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City school board election features two contested races

Revised on: 10.9.2018 at 01:28 p.m.

Posted on: 10.9.2018 at 03:20 p.m.

Coleman Barbour

Elgin Collier

Rev. David Flowers, Sr.

Whiteville voters will select city school board members in two districts as well as for an at-large seat. All five candidates replied to a survey of their positions by The News Reporter.

Two city school board seats are contested: Incumbent Coleman D. Barbour faces challenger Elgin Collier for his at-large seat. Incumbent Carlton Prince faces challenger Anna Hall Richardson in Whiteville’s district 1. 

David Flowers, who is unopposed in Whiteville’s district 2, also answered the questionnaire. Questions follow, with the answer from each candidate.

 

Anna Richardson

Carlton Prince

What makes you the most qualified candidate for school board?

BARBOUR: The reasons I am the most qualified to be a school board member is the fact that I have 40 years of experience in education. I have been a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and assistant superintendent. I had certification and was employed in two states, North Carolina for 30 years and South Carolina for 10 years and presently, I am on the North Carolina School Board Association board of directors. After having been on the Whiteville City School Board for four years and chairman of the board for the last two years, I feel confident I am highly qualified for the position of school board member. In addition, I am a lifelong educator.   

COLLIER: My life long advocacy and public service qualifies me for school board; not shying away from the difficult, tough issues our system faces nor afraid to address them. It was instilled in us as students here, to be the best but to life others as well.  As a native of Whiteville, an Alum of Whiteville High, it was important for my children to be a part of the Wolfpack Pride.

Now, my background in Social Work has equipped me with important skills needed to work with at-risk youth, with the Take Charge Program, senior citizens, with Columbus County Department of Aging, and individuals with mental disabilities. As co-founder of No Books, No Basketball, which encourages academics before sports, student-athletes such as Central Middle girls’ basketball, received tutoring and skills development; which brought 3 back-to-back championships before being dismantled by the current Superintendent after being questioned publically about (an alleged) sexual assault of student by staff. However, tutoring and skills development is still available. 

FLOWERS: My experience of being on the board for several years makes me the best person for the position. I know the language of the board, I know the direction of the board, and I don’t have to be trained, so that probably makes me the most qualified person for the board. And I have the students at heart.

PRINCE: I have always had a deep passion for teaching and have committed my professional life to provide quality education for all students.  I have a proven record as a teacher of English, chemistry, history and speech, principal, associate superintendent, a college instructor and a school board member and chairman. Leadership roles in professional education, civic, and church organizations on the local, district, and state level gave me valuable insight.  I served in the Army.  My experiences enable me to see issues from multiple perspectives that others might not have. I spent my professional career in the Whiteville City Schools.  I know the city schools, its history, and its plans for the future and the community.  Awareness of current trends and innovations enables me to continue advocating for educating all our children, supporting the professionals who serve them and encouraging support from many parties. I am proud of our district’s accomplishments.

RICHARDSON: I am the most qualified candidate because I can offer a unique perspective to the issues at hand. As a parent of children who attend schools in our district, I am deeply invested in the education they, as well as their peers, receive. In order to make fair and informed decisions, it is vital to analyze issues through a parental lens. Secondly, I am an experienced educator. Currently, I teach English at Southeastern Community College, and I have 13 years experience in the public school system, nine of those at Whiteville High School. I understand the instructional needs of today’s students, who are vastly different than students of the past. Finally, I am an active community member who wants to see my hometown and our school system thrive.  I want to serve my community and ensure that Whiteville is a great place to live, work, and learn.

Do you favor merging the city and county schools? What would be the benefits; what would be the negatives?

BARBOUR: I do not favor merger of Whiteville City and Columbus County Schools. There will be absolutely no benefits for Whiteville City Schools if the two school systems were merged. The negatives for Whiteville City would be a loss of finances which include local, state, federal, and grant funding. There will be a loss of employment, loss of academic standards and professional development, loss of continuous upgrade of school facilities and a loss of community pride. 

COLLIER: As of now, I don’t favor the merger. The benefit of merging would simply be having one school system. So, basically I am pro Whiteville. As for a negative, the fabric of our community, our culture, and tradition regardless of how flawed the current atmosphere is, would be dismantled forever.  Remember what just happened to Chadbourn Middle.  Once the results from the study are reported back, a better assessment of the idea can be made.

FLOWERS: I do not favor the merging of the systems because bigger does not mean better. If we merge the systems, we’re going to lose a lot of money in the process. Our systems existed for a lot of years without being merged, and each one of us has done well. 

I don’t think there’s an advantage: we’d lose our superintendent and other personnel; we’d lose teachers. we’d lose monies coming into our school system. So my suggestion is, if it’s not broke, don’t try to fix it. 

I think we have a very unique environment wherein we are family, and I just don’t want to lose that.

PRINCE: No. I do not favor a merger. I have always fought merger and will continue to do that.  According to the 2018 Local School Finance Study by the Public School Forum of North Carolina, Whiteville City Schools received $802.00 per student in local funding from our County Commissioners compared to the state average of $1,563.00. If merger would increase local funding to the state average or above for every student, it could be a benefit.  Otherwise, I see no benefit. There are many negatives to a merger.  First, there would be no city board of education, superintendent or central office staff.  Second, the city school district would lose complete control over its finances—local, state, federal, and grants.  Third, the city school system would lose control of personnel and main decision-making authority.  Fourth, our district would have small representation on a new county school board.  I am definitely against merger.

RICHARDSON: Whiteville City Schools has a long and proud tradition, and the merger is an emotionally-charged topic. The study that is being executed by June Atkinson, Phillip Price, and Emerald Education is a positive start to analyzing the facts and figures of the potential merger. In November, when Emerald Education presents their findings, I truly believe the data collected will prove that a merger of the two systems will not benefit the students in either district. In fact, large school systems like Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake County are considering splitting their systems because small school districts have proven to be more successful. In education, bigger is not always better.

What can the school board do to help classroom teachers succeed?

BARBOUR: Board members are to make sure the proper support for academic progress is given to each teacher for each student during either whole class instruction, group instruction or individualized instruction. That starts with provisions for a safe and orderly school environment.  Class size reductions of fifteen-twenty students in each classroom would be ideal along with the proper updated academic resources such as textbooks, supplementary materials, technology and continuous meaningful professional development.  Teachers need to be provided a highly qualified progressive instructional leader (principal) who leads school instruction to points beyond a sound basic education and the instruction must be sustained instruction throughout the school year in the proper facilities. Teachers need to be given a monetary incentive once a year for their daily deliverance of instruction. All of the seven provisions mentioned will help teachers be more successful in the classroom, but it will take at least all seven.

COLLIER: Teachers need to know they are valued/supported as professionals and respected as people.  All teachers should have confidence that the school board is here to aide them as they prepare students with life-long skills for their future. Also, I do not agree with the Superintendent having sole authority to make decisions that affect the lives of teachers nor students. We need to return the distribution of teacher bonuses during the month of November and/or distribute the bonuses in two installments; that’s a start of much needed teacher appreciation.

FLOWERS: One of the things we need to do is listen to our teachers. Just because we are school board members does not mean we have all the answers to every problem. One thing that troubles me is that some boards think they know all about the classroom situation, and they have never taught. I think our greatest responsibility is to listen to our teachers. I think our system is small enough that from time to time we can come together and discuss with them their deepest needs to succeed in the classroom.

PRINCE: Teachers are a school’s greatest asset and the backbone to the educational process. The school board should provide classroom teachers’ security and safety, comfortable well equipped buildings, a pleasant conducive learning environment, the resources, materials, equipment, technology and any other educational instructional needs for teaching.  The board should provide time for teachers to teach, time to select, design, plan, coordinate and articulate the chosen curriculum.  The board should provide time for instructional preparation and professional development.  The board should use its funds wisely along with the state salary to compensate teachers for their work at a professional level.  The school board should provide highly qualified principals, support staff and assistants to support the teachers in their responsibilities.  These additional personnel should be proactive in counseling, behavior management, discipline, attendance and citizenship to encourage and assist students in any way. The school board should support, encourage and reward classroom teachers.

RICHARDSON: Teaching in today’s classroom is challenging, yet extremely rewarding. It’s important for board members to, first and foremost, treat teachers as professionals and trust them with the incredible responsibility of educating our children. The school board should also support them with necessary resources to provide the optimum educational experience for all students. As a board member, it is integral to welcome teacher input when needed because they are the ones who know students best.

Did the school board make the right decision in renovating the current Whiteville High School campus versus constructing a new campus out of town and why or why not?

BARBOUR: The Whiteville City School Board members made the correct decision based on the distribution of county funds made available to them for school construction. The decision was to build new buildings and renovate some buildings on the same site. Rebuilding on the current site gave the school board the opportunity to create and be imaginative in developing the best school at that site for the students and community of Whiteville. The funding dictated the location of the campus.

COLLIER: Yes, the right decision was made to renovate. This stays with the tradition of location on Lee Street; it’s Home Improvement!

FLOWERS: One of the things that we don’t have inside the city limits is a proper place to put a new school. If you put it outside the city limits, then we’d be leaning more toward merger of the systems. I’d like for us to have a new school, but right at this particular juncture, we don’t have the resources to build a new school facility. I think with the resources we have we’re giving Whiteville City Schools a makeover that will give it a great appearance; not only appearances, but will give us more room to actually teach students.

PRINCE: Yes. While it is true that I had wanted something better more like the big majority of high schools in the state–a self-contained campus for our students on the state’s recommended acreage—double what we have—it became clear throughout the process of addressing our property and facility needs that there was not the political or economic support needed to bring that to fruition.  Yes.  I believe the school board’s hard work in planning and procuring funds to build a new 71,000 square foot high school building on our current Whiteville High School campus and other renovations is a great move. When constructed, our students will have a safe learning environment that will better help them achieve positive learning outcomes. The design and plan are beautiful.  Hopefully, the contract will be awarded in December.  I am very proud of my work on the project.

RICHARDSON: The renovation of Whiteville High School, which will begin in early 2019, has various benefits. Primarily, it is fiscally responsible; the district can renovate the current campus and avoid the financial burden of purchasing land and building from scratch. Secondly, keeping the school at its current location allows accessibility for students who walk to school, which fosters positive attendance rates. Finally, the Lee Street location is historical and evokes pride. The buildings that will remain, as well as the new additions with up-to-date facilities and stronger security, offer a sense of community in a central location, which strengthens our town.

In what instances should students be allowed to transfer to Columbus County Schools, and in what instances should they not be allowed to do so?

BARBOUR: All students should attend the schools in the district of their resident. If a student would like to transfer to another school district, there are proper proceedings and documentation of those proceedings to transfer. All requests for transfer and continue to live out of district should be issued or not issued based on the individual’s academic needs. 

COLLIER: Students can transfer to Columbus County schools when families move or considered out of district. However, students should not be allowed to transfer simply for sports. 

FLOWERS: If there is a situation where both parents are teaching or working in that system, it would be convenient for them to have their child or children with them, so they don’t have to run all over creation to pick them up (in cases of hardship).

PRINCE: Student transfers is an aspect of public education that is often at odds with wanting to do what is perceived as best for each individual student. Often school districts that have a shrinking student population must err on the side of what’s best for the whole population and try to limit transfers out to maintain financial solvency. Fortunately for Whiteville City Schools our success has given us more students who want to come here than who want to leave.  The Whiteville School Board has a great trusting relationship with our superintendent and lets him work with families on a case by case basis to determine whether a transfer or release is appropriate. The board supports the superintendent.

RICHARDSON: Fortunately, very few students want to leave our great schools; however, if a family has extenuating circumstances, such as issues with child care or transportation, I believe they should be considered for release from our system. The school board should be willing to examine individual cases and make judgments based on what’s best for the student.

Should Whiteville City Schools’ students be allowed to attend Columbus Career and College Academy? Why or why not?

BARBOUR: Yes, Whiteville City Schools Board does allow and should continue to allow students to attend the Columbus Career and College Academy.  Student enrolled in this program can earn postsecondary credits while in high school or they can earn training that will lead to employment in the workplace.

 The student can chose a career and take classes toward that career at the community college and credits can be accepted for classification placement at a college or university after their high school graduation. Students who earn enough classes credits may enter college as an upperclassman. Therefore, saving parents money and students time toward earning a degree at the postsecondary level.     

 

COLLIER: Yes, but coming from a Social Work background, assessing the need(s) of the individual student is paramount.  Now according to what I’ve read, you must enroll prior to 9th grade. Now who’s to say that Whiteville City could not implement or offer similar programs that would make us more competitive statewide. 

FLOWERS: The money follows the child, and if we allow them to go to these other facilities, then we lose in the process because we won’t receive any benefits.

There are some children who can actually profit from going to these facilities, and it first started out with them just taking students who may not fit in a regular classroom. Now they’re taking students from the highest to the lowest, so it’s not like it first started out to be. So I voted in the past for them not to transfer.

PRINCE: I was excited when CCCA, the Early College originally funded by a federal grant, opened.  It seemed like a positive partnership. I enjoyed being a part of its opening and served as the first chairman of the school’s advisory board. Unfortunately, there was not a strong written agreement that defined the partnership. Operational situations changed.  That change would have hurt our students not attending CCCA. Therefore, our board reluctantly instituted the moratorium. Now, Whiteville City students can earn college credits through our Career and College Promise program, and we have an extensive career and technical education offering. Every year we reevaluate the moratorium. I am open to a dialogue to discuss how our students might access the programs at CCCA not offered at Whiteville High School:  broadcasting, masonry, machines.  Our superintendent provides available information on which the school board makes a decision.

RICHARDSON: It is unnecessary for our students to attend Columbus Career and College Academy because the same academic and vocational opportunities are available at Whiteville High School. In conjunction with Southeastern Community College, the Career & College Promise  (CCP) courses available to WHS students enable them to acquire college credits while meeting their high school graduation requirements. I teach CCP courses, and last spring, I proudly watched one of my WHS students earn both her high school diploma and Associate’s Degree simultaneously. Those interested in career and technical education also have the opportunity to come to the Southeastern Community College campus and take classes in areas such as welding, electrical engineering technology, and mechatronics. They are able to satisfy high school requirements, as well as obtain certificates or diplomas in their desired trade. I am proud to be part of this program because it gives students the competitive edge.

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