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hree  seats  are  up  for  grabs  this  fall  on  the  Watauga  County  Board  of  Education.   The  winners  will  be  tasked  with  leading  a  nine-­school  system  under  the  direction   of  a  new  superintendent.  Although  many  of  the  candidates  are  supported  by  the   local  political  parties,  the  race  is  nonpartisan  and  at-­large.  The  two  candidates   with  the  most  votes  will  receive  four-­year  terms,  and  the  candidate  who  places  

third  will  receive  a  two-­year  term.  The  winning  candidates  will  join  Lee  Warren  and  Delora   Hodges  on  the  board. The  candidates  were  asked  to  answer  three  questions  in  100  words  or  less.  Their  responses  have   been  edited  for  spelling,  grammar  and  word  limit.



Jay Fenwick

Deborah Greene

1) I have children in our schools right now, unlike the other candidates and returning board members. A parent’s voice DQGYLVLRQZRXOGDGGVLJQLoFDQWYDOXH to the board. Being a college teacher, I understand what teachers face each day; particularly, the time required to design meaningful learning experiences from textbook resources, technology resources, etc. Years of service and leadership with school PTAs and the Watauga Education Foundation have provided me opportunities to interact with and understand better the administration’s role in our school system. And yet, I bring a fresh perspective because I do not come from the system itself.

1) $XQLTXHoQDQFLDOEDFNJURXQG that includes extensive experience in budgeting, cost-control, internal auditing DQGoQDQFLDOUHSRUWLQJ7RUHJDLQ and maintain public trust, the board must demonstrate accountability and responsibility for the precious resources entrusted to their care. My experience will be invaluable in training other PHPEHUVLQUHDGLQJoQDQFLDOVWDWHments, understanding the importance of internal controls and the necessity of restructuring the budgeting process. I am also the only board member that has home-schooled their child and understands the challenges of the home school parents.

2) Two immediate challenges face the next board: obeying the new school calendar law and designing a merit pay plan mandated for salary bonuses. However, I interpret the question as my personal challenge. In past experiences on boards and committees, I have been oUPDQGDUJXHGP\SRVLWLRQDQG\HWVWLOO found room for negotiation and compromise. But I know that some school board decisions will not please everyone. I pledge to listen with an open mind and heart to anyone and everyone. Having to face people unhappy about a decision will not be an enjoyable part of the job.

2) After attempting to bring crucial issues to the attention of school administration for nine years, it is evident that the Board of Education has lacked leadership, has collectively stuck their heads in the sand and immediately circled the wagons when issues arise. Instead of making the necessary changes, being open and transparent, administration covers up situations. It will be a challenge to turn this staunch mindset into a more cooperative, open, common sense, non-political unit that becomes public servants and members of a team of parents, teachers, staff and citizens working together cooperatively WRSXWRXUNLGVoUVW

ASU computer science professor

3) Four schools lost their pre-K classrooms, stranding 72 Watauga children. I watched Bethel parents raise this issue repeatedly at the September BOE town hall, and I would be proud to bring their determination with me to the school board. Fortunately, some Bethel children have opportunities for slots in the Cove Creek classroom. But there still remain children without pre-K education. We all know the evidence shows that this program helps at-risk youngsters get ready for school and then succeed in school. Pre-K is a program we just have WRoQGDZD\WRNHHS‹IRUHYHU\FKLOG that needs it.

Owner of Integrated Pensions

3) The school board was contacted recently with an inquiry into children from Ashe, Avery and Caldwell counties attending our schools. The school board seized this one inquiry to readdress the failed attempt to charge these students for attending our schools. I would have not taken the “knee jerk� reaction route. ... We are about educating children. We embrace children from families that reside here illegally, and we should embrace children who live in neighboring counties that live more than 15 miles from the nearest school in their home county.


Ron Henries

Retired teacher and principal, current ASU instructor 1) I have spent the last 39 years in the school system as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and ASU instructor. The current board members come from a variety of backgrounds, but none have spent that much time as an educator. Some of my fellow candidates have spent a considerable time in education and some have not, however, I am the only candidate who has served on the Watauga County Board of Education. 2) The greatest challenge to any board member is funding. The school system receives the majority of money from the state. This funding is based on the number of students we serve. There is a portion of the money that comes from the federal government, but it is GHVLJQDWHGIRUVSHFLoFSURJUDPV7KH third source of money comes from the local government, the county commisVLRQHUV3UHSDULQJDQHIoFLHQWEXGJHW that meets the needs of the students and being able to fund necessary programs is always the hardest challenge to accomplish. 3) The Board of Education makes decisions based on data provided by the FHQWUDORIoFHDGPLQLVWUDWLYHVWDIIGLVcussions among board members, calls from parents and interested parties, and in compliance with state, federal and local laws and procedures. Since I have not been a board member during the last few months and did not have access to the same information provided to the board members, it would be unprofessional and irresponsible for me to answer this question.

2 3

QUESTIONS 1.  What  distinguishes  you  from  current  board  members   and  your  fellow  candidates?   2.  What  aspect  of  serving  on  the  Board  of  Education  do   you  believe  will  present  the  greatest  challenge  to  you?   3.  Choose  one  decision  the  Board  of  Education  has  made  in   the  past  few  months.  Explain  why  you  agree  or  disagree   with  that  decision.  How  would  you  have  approached  it?


Barbara Kinsey

Retired English and Latin teacher 1) I have had more than 38 years of classroom teaching experience, engaging in what I consider to be that most sacred relationship in educaWLRQ‹WKDWRIVWXGHQWDQGWHDFKHU$V president of Watauga County AssociaWLRQRI(GXFDWRUVDQGDVRQHRIWKHoUVW one hundred Teacher-Trainers for the North Carolina Teacher Academy, I have also worked extensively with other teachers and administrators. Probably my proudest achievement, however, is being a loving and involved parent of two daughters and one son under H[WUHPHO\GLIoFXOWFRQGLWLRQV 2) In so many choices and policies which the Board of Education must make, information which the public cannot be privy to must weigh heavily on its decisions. This is particularly true for personnel and other legal judgments as well as in many student issues. I understand the privacy laws involved and support their implementation completely. Nevertheless, it can EHGLIoFXOWWRVHHWKDWFLWL]HQVFDQQRW always understand outcome without additional documentation. 3) 7KLVTXHVWLRQLVGLIoFXOWLIQRW impossible, to answer, as all decisions which the Board of Education has to make follow factual information presented to them. Impact to the school and community are among only a few of the pieces of evidence which the board must consider. The only recent decision by the board with which I completely agreed was the choice to issue a mandate that children under a certain age or grade level must be accompanied and supervised by an adult when attending a Watauga High School sports event.



Fred Oliver

Brenda Reese

Retired founder and owner of Cary Internal Medicine 1) Unlike most of the candidates, I would be an “outsider� to the school system, because I’ve had no involvement in (formal) education for 30+ years. I consider that a positive attribute, since I’ve not been indoctrinated by the establishment and could provide a fresh, unvarnished viewpoint on the issues, and possibly some “outside the box� thinking. Organizational skills, common sense and other abilities that facilitated my success in starting and running a business for more than two decades are applicable to many of the problems facing the Watauga County Schools. 2) If elected to the school board, I would have some “catching up� to do to become more knowledgeable about the programs and terminology. The greatest challenge for me, personally, would be my intolerance of bureaucracy. Organizations, particularly those in government, seem to want to replace judgment and common sense with rules and regulations, which almost always have unintended consequences. 3)7KLQNLQJRIWKHSDVWoYHWRVL[ meetings, I don’t recall a lot of actual decisions. Lots of reports, semi-automatic DSSURYDORIoHOGWULSVDQGSROLF\UHYLsions, but not many decisions. The closure of the Bethel after-school program comes to mind, and decisions to adjust fees for high school facility use and student parking. What probably affected the most people was requiring that younger students at high school games be accompanied by an adult. I agree with that new policy and believe it was well-implemented and well-supported. It promotes safety for the students and enjoyment of the game for attendees.

Principal of Freedom Trail Elementary in Elk Park 1) The fact that I am currently working in the K-12 public education system in North Carolina keeps me abreast of the issues facing education on a day-to-day basis. This experience will greatly reduce the learning curve for me when I serve on the board. I regularly deal with teacher and parent concerns about accountability, the changes in curriculum due to the adoption of Common Core and how to provide differentiated services to every child in my school on a greatly reduced budget. This distinguishes me from current board members and my fellow candidates. 2) The greatest challenge I expect to face when serving on the board will be funding and determining how to utilize limited funds for maximum results when so many needs exist. The funding system for public schools has many different sources and restrictions for each source. This can make the process confusing to the public when we can fund things considered dreams when we cannot fund needs. My top priority is to keep the teacher-student ratio as small as possible. 3) One of the recent decisions our board made was to require parent/ adult supervision for elementary students at school events. I support this decision because it deals with safety for our children. I believe the board approached this wisely, and all adminLVWUDWRUVZRUNHGWRJHWKHUDWWKHoUVW event (football game) to implement the new procedure effectively.

COMING SUNDAY, OCT. 21 The  Watauga  Democrat  will  examine  the  races  for  N.C.  House  and  N.C.  Senate.

Elections Guide: Board of Education  

The Watauga Democrat examines the six candidates running for Watauga County Board of Education.

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