Stanly GOP school board candidates participate in forum

Published 9:46 am Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Six school board candidates running in races with opposition in the May 17 Republican primary answered questions at the Stanly County GOP forum April 26.

Questions were given to candidates prior to the forum to allow them time to come up with their responses.

Jack Lambert, vice president of the Cabarrus County Republican Party, served as moderator for the forum.

The candidates were four running for an at-large seat (incumbent Anthony Graves, Melvin Poole, Robin Whittaker and John Wright) and the two candidates for District 1 (Dustin Lisk, who was appointed to the board to fill the vacancy of Jeff Chance, and candidate Meghan Almond).

The first question for the four at-large candidates asked what the key issues facing Stanly County Schools were. Poole answered first, saying the one critical issue he sees with the board is public trust.

“There are no impossibilities if people trust the board,” Poole said. “You don’t cultivate trust by shutting people out.”

Whittaker said the four things facing SCS are “recruitment, retention, compensation and morale,” referring to teachers and staff. She also said the school system needs to improve its “customer relations skills.”

Wright mentioned social emotional learning (SEL) and gender changing of students being kept from parents, adding “nobody trusts the school board.” He said board members should be visiting schools, listening to teachers and students.

Graves said it’s the obligation of SCS to “make sure we receive every dollar” from federal and state governments, along with applying for grants, before going to the local government. He said he was proud the  board has “made great strides in making sure we hire people in the school system that have been able to get a handle on the finances and put us headed in the right direction.”

Lambert asked the District 1 candidates about the primary job of the school board.

Almond said the board’s job is to “provide the opportunity to students to receive a solid education” and to make decisions on policy, saying she would fight against any mandates “that violate freedom and the rights of people like the last two years.”

Lisk said the board “is here to set the policy to carry out the vision of our district. We educate students and provide them opportunities to succeed in life, no matter where they fall in the socioeconomic scale.” He added the board needs “appropriate funding” from the county and state to “modernize buildings, technology, quality teachers and staff and administrators, and ultimately, (build) a strong curriculum that’s available as an offering to all.”

The second questions for the at-large candidates was how to address differences of opinion between board members or between the board and SCS administration.

Whittaker said “you have to be respectful and fair.”

“You have to believe in the democratice process,” she said. “Once the votes are taken, you have to support that.”

She said there is a time to speak up and a time to be quiet, repeating three times, “you have to listen.”

Wright said the “best way to get something accomplished is meeting in the middle, negotiating and having conversation.”

He said parents should be allowed to have feedback.

“Every decision we make affects the community,” he said.

Graves said the board has had in the past some “heated discussionsm” but added “if you ask any of the board members who had a disagreement with me, I would think that if they were asked they would say that I was always respectful, that I appreciated their opinions and that I took it as an opportunity for me to try to come up with ways to persuade them around to my opinion.”

Poole said he believed in chain of commands as a former member of the military, saying complaints about a principal, for example, should go to the principal first and then the superintendent before involving the school board.

The final question for the two District 1 candidates asked what they would do to address learning loss stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve got three words: teachers, teachers, teachers,” Lisk said.

He noted teachers and administrators have worked overtime and long hours, and the system is down in overall teacher numbers, so “really we just need to get back to normal.”

Almond said she has seen learning loss with her children in SCS, saying they were sent home with packets and had “Google Meets that were pretending to be education,” along with “needless quarantines” through January of this year. She also referred to “issues in curriculum” which included SEL and critical race theory.”

The primary election is May 17, with early voting now open.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored four times by the North Carolina Press Association.

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