Wake Ed

Wake County school board to fill vacant board seat Thursday

Wake County school board member Zora Felton passed away on Nov. 16, 2016. The school board is scheduled to appoint her replacement on Jan. 26, 2017.
Wake County school board member Zora Felton passed away on Nov. 16, 2016. The school board is scheduled to appoint her replacement on Jan. 26, 2017.

The Wake County school board expects to have a new member by the end of business Thursday to fill the void created by the death of Zora Felton.

Board members will interview technologist Phaedra Boinodiris, retired educator Kathy Hartenstine and attorney Mary Pollard for the District 7 seat covering northwest Raleigh, Morrisville and part of Cary. The board will then appoint one of the three candidates to finish Felton’s two-year term, which ends in 2018.

The nine-member board has been running at less than full strength since Felton died Nov. 16, a week after she won re-election in an unopposed contest.

Under state law, the entire school board meeting must take place in open session. The board will separately interview each applicant.

After the interviews are over, the eight members will vote until a person gets a majority of the ballots. If no candidate gets a majority in the first round, the person who received the fewest votes will be dropped from consideration.

The last time the school board had vacancies to fill was in 2013 when Tom Benton and Bill Fletcher were chosen to replace members who had resigned. The board fills the seat instead of the major political parties because the position is non-partisan.

Originally, four people applied to replace Felton. But Dawn Clark withdrew because she would have had to resign her position as a guidance counselor at Martin Middle School in Raleigh if she had been appointed to the board.

Applicants were asked to list three strategies for advancing the school board’s Strategic Plan. The plan calls for raising Wake’s graduation rate to 95 percent by 2020 and producing graduates ready for productive citizenship as well as higher education or a career.

The candidates stressed in their applications how they feel their individual backgrounds would make them a good fit for helping govern North Carolina’s largest school system.

▪ Boinodiris says her technology and business background will help prepare Wake students for the new 21st century workplace. The Morrisville resident is a cognitive solutions leader at IBM and a technologist.

▪ Hartenstine says her 37 years of education experience will be of great use in helping move the school system forward. The Raleigh resident retired as principal of Baileywick Elementary School in Raleigh last January.

▪ Pollard says her legal training will help her to be an effective advocate for students and the school system. The Raleigh resident is executive director of N.C. Prisoner Legal Services.

Board members might turn to Hartenstine to get another educator to replace Felton who was a retired social studies teacher. Felton’s death has left the board with no member who was an educator with extensive experience working in the Wake school system.

Lindsay Mahaffey is the only Wake school board member with K-12 teaching experience. But most of her teaching experience has been in other states. She briefly substitute taught in Wake but stopped after being elected to the board in November.