Wake Ed

Former school employee wants to shake up Wake County school board

Wake County school board District 1 election map adopted by the General Assembly in 2013.
Wake County school board District 1 election map adopted by the General Assembly in 2013. Wake County Public School System

Retired school facilities employee Donald Agee is running for the Wake County school board with a goal of trying to change the way that schools are built and operated in North Carolina’s largest school system.

Agee, 60, a former project manager in Wake’s facilities department for more than 27 years, is seeking the District 1 seat that stretches from northwest Raleigh to eastern Wake and into Garner. Agee is running as a critic of school system practices, which would put him at odds with the two other candidates who’ve filed so far in District 1.

“There’s some positive changes that can be done to improve things overall,” Agee said in an interview after filing Monday.

Agee, who lives in Zebulon, contends that eastern Wake “has gotten the short end over many years.” He cites how children in eastern Wake lag academically behind the rest of the county.

Agee, who handled plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems on school projects, also argues that school facilities in eastern Wake and the rest of the district aren’t being dealt with properly.

“There’s a lot of things that go into these buildings and it’s quite obvious that those in charge of the facilities department don’t have the ability to look at the designs to design them properly to save costs,” Agee said.

Agee points to the rising cost of school building projects, including questioning how the school board has authorized changes that will add millions of dollars to projects through adding collaborative learning spaces.

As part of the designs for new and renovated schools, Wake is now creating large areas where students can meet in to work in small groups, large groups or on their own. Supporters say creating these flexible learning areas where furniture can be moved around and walls can be erected or taken down better supports different learning styles.

Agee is a registered Republican and the officially non-partisan school board has a Democratic majority. Agee’s opponents are board Vice Chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler, a Democrat and longtime advocate for victims of sexual abuse; and Sheila W. Ellis, a Republican and former teacher turned insurance agent.

Ellis is not running as a critic of the board. Ellis thinks her experience as both a teacher and a parent would benefit the school board.

Johnson-Hostler is running on a five-point platform: student achievement, community engagement, resource equity, teacher capacity, and parental involvement.

The wild card is whether school board Chairman Tom Benton, a Democrat, chooses to enter the contest. The 2013 redistricting plan approved by the General Assembly resulted in Benton and Johnson-Hostler being put in the same district.

The filing period ends Friday at noon.