Politics & Government

She died in September but was elected Tuesday. Here’s how her seat will be filled.

The Wake County school board will fill the vacancy created by the September death of board member Kathy Hartenstine.
The Wake County school board will fill the vacancy created by the September death of board member Kathy Hartenstine.

The Wake County school board is now taking applications to fill the vacancy caused by the death of board member Kathy Hartenstine, with the goal of naming a successor before Christmas.

Hartenstine, 68, died Sept. 23 from what her family says were complications due to the flu. Hartenstine ran unopposed for election Tuesday so the board will interview applicants and pick a person to serve her term through November 2020.

“We want to make sure thoughtful candidates apply,” school board vice chairman Jim Martin said at Wednesday’s board meeting.

Hartenstine represented District 7, which includes Morrisville and parts of Cary and northwest Raleigh. Since her death, school board chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler has been responding to messages sent to Hartenstine’s email account.

“I’m reasonably confident there will be some interest from Morrisville,” said school board member Bill Fletcher.

The board will use a similar process to what was used when Hartenstine was appointed in 2017 to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Zora Felton.

The application period will run through Nov. 26. Applicants must live in District 7 and be eligible to vote. Candidates should submit:

A letter of interest, no more than five pages, outlining the candidate’s background and listing 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;

A resume;

Three letters of recommendation.

All materials submitted are considered public records and can be emailed to district7vacancy@wcpss.net or mailed or delivered to C/O District 7 Board of Education Vacancy, Wake County Board of Education, Crossroads I, 5625 Dillard Drive, Cary, NC 27518.

Applicants will be called in to be publicly interviewed by the school board on Dec. 11 and potentially Dec. 17 if there are many candidates. The vote and discussion for filling the vacancy is also required to take place in open session.

The new school board member will be one of nine people charged with governing North Carolina’s largest school system, which has more than 160,000 students and a $1.6 billion annual operating budget.

A major reason Hartenstine was selected in 2017 was that she was a former Wake County principal. A majority of school board members said they wanted to ensure a former Wake educator was on the board because Felton had been a retired teacher.

At least two people started write-in campaigns for the District 7 seat, but Hartenstine still received 95 percent of the vote.

“Thank you, #Wake County. Kathy would be so honored to know she earned the privilege to continue serving you on the #WCPSS Board of Education,” Wake County Commissioner Greg Ford, a friend of Hartenstine’s and also a former Wake principal, tweeted on Tuesday night.

“Instead we honor her memory and her work on behalf of all students & educators. #WakeBOE, you now have some smart, classy shoes to fill.”

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui
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