The Wake school board has had a productive if challenging time since 2011, when Democrats wrested control from a Republican group that ruled for two tumultuous and not very productive years. It’s likely a good group of incumbents will continue, which is important at a time when schools face challenges to maintain some kind of economic diversity and when all public schools are being challenged by an agenda in the General Assembly that has created more charters and a misguided voucher program, both of which drain funding from conventional public schools.
Adding to those complications is an ongoing dispute over district lines for the school board, which were outrageously redrawn by Republicans in the legislature to give their party an advantage. But those lines were overturned, and so the 2011 boundaries of school board districts will be in place for two more years.
We offer here our endorsements for the Wake school board, believing that the incumbents have done a good job and deserve re-election. That said, challengers have raised valid points about the cost of schools and the responsiveness to parents’ concerns. Even good school board members can become overwhelmed with constituent requests, but it’s important to respond and to listen. And board members need not be afraid to question administrators on costs and procedures and testing. We would remind the incumbents of that.
In Districts 3, 5, 6 and 7, there are single candidates, and they’re good, experienced candidates. In order, Roxie Cash (a former board member), Jim Martin, Christine Kushner and Zora Felton will be signing on for two years.
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This eastern Wake district has been ably represented by incumbent Tom Benton, a former teacher and principal. Benton has done his duty as board chairman, and he’s a thoughtful person ready to wrestle with diversity issues (socioeconomic diversity is getting harder to maintain) and with continuing to support Wake’s teachers and school families. He’s a thoughtful, careful listener well respected by his fellow board members and deserves re-election, without hesitation. The N&O’s endorsement goes, again, to Benton. His opponents are Donald Agee, Mary Beth Ainsworth and Sheila Ellis.
Monika Johnson-Hostler has done a good, responsive job for the folks in this southeast Wake district during her first term on the board. A PTA parent and Girl Scout leader who works for the N.C. Coalition Against Sexual Assault, she is a good listener, responsive to parents and importantly, in tune with the other members of this good, progressive board. She is being challenged by Peter Hochstaetter and Mark Ivey. Anyone who runs for the school board, anywhere, is looking at long hours and considerable stress, dealing with constituents who want the best for their children, so those willing to serve are to be admired. Johnson-Hostler will use good experience from her first term in a second, for which we endorse her.
This east Wake district is represented by Keith Sutton, a veteran board member, who did some tough duty as chairman during some contentious days a few years back with Republicans then in control of the Wake commissioners board. That board, of course, has budget say over the schools. Sutton, who works as a victims’ advocate with the N.C. Governor’s Crime Commission, managed to keep his cool and to attempt to negotiate with commissioners, and yet remained a forceful advocate. His experience and calm are valued on this board. His opponent is Heather Elliott, but Sutton’s easily earned another term.
Some good, earnest folks, Gary Lewis, Gil Pagan and Lindsay Mahaffey are seeking this seat from southwest Wake — parts of Cary, Holly Springs, Apex and Fuquay-Varina. Lewis is our choice in this race based on his long experience with his kids’ PTA (he formerly worked for IBM) and his knowledge of growth challenges. Lewis knows the issues, such as a possible teacher shortage and the need for more pre-kindergarten classes in Wake, and he was encouraged to run by departing board member Susan Evans. He would be a good blend as well with the incumbents now on the board.
Central-western Wake has a veteran board member, Bill Fletcher, as its representative on the board, and that’s good. A Republican and member of an old Raleigh family, Fletcher knows more about school programs, in reading and other areas, than most board members and his experiences gives him good insight into problem-solving. He’s a Realtor by occupation. Fletcher’s challenger is Michael Tanbusch, and as with all who take the trouble to file for this tough duty, he deserves credit for that. But in Bill Fletcher, District 9 is in safe and thoughtful hands.