during the pandemic however, I believe in-person learning is the most important key to student success. I think the social aspect for the younger kids is vital academically and socially. I would like to see a comparison of virtual academy students with zoom class students and traditional in-person students’ academic achievement, to determine what’s best for our students. I do feel the virtual program should be an option for students who miss class due to emergencies or sickness as well as during inclement weather to keep students from falling behind.
What do you think Burke County Public Schools can do to recruit and retain teachers within the system? For teacher recruitment, some ideas include the obvious — monetary incentives, such as those mentioned above. Also continuing/improving marketing, such as online marketing (for example—the recent “Why BCPS” series), resume job fairs at community colleges/universities where Education Major students are introduced to BCPS. Maybe create a “talent/recruitment team” that includes members of the community, current teachers/staff members, and students to provide support in finding housing, provide information about local events/businesses, etc. This team could place an emphasis on recruiting more diverse candidates, representative of our student population. Provide incentives for local students wishing to become a teacher to seek employment here upon receiving a degree. Currently, a major focus is recruiting subs. We’re on the right track with the bonus pay for subs, but more can be done. I also think paid, full-time subs are necessary for the challenges we’re facing. Retaining current teachers/ teacher assistants is vital in creating a consistent, stable learning environment. Retention measures may include the above mentioned budget improvements, as well as providing the best support for both teachers and staff, both in and out of the classroom — support such as ensuring planning time, reducing/prioritizing expectations. Just as important as gaining quality teachers, we must strive to keep those already in the district.
What is your definition of social justice and what role do you think it plays in public schools? I feel social justice is fair, impartial treatment for everyone, regardless of social or economical status. I believe in character and giving everyone a fair opportunity. I believe our job in the school system is to ensure every student and school employee is treated fairly and equally and all are afforded the same opportunities.