Here are some questions and answers to help you see where I stand

Watauga Democrat

(To Be Posted Online February 14)

1. What has inspired you to run for a seat on the Watauga County Board of Education? That’s easy, my kids. I am only one of two candidates that actually have children in our school system, a senior at WHS and a 7th grader at Cove Creek, plus a two year old at home. For 13 years I have watched as our school system has grown, jumped hurdles, faced challenges, and constantly persevered. I want to keep this going as long as possible. For the next 16 years I’ll have a child in our school system. This means for 16 years I will already have a part of me invested in the education system our county provides. I want to be a voice on the school board for the parents, the children, and the community as well as an advocate for the faculty and staff. Being a parent, I can relate to the struggles, sacrifices, concerns, and thoughts that run through the minds of other parents. I want to stand in the gap between the BOE and parents to be a trusted, sincere, and transparent BOE member.

2. As safety in schools becomes a growing concern, what steps would you take to ensure that our county is providing a safe learning environment? Every step possible! With a 25 year background in emergency services, and having firsthand training in active shooter scenarios, I know the risks and we aren’t immune to threats. The one thing I want to focus on is securing permanent funding for school nurses and SRO’s, not just grants. I love grants, don’t get me wrong. I’ve written many and been awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars, but grants are better used for things like equipment, not employment. There is always the possibility of the grant expiring or not being renewed, and then we lose that position. I want to explore other means of funding that will secure those positions for years to come, not just a year or two at a time. I would also like to get local emergency services more involved in the school system. Our kids see firefighters once a year for fire prevention and EMS when someone is sick. I’d love to see these organizations take a more active role in education and allow the students, staff, and faculty the opportunity to get to know and understand what they do a little better. We do active shooter training and some preplanning, but those activities are done in the summer or when school is out. I think having parents involved more in these events would bring on a stronger sense of security.

3. What is the biggest challenge the school system faces in your opinion? Retention. We have an ever growing affordable housing crisis in Watauga, and with current educator salaries, tied with inflation, why would anyone want to stay here. It’s unfortunate that Watauga is seen more as a steppingstone than a building block. We are just a pathway to other careers, and we need to figure out a way to hang on to what we have. I’m from here, spent K-8 at Cove Creek and graduated from Watauga High and the one thing I can’t recall is seeing so many new faces. Growing up we had the same teachers for years, I even had teachers that my parents had when they were in school. I would love to see a way for us to help offset housing issues through faculty housing, the way ASU used to do it. I know it may sound farfetched, but in reality, it would allow the educator the opportunity to get established here in Watauga and get rooted in the community.

4. What experiences do you have that would help you be a good Board of Education member? Over the years I have worn many hats, but none more important than that of a father. I have always been, and will continue to be, active in my kid’s lives. Whether I’m announcing at a softball game, cheering them on in an FFA competition (quietly since they don’t allow you to talk), or sitting on the BOE, I will be there for my kids, your kids, our kids. I want to bring a fathers heart to the board that reflects the desire a parent has for a brighter future for their children. Like I said in question 2, I have 25 years’ experience in emergency services, as both a firefighter and EMT. I see the school board a lot like the fire service. Our job as firefighters is not just suppression, it is prevention. The board is there to prevent bad things from coming into our school system. But if something bad does happen, we are there to stop it from spreading. I am also a former fire and EMS instructor for NC. I had the opportunity to see young adults, many that were still in high school, come through my classes after receiving their education from our school system. The knowledge they obtained greatly benefited them because they could think things through and use common sense as a means to overcome any situation. I was always proud to see students succeed in emergency services that were products of Watauga County Schools. Lastly, I am from Watauga County, 7 generations deep. I didn’t move here, I was born here and proud to call this home. I have a local’s knowledge and understand that what works in one area of the county might not in another part. Cultures are different, personalities are different, attitudes are different, but that’s what makes Watauga great. We all feel more comfortable and confident in someone we can relate to.

5. What is your No. 1 priority if elected to the Board of Education? I hope every candidate says the students are top priority. If not, then they are running for the wrong reason. My second priority will be communication. I want to be a board member that a community member, student, educator, or anyone else can come to. We need to keep board members that can listen, not just talk. I know that we will face issues that some may oppose and some support, but I want everyone to know that their voices were heard and taken into consideration. The current board is made up of a group that are vastly different, yet similar in thought. They have a healthy respect for one another and are open-minded in their conversations. They may not see eye to eye on certain things, but they respect one another enough to listen. We need to keep that momentum going!

Pam's Picks

(To Be Posted Online By February 15)

1. What are your unique life/occupational experiences you believe will bring a different and important perspective to the Watauga County School Board? To my knowledge, I am only one of two candidates that actually have children in our school system currently. I have a senior, a 7th grader and one in diapers, so I’m in this for the long haul. I get to see firsthand the struggles, stresses and drama (yes drama) that some of our children face. I would like to see parents more involved in the education of their children and not just relying on the teachers to provide the knowledge. I was a former Fire/EMS Instructor for NC, so I had a mix of students from all ages (18+) and backgrounds. I could see a difference in the way students learned because of the way they were brought up. The older generation seemed to have a better handle on things because back in the day, their parents were more involved in everyday learning. Now, parents are working 40+ hours a week to make ends meet, holding multiple jobs, using technology as a babysitter and are too exhausted to know what our children are doing for 7-10 hours a day at school. We as a society are treating our schools and educators like babysitters with no real interest in the everyday lives of our students. Lastly, a life experience that I would use is that I was bullied growing up. Even as a young adult, I found I got pushed around and that has made me a stronger adult. Now, I take a strong stand against those who prey on the weak.

2. What do you consider to be the most pressing issue facing Watauga County Schools and how will you address this issue if elected? Unfortunately, Watauga seems to always get lumped in with Wake, Mecklenburg or Orange Counties and folks think we all have the same issues. We are Watauga, we are different and we are a model system for NC. We are blessed to not be facing the national crises that so many NC counties are. We have to stay strong, stay vigilant and keep our guard up to prevent things from creeping in. As a firefighter, my job isn’t just putting out fires; it is preventing them from ever happening. That is the way I see our board, let’s keep the bad from ever happening. The one thing I would like to see, that I have a soft spot for, is retaining our school nurses and resource officers as part of our budget and not funded by grants. Grants can expire (can be renewed), but not always guaranteed. The fact that our nurses are critical to the wellbeing of our students and staff, but some have to constantly be worried about their funding, is wrong. If elected, I want to pursue options for permanent funding, not just grants. Call me crazy, but I feel like health and security should be high priority.

3. Do you believe the Watauga County Board of Commissioners provides adequate funding for Watauga County’s public schools? Please explain. I do believe our board and commissioners work fairly well together and have the student’s best interest at heart. They have been able to build a wonderful new high school, provide upgrades and renovations where needed, and now we are patiently waiting on the new Valle Crucis School to open. In the near future, we will have to address a new Hardin Park, major renovations/additions to Parkway, as well as roof repairs for other schools and I’m sure other projects. With that said, the commissioners are already aware and beginning long range plans to support these matters. I do feel like we have a pretty good marriage between the commissioners and BOE and I’d like to keep it that way.

4. If you could only increase Watauga County public school spending in one area, what would it be and why? That is a loaded question! There are so many places I would like to see an increase that I couldn’t pick just one. Of course, I’d love to see educator salary increases, but I would also love to see free breakfast and lunches, school sponsored fieldtrips shouldn’t come out of individual school budgets, fully funded nurses and SRO’s (as mentioned in question 2), beefing up equipment in our trades classes at the high school, full time receptionists at every school, more funding for athletics so that students and parents do not have to raise support for every little thing they need. Honestly, the list is as long as my arm! When it comes to education, there will never be enough money for all the needs.

5. Do you support or oppose all/none/some of the ‘Parent’s Bill of Rights’ enacted for public schools by the state legislature in August 2023 (SB 49)? Please explain. I do support SB 49 because it takes us back to the way educating our children should be. I particularly like 115C-76.35 because it lays out parental involvement and allows us as parents more say so. Most parents aren’t aware of this and I’d like to see this more publicized so they know they can get involved. I feel like this will help bring parents and teachers closer together too. There is a great divide currently between the two, with little communication between them. Growing up, if I done something wrong, my parents knew before I got home, and that was BEFORE email. It seems like the more options for communication we have, the less we use it. We need to get back to having open lines of communication between the adults and stop using the children as carrier pigeons.

6. Do you support or oppose the “Moms for Liberty” organization and activities related to public schools? Please explain. I honestly had to look this one up because I’m not familiar with this organization. I do see what they stand for, but without diving extremely deep, I cannot say I support or oppose. I am very cautious about being affiliated with any group or organization, especially one that is less than three years old. I would have to say, looking at the date of formation; it was organized on the heels of Covid, so it was probably formed out of anger towards the government.

7. What are your ideas/proposals for increasing public participation with Watauga’s schools? As a parent, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to attend BOE meetings to stay up to date. I would love to see WCS branch out a little and start holding meetings away from the central office and possibly hold a few in schools. Maybe on the west end we could combine schools and go to Cove Creek or the new Valle Crucis. I’d also like to see the BOE meetings live streamed and archived for the exact same reason. If a parent wants to attend, but time doesn’t allow, they could bring up the meeting online to watch. I would love to see more business support put towards our schools too. It seems like everyone “sponsors” or “supports” the college, but the focus needs to be on OUR kids and OUR community. Our students are neglected because the limelight is always on the college. Those students came here; our students are from here, so let’s lift up and encourage what’s ours.