N. Raleigh school board seat pivotal

District 3 important for Democrats, who hope to reclaim majority

khui@newsobserver.comOctober 3, 2011 

  • ERIC WAYNE SQUIRES

    Age: 48

    Occupation: Computer engineer, manager of information sciences.

    Education: Bachelor's in management with concentrations in physics, accounting and biology, UNC-Wilmington.

    Political party and experience: Republican.

    Endorsements: None from groups.

    Civic activities and other affiliations: Involved in ministries in counseling and youth programs.

    Why should you be elected? The other candidates are well meaning folks, but it's time for a much stronger voice in District 3. I bring unique skills to the table in leadership, quantitative research and business. That means I like numbers and discovering new and better ways of doing things. Wake County is poised as one of the best places in the country to make real advances in education for its kids and communities. I saw the other candidates as being retired teachers/administrators and well meaning moms, but we already have thousands of employees and parents that already represent those views. What the board needs is a businessman who understands research, who is strong enough to work with the current board, and who has an unconditional love for the kids. I believe it's time for a much stronger voice for the parents and kids in District 3. I'm the candidate that doesn't want your money, I want your message. A vote for me will send a clear message to the Republican and Democratic national committees that we don't want their Washington politics getting in the way of our kids education.

    Contact: ericwaynesquires.com, 919-235-7400 or ericwaynesquires@gmail.com

  • Age: 57

    Occupation: N.C. State University assistant professor, retired K-12 teacher and principal

    Education: Bachelor's in history and master's curriculum and instruction from N.C. State University

    Political party and experience: Democrat. Elected to Wake County school board in 2007

    Endorsements: Wake County Democratic Party, Wake chapter of N.C. Association of Educators, BiggerPicture4Wake, Triangle Labor Council AFL-CIO

    Civic activities and other affiliations: Meredith College Teaching Fellows Advisory. Presenting sessions - "Marketing Yourself" and "Professional Ethics" - at Meredith College and NCSU, helping seniors prepare for the job market

    Why should you be elected? My goal is to represent the best interests of all students and all schools in Wake County. With 35 years experience as a teacher and principal, I have the breadth and depth of experience needed for our Board of Education. A nine-member Board of Education needs at least one member with my considerable level of experience. I understand and can explain both the intended and unintended outcomes that decisions made by the board have on students and teachers. No other candidate or remaining board member comes close to matching my experience as a teacher, administrator, and leader in public education.

    As an educator, I know our children represent our future and my future includes living in Wake County. So, I am running as my way of contributing to the community.

    Contact: hillforboe.com, 300 Paprika Court. Raleigh, NC 27614, 919-848-3362

  • JENNIFER MANSFIELD

    Age: 43

    Occupation: Parent of two East Millbrook Middle School students and school system volunteer.

    Education: Bachelor's in history from Illinois Wesleyan University, master's in family and consumer sciences from Illinois State University.

    Political party and experience: Unaffiliated.

    Endorsements: Wake Schools Community Alliance.

    Civic activities and other affiliations: Member of the school board's Economically Disadvantaged Student Performance Task Force and its subcommittee on evaluation of effectiveness; served on school system's community relations committee; member of PTA/PTSA and Arts Boosters, a coach and school coordinator for Odyssey of the Mind, end-of-grade exam proctor.

    Why should you be elected? District 3 needs a strong leader who can successfully represent all of District 3 by putting aside politics to work with parents, teachers and administrators alike. I believe strongly in having schools in our communities and communities that are involved in our schools. I recognize the flaws and strengths of both the previous and proposed policies and am committed to making objective, well-researched decisions in the best interests of those served by our schools. I am not beholden to any political party or ideology and I am not interested in keeping score or holding grudges. I bring objectivity and a willingness to work with everyone to make (the Wake County school) system that serves all students with excellence and equity.

    Contact: mansfieldforwakeschools.com, P.O. Box 99096, Raleigh, NC 27624, 919-696-7247

  • HEATHER LOSURDO

    Age: 40

    Occupation: Self-employed mother

    Education: U.S. Air Force

    Political party and experience: Republican, past president of Northern Wake Republican Club

    Endorsements: Wake County Republican Party

    Civic activities and other affiliations: Volunteer for various reading programs to help elementary school students; First Union National Bank program to promote literacy by reading to K-4 students; board Member, Business and Professional Women; PTA board member; room mother for many years; volunteer for Accelerated Reader Program (K-5); volunteer for Reader Readiness program, active and involved with local, state and national politics and policy with a focus on education

    Why should you be elected? Although our school system is on the right track, there is still much room for improvement and innovation. I want to go to work for our children and our community to ensure that we are properly preparing our next generation for the 21st Century global economy they will face the moment they graduate from our school system.

    In my vast experience in management and leadership roles in the U.S. Air Force, small business banking, and many volunteer positions in PTAs, schools and as a mother of two girls, I have proven over and over again that I can effectively communicate, lead and rise above the status-quo to research and implement proven models of success.

    It is time for District 3 to have a visionary leader that has these attributes and skills. It is time we have a leader that will put student achievement ahead of all else.

    Contact: heatherlosurdo.com, 919-438-1120

The Wake County school board Kevin Hill joined four years ago is far different from the one he hopes to stay on for another four years.

Hill has gone from board chairman to being a member on the losing side of a string of 5-4 votes approved by the Republican majority that took office in 2009.

Now Hill faces three challengers for the District 3 North Raleigh seat who generally agree with the changes made in Wake over the past two years.

"I'm dismayed at how it has become so politicized," said Hill, 57, a retired Wake school educator endorsed by the Wake County Democratic Party. "I'm not naive enough to think that I can stop it."

Hill is opposed by Heather Losurdo, a self-employed mother; Jennifer Mansfield, a school volunteer; and Eric Wayne Squires, a computer engineer. "People in District 3 have been underrepresented and it's time they had a leader who will listen to them," said Losurdo, 40.

But what could help Hill is that the groups who united in 2009 to elect the new board majority have fractured.

Being objective

Losurdo has been endorsed by the Wake County Republican Party and most members of the school board majority.

Jennifer Mansfield, who has been backed by the Wake Schools Community Alliance, said she expects to support the board majority on most issues. But she contends Losurdo, former president of the Northern Wake Republican Club, would be a "rubber stamp" for the majority.

"You've got to look at things objectively," said Mansfield, 43, "I don't think she will do that."

But Mansfield also wants to ease concerns of voters who fear backing her instead of Losurdo could help Hill win.

If no candidate gets a majority of the vote Oct. 11, the second-place finisher can request a Nov. 6 run-off.

Squires has a similar message as Mansfield but has far less money and organizational support.

"We should put the kids first," said Squires, 48. "We need to send a message to the big parties if you want to set up in Wake County, we don't want them. We want our schools to be nonpartisan."

Hill, who calls himself the "principled principal" in his campaign ads, emphasizes his nearly 30 years as a Wake teacher, assistant principal and principal. He said his background will help the board determine how their actions affect education.

"When they're talking about budget cuts, I can predict how they're going to impact the classroom," Hill said.

Vote on 'entire package'

Mansfield charges that Hill talks about his education background because he doesn't want to run on his record.

"He really has nothing to show for the past four years on the board," Mansfield said.

Hill said he's worked behind the scenes to help schools and principals directly.

One part of Hill's record that could cost him votes is his decision to oppose converting Wakefield Elementary School back to a traditional-calendar schedule. The school made the switch to a year-round calendar in 2007 to deal with an expected growth spurt that largely never materialized because of the recession.

Hill thinks Wakefield should stay on a year-round calendar because of expected growth when the economy improves.

"It's my hope that voters will look at the entire package," Hill said. "If voters want to go to the polls and vote on a single issue, there's nothing I can do about that."

Losurdo has campaigned to focus on student achievement, provide parental choice in student assignment and promote community involvement. But she's also come under fire from independent groups who've set up a website and sent out campaign mailers accusing her of making extremist statements and being a "Tea Party candidate" who will hurt the school system.

Assignment concerns

The District 3 seat is pivotal to Democrats because they would need to win it - and the other four seats on the ballot - to regain the majority. Republicans hope to re-elect Ron Margiotta in District 8 and elect Losurdo in District 3 to strengthen their sometimes shaky majority.

"They're intimidated by me," said Losurdo, who has spoken at Tea Party rallies. "They haven't attacked me on the issues of what I will do for Wake County."

One thing on which the candidates agree, but for different reasons, is that there are problems with the new student assignment plan, slated to be used for the 2012-13 school year.

The board is set to vote Oct. 18 on a plan that eliminates busing for socioeconomic diversity in favor of sending students to schools near their homes.

Losurdo said she is concerned some neighborhoods may no longer be sent to their current high schools. She's also worried about the 10 to 15 percent of families who are not expected to get their top choice in the new selection lottery that will be used to fill schools.

"It may be best to slow things and wait another year," Losurdo said.

Mansfield said she's concerned the new plan doesn't include a guaranteed "base assignment" for families. Instead, the new plan would have families pick from several choices with priority given if they pick their closest school.

Hill said he's concerned the new plan doesn't do enough to prevent schools from having large numbers of low-performing students. But he said he's not advocating a return to the old diversity policy.

"The old student assignment plan is water under the bridge," he said.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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