Q: What is the primary issue facing the school systems that led you to run for office?
A: The primary issues that led me to run for office are the overcrowding of the schools and improvements needed to make sure our teachers and staff have the tools and support they need to adequately support the learning of our children. Having lived in the Pender/New Hanover County area for most of my life, I have witnessed first-hand the growth of our community. This growth has increased our student population to the point that many of our schools are left with inadequate learning areas and not enough teaching staff. There is a current plan for a new K-8 school which will help to alleviate some of the overcrowding. However, along with the construction of the new school, we will need to make sure that our salaries for teachers and staff are structured in a way that we will not only be able to keep the staff we currently have but attract the additional staff needed. Having multiple family members who have and are working in school systems across the country, I have first-hand knowledge of the monies our teachers are outlaying to ensure their classrooms have adequate supplies. I do not believe that any teacher, staff member or parent should be requested to supply items necessary for the classroom. If elected, I will work with my fellow Board Members to look for areas within our budget that will allow us to ensure these supplies are provided without asking teachers, staff members or parents to provide them.
Q: What are your skills and experiences that make you the right choice for Pender County voters?
A: As an owner of two different successful businesses since I was 28 years old, I acquired many skills such as data analysis, budgeting, employee relations, forecasting, and customer service. I relate well to people and am open to listening to all points of view. I know that the decisions I will make will not please all, but I am running for this seat to look out for the best interest of the education system and have no other hidden agendas in place. I pride myself on my people skills and will work to try to bring unity between the Board and County Commissioners so that we can work to the common goal of improving our school system so that we can empower our children to achieve their dreams.
Q: Recently a young child was found unattended on Hwy 17 during school hours and was returned to the school by a passerby. If elected, what will you do to ensure something like this never happens again?
A: I am confident that the principal, vice principal and staff at the school have reviewed the circumstances around the incident and have put additional safety measures in place to ensure that this does not happen in the future. Additionally, while we hope these types of incidents will never happen, I am sure that other schools will take this experience and re-evaluate their campuses to aid in the prevention of this type of incident in the future.
Q: Do you have children or grandchildren that attend the Pender County Schools, and if so, what do you feel are the major issues that affect them?
A: I do not have any children or grandchildren in the Pender County Schools. However, as a community business owner and resident, I encounter parents, school staff and students weekly. Based on the information I have heard, I feel like the number one issue affecting our students and teachers is the overcrowding in the classrooms. The large classroom size does not allow for an environment in which teachers can adequately work with our students and is not conducive to learning. The second issue is the focus on standardized testing. While I recognize that standardized testing is mandated at the state level, it is not necessarily the best way to evaluate the full range of skills and knowledge that students have or the effectiveness of our teachers. They create a culture of teaching to the test, which limits the creativity and flexibility of both teachers and students. Not all students learn the same and we need to provide flexibility in education methods to help those students who need a different way of learning succeed.
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 feel that our salary and benefits packages must be competitive with at a minimum our neighboring counties. I would support review of increasing the supplements the county funds over one-time bonus or incentive payments as that shows long term commitment and value. I would support the review of our benefits package to see how it can be improved and extended to those who may not currently be allowed to participate. While salary and benefits carry a lot of weight in hiring and keeping employees, we must also look for ways to make sure that staff feel valued and appreciated.