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  • Writer's pictureTopsail Times

Mat Hamm for Onslow County Board of Education

Q: What is the primary issue facing the school system that led you to run for office?

A: The primary issues that led me to run were the lack of safety and security in our schools and the lack of response or care from the administration to incidents of violence and assault.

Q: What are your skills and experiences that make you the right choice for Onslow County voters?

A: A large part of my military experience centered around policy, regulations, and mission planning. I was required to audit programs regularly to ensure they were being run in accordance with the policies and rules and are being run in the most efficient and effective manner. I can use this experience on the BOE to look at current systems to identify possible flaws in compliance with either state or federal law or where things can be improved.

Additionally, I had a lot of experience working with a diverse group of people that all had a common goal in mind. I would also have to mediate and coordinate between entities with competing interests. Many of my skills will help me be an effective and communicative board member. 

Q: School safety has been a hot topic at Onslow County School board meetings. If elected, what will you do to help ensure the safety of students and staff on school grounds?

A: One of the biggest issues I am running to address is school safety and security. There have been multiple complaints from parents of different types of abuse at school that have gone unresolved or ignored. Students have a right to attend school and feel safe. They also need to know that they will be heard. It’s emotionally damaging to a child to deny their trauma when you are responsible for their safety. It isn’t necessarily a matter of policy, but strict adherence to the current policy. The schools have implemented safety measures such as clear backpacks and metal detectors which are good steps forward, but there are deeper, more cultural issues that need to be addressed. The first thing that can be done to fix this issue is to stop treating parents and teachers and the community as opposing entities. Our teachers are there because they care about kids and want to see the next generation succeed. And naturally, parents want to be sure their children are safe and getting a quality education for them to succeed. At the end of the day, we have the same goals in mind, so we should all be able to come together and find real solutions.

Q: Do you have children or grandchildren that attend the Onslow County Schools, and if so, what do you feel are the major issues that affect them?

A: I have 2 boys aged 7 and 11. They were in the Onslow County School system, but I removed them a few years ago due to systemic and repeated issues. I homeschooled them for one year and now they attend Jacksonville Christian Academy. I would prefer they attend public school, that’s why I’m running to make it better.

Q: If elected, how do you plan on filling the need for more teachers and school bus drivers? Would you support incentives, like benefits and bonuses?

A: I would be in full support of increased pay and benefits for bus drivers and teachers. The current national average hourly wage for bus drivers is ~$21.36 but Onslow County pays somewhere around $15.00. This has caused real problems for students throughout Onslow County. We are growing, and we must keep up with that growth.

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