Wake Ed

Gary Lewis to run for seat on Wake County school board

New boundaries for the District 7 seat on the Wake County school board that were drawn up by the General Assembly.
New boundaries for the District 7 seat on the Wake County school board that were drawn up by the General Assembly.

Longtime PTA volunteer Gary Lewis plans to run for a seat on the Wake County school board in a district that covers much of the district’s southern border.

Lewis, 50, has filed paperwork to form a campaign committee for the newly revised District 7 seat, which includes parts of Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs, Apex and Cary. The Cary parent says his PTA experience means he’s familiar with the issues the school board faces and can quickly have an impact if elected.

“Basically I’ve spent the past 10 years involved with PTAs,” said Lewis, the treasurer of the Wake County PTA Council and the group’s president the previous two years.. “I saw it as the natural progression for me to continue to be an advocate for parents and students.”

This week, Peter Hochstaetter announced that he would also seek the District 7 seat. Hochstaetter, 35, is a corporate trainer who says he’s “a proponent of neighborhood schools and restoring power and decision-making authority to parents and local families.”

Depending on whether other candidates file in District 7, it could turn into a race between an insider and an outsider. No current school board member lives in District 7.

Hochstaetter is critical of the school board, saying he’d “bring stability and common sense back to the board.” Hochstaetter also sends his 6-year-old daughter to a private religious school.

In contrast, Lewis has a 16-year-old son at Enloe High School in Raleigh and a 14-year-old son at Mills Park Middle School in Cary. Lewis said he can relate both to families who send their children to magnet schools and those who attend their base school.

“I have seen both worlds and I have seen the contrast,” Lewis said. “I 100 percent believe magnet schools are awesome. I’d encourage the county to continue creating programs, but I realize it’s not for everybody.”

Lewis is a member of the district’s community engagement subcommittee for the strategic plan, which is trying to raise the graduation rate to 95 percent by 2020.

“I’m fairly supportive of the direction the board has been moving the last couple of years,” Lewis said. “I feel like the school system in general is doing a lot of work trying to find ways to reengage students and families.”

Lewis is a former IBM network architect who decided to become a stay-at-home father to help raise his sons and advocate on school issues. His wife supports the family working at GlaxoSmithKline,

“I’ve got a strong interest in making sure that we have adequate funding for not only our current school system, but with the exceptional growth that we’re seeing in Wake County,” Lewis said. “In my background as an IBM employee, one of my strong suits has been being a problem solver.”

Both Lewis and Hochstaetter are registered as Republicans. Officially school board races are non-partisan.

The General Assembly denied that partisan motives were behind the rewrite of the Wake school board lines in 2013. But past voting results indicate that the new lines could create a 5-4 Republican majority with the new District 7 being GOP leaning.

Things could be thrown up in the air if the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals orders that new lines be used in this November’s elections, when all nine school board seats are on the ballot. A hearing is scheduled for May 9.

Lewis said that if the courts order that the old lines be used this year, he’ll run for the current District 8 seat now held by board member Susan Evans. He wouldn’t have competition from her as Evans is running as the Democratic candidate for the N.C. Senate District 17 seat held by Republican Tamara Barringer.

The filing period doesn’t officially begin until June 13.