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Three candidates running for open county school board seat

Revised on: 10.9.2018 at 01:40 p.m.

Posted on: 10.9.2018 at 01:20 p.m.

Three candidates are vying for the open Columbus County Board of Education District 2 seat. 

Ronnie Strickland

Rashad Roberts

Shane Enzor

Rashad J. Roberts of Chadbourn, Ronnie Strickland of Evergreen and Shane Enzor of Chadbourn are competing for the seat vacated by Barbara Yates-Lockamy, who is facing incumbent Brenden Jones in the House District 46 race.

Monte L. Herring of Cerro Gordo is unopposed in county district 3, and Worley T. Edwards of Chadbourn is unopposed in county district 4. Neither Herring nor Edwards returned a survey from The News Reporter about issues facing the local schools, however, the other candidates provided answers. Questions follow, with the answer from each candidate.

What makes you the most qualified candidate for school board?

ENZOR: I have been a citizen of Columbus County citizen for 50 years. I attended Columbus County schools grades 1-12 and graduated. I have three children which have all attended Columbus County Schools.

I have served on the advisory committee for the Columbus Career and College Academy since it was established and served on the Chadbourn advisory committee. I have lots of experience and been affiliated with the Columbus County Schools for many years and have supported them in many areas.  I am a firm believer of making the right decision for what is best for the Columbus County School System in any area of improving education for the students and teachers needs to make it happen.

I have been involved in healthcare for 25 years and a business owner in Columbus County for 12 years. I have worked with  many families throughout the county  and met and been involved in a lot of families with which their children have and are now attending Columbus County Schools.  If any problems or questions arise I have always tried to help and get information or answers for the parents or guardians pertaining to the Columbus County School Systems.

ROBERTS: I was thankful to have been raised by a family of educators.  With more than 100 years of experience in both the city and county school districts, my family has been a part of the shaping of children in this county from before I was born. As my family members retire, I only wish to continue that support to the children in our community the way my family has always done. I currently have two children that are in Columbus County schools, one that is enrolled at Columbus Career and College Academy and the other at Evergreen Elementary School due to the consolidation of Chadbourn Middle and Evergreen Elementary. This fact gives me certain insight on how the educational process is evolving and I would like to be a part of that process.

STRICKLAND: As the parent of a child at West Columbus, my desire to serve as a Board of Education member is due to the fact that I feel that the education system in Columbus County is in for many changes over the next few years.  Do we consolidate the 2 school systems in Columbus County?  Do we consolidate several schools into one larger school?  These are the type of decisions that I deal with on a daily basis in my current role as Regional Pharmacy Operations Director for the East Coast with Cardinal Health.  In addition to the day to day operations, I’m also responsible for pharmacist education for 250+ employees as well as the leadership development for the leadership team for this group of employees.  This background has prepared me to help lead Columbus County Schools through these obstacles and challenges that we are facing over the next several years.

Do you support or believe the right decision was made on consolidation of existing county schools? Is further consolidation necessary; why or why not? How do you feel about the move to consolidate Evergreen and Chadbourn Middle into an expanded Cerro Gordo Elementary? How about Hallsboro and Acme-Delco into a single school?

ENZOR: Yes, the right decision was made by the Board following the state guidelines. Future school mergers may be necessary based on student population and the sound structure of our school campuses.

ROBERTS: I believe actions needed to take place in an effort to conserve funds, but I don’t believe shuttering entire communities and pitting neighbors against each other was in the best interest of the county school system.  I do feel we have too many facilities, but serious, strategic actions towards keeping communities while continuing to support the needs of the students must occur.

I feel that consolidating the schools would eventually be necessary. I just think that how it came to be located in one locale versus another remains to be seen. I would like to know more about what went into the decision to choose Cerro Gordo as the location versus building a new school elsewhere. I know that no matter where the school would be located people in two towns would feel slighted and a void would be created. As for Hallsboro and Delco, the same applies.

STRICKLAND: Although I understand the deep-seeded attachment that our school districts have to their community schools, it is no longer in the best interest of students to keep some of these schools open.  When enrollment in a school declines it causes teaching positions to be cut.  Ultimately, this results in class sizes that are much too large for students to receive the individualized instruction that they deserve.  This places a burden on teachers.  Dwindling enrollment also limits elective course offerings in areas such as the arts and career and technical education.  In addition, it is not financially feasible to keep schools with low enrollment open.  Consolidation and expansion of schools will help ease the strain on the capital outlay portion of Columbus County Schools’ budget and will decrease overall operating expenses.

The county school board has had financial struggles in recent years. What can the district do to improve its financial outlook? Please be specific.

ENZOR: The Columbus County School Board has already taken steps to secure their financial responsibilities. Eliminate any wasteful spending so money can be used in any areas needed. More communication with both the commissioners and board of education.

ROBERTS: We should focus our attention on procuring grants and other monies that may be available. A lot of the major corporations have educational programs to help benefit children with computers and classroom aids. Using programs like this would free up monies to be used in other places.  Also, our high schools have gotten away from vocational and trade classes. Columbus Career and College Academy (CCCA) is a shining star in our county school system. There are limits to how many kids are accepted into the program each year. I think we could take a look at the success that is being had at CCCA and duplicate some of those aspects at our other schools. Make a better product out of the education we are providing for our children and that will keep our county children in our county schools.

STRICKLAND: The first step to improving the district’s financial outlook is being prudent with federal, state, and local funding allocations.  An external audit should be conducted annually to ensure this.  School consolidation will play a large role in conserving financial resources.  The school board should work to minimize the number of students who are approved to transfer to other school districts in order to maintain and increase student enrollment.  There are also grants that the board can pursue.  

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

ENZOR: I am aware that both the Whiteville City and Columbus County School Boards and Columbus County Commissioner Board has met and contracted with a consultant firm to get statistics of which would reveal the facts of combining the city and county school systems and whether it would be beneficial or not. Without that information I am at this time unable to give a favorable answer to this question without seeing what the first presents to the boards and is it a big savings of taxpayer money and then would it be. 

ROBERTS: I don’t favor a merger. Benefits would be the opportunity to redraw outdated school districting lines to better reflect our changing communities.  Rather than one central office absorb the other, there could be opportunity for specialized services within the larger district:  one for secondary schools with a focus on career and college readiness and one for elementary with a focus on recruitment and early childhood services, for example. We could take a look at our neighbors and learn where their successes and failures have been and apply them accordingly.

Negatives would be the fact that many jobs would be lost. If there was only one school system then there would only be the need for one administration. Columbus County has already seen its fair share of job loss. I don’t think we need to add to that problem by eliminating positions such as superintendents and other administrative positions.

STRICKLAND: I will be unable to form an opinion on merging the city and county school systems until Emerald Education presents the findings of their study on the potential merger.

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

ENZOR: They can provide more technology and support. Add more additional admin support. Pay increases for teachers. Budget more money for any supplies teacher may need in the classrooms for students. 

ROBERTS: The school board should be provided with weekly updates from the administration to know what the teachers need in order to be successful in teaching our kids. It is very hard to work without all the necessary tools. Whether those tools be from a technology standpoint or something as simple as copier paper and other basic necessities that other school districts may take for granted. We must support our teachers since they are the ones we are entrusting to get the most out of our children.

STRICKLAND: Teachers are tasked with helping students achieve their personal best so that they will become well-rounded, productive citizens.  They cannot do this without the support of the school board.  Teachers need to know that board members are accessible and have a genuine interest in what is happening in our schools.  Having a collaborative relationship is essential to staying in touch with what teachers need to educate our students.  Teachers and students need access to the technology and instructional materials that are necessary for teaching and learning.  If elected, I will work to make sure that this happens.

In what instances should students be allowed to transfer to Whiteville City Schools or from one county school to another, and in what instances should they not be allowed to do so?

ENZOR: Our students should attend the school district in which they live,

The students should be able to transfer in the case of relocation and special needs.

Not be able to transfer students just to play sports at a certain school facility.

ROBERTS: If a child’s parent works at another school or in another district than the one their home is in, the child should be allowed to go to that school.   If you have parents who want to keep their children at a school but they no longer live in that school district then I think that the board needs to take a look at each case on an individual basis and not group all requests together. There are times when there are mitigating circumstances that would give reason for a transfer.

I don’t feel a move to another district should be allowed for the sake of “better academic programs” or “better athletic programs.” If we as a board would provide the very best in resources and support then maybe it wouldn’t be as enticing to want to leave our school system.

STRICKLAND: Student transfer requests should be reviewed and considered on a case-by-case basis and should be kept to a minimum.  Sometimes a parent/guardian may work outside of the district in which they live, and this may create a hardship with afterschool childcare.  Transfer requests in those cases should be carefully considered.

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