Candidate Huey quoted in 2/28/08 Rhino Times

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. From this week’s Rhino Times:

Three School Board Seats Up For Grabs
by Paul Clark
Staff Writer

It’s too early to predict the outcome of the election, but it is a certainty that there will be at least three new faces on the school board.

High Point resident Michael McKinney filed on Monday, Feb. 25 as a candidate for the at-large seat now held by Dot Kearns, who on that same day announced that she will not run for reelection.

McKinney will go up against David Crawford and Erik Huey. Crawford filed last year to run for the Greensboro City Council but dropped out of that race, announcing his intention to run for 6th District Congressman Howard Coble’s seat. And Huey, who had been wavering between running for the at-large or the District 5 seat, said he will file to run at large on Friday, Feb. 29. Kearns’ exit, and the filing of candidate Paul Daniels, decided the issue, Huey said.

The entry of McKinney and Huey raises the number of at-large candidates to three, which will result in that race being placed on the May 6 primary ballot. The two top vote-getters in the primary will compete in the general election Nov. 4.

As expected, school board member Walter Childs this week announced that he does not plan to run for reelection in District 1. Childs endorsed J. Carlvena Foster, executive director of the Carl Chavis Memorial Branch YMCA in High Point, who filed for the seat on Feb. 18.

Greensboro attorney Paul Daniels filed on Feb. 22 to run for the District 5 seat now held by school board member Anita Sharpe, who is not running for reelection.

Oak Ridge resident Mike Stone, a manager at Pactiv Corp., filed on Feb. 18 to run for the District 3 seat now held by school board member Darlene Garrett, who filed to run for reelection the same day.

District 7 school board member Kris Cooke on Feb. 11 filed to run for reelection, and District 9 school board member Amos Quick said he would file to run for reelection by week’s end.

Kearns, a long-time fixture in the county’s political landscape, said the time was right for her to step down. Kearns, 76, was elected to the old High Point school board in 1972 and the Guilford County Board of County Commissioners in 1982.

“Over the last weeks I have been in conversation with several potential candidates whom I find to hold similar beliefs about the imperative power of public education in a democracy and who hold similar hopes for building a strong effective Guilford County School System as I hold,” Kearns said in a press release. “With that knowledge, I am comfortable to leave the at-large seat in new and vigorous hands.”

Violence in the schools, the management of school construction projects and a more open school administration are shaping up as key issues in the race, candidates said this week.

McKinney, a vice president and community lender for Southern Community Bank and Trust whose daughter attends Southwest Elementary School, said safety in the schools and academic rigor are two of the focuses of his campaign.

McKinney said he had not yet decided his position on many issues but that safety is a big issue.

“I worry every day about my 9-year-old daughter, and I know other parents do, too,” McKinney said.

The idea of school uniforms is appealing, McKinney said.

“When you have kids together on that level, not competing on clothes or shoes, that makes the environment more conducive to academic focus,” McKinney said.

Garrett, who now holds the District 3 seat, said principals and teachers need to have input on decisions, rather than having decisions forced on them. She said the main issue in District 3, as in the county, is school funding, “because we need more funding.”

Garrett, who voted for the school bonds despite doubts about their size, said there is support for them in District 3. “But there is some skepticism,” she said. “It’s not going to be an easy sell. It’s a really high bond.”

The school board needs to look closely at discipline in the schools, and will be helped by the Monday, Feb. 25 report of the School Climate Task Force, Garrett said.

The exit of School Superintendent Terry Grier is a big opportunity for the school board to make changes, Garrett said.

Foster, who has degrees from Shaw University and High Point University, said safety issues are creating havoc in schools. The school board needs to enforce discipline and to more closely monitor who comes into schools, she said.

Foster proposes a “safe schools report card” that would grade individual schools on discipline and behavior issues. The schools also need to involve parents more, she said.

“Parents need to take some responsibility,” Foster said. “You can’t enforce discipline at school if it’s not enforced at home.”

Stone, who ran for school board in 2000, also in District 3, said things have gotten worse since his last race.

“In 2000, the big issue was bullying,” Stone said. “Last year, it transitioned more into gangs. It sounds like it ratcheted up a notch.”

Principals have to make judgment calls about what disciplinary incidents to report, which shouldn’t be the case, Stone said.

“You can’t fix it if you don’t know how big the problem is,” Stone said. “Right now, we’re not tracking the problem.”

The schools should reach out to gang leaders to get them to make schools a truce zone, Stone said.

Stone attacked the current board’s management of construction projects, which he said could be better handled by the private sector. He said he was leaning against supporting the $412 million in school construction bonds.

Guilford County Schools is not equipped to spend money as fast as it is raising it, Stone said. The schools should raise money in smaller increments, prove they can manage it well, and then ask for more, he said.

The $500 million in bonds approved by voters since 2000 have not bought enough, Stone said. “Does anybody really see a half billion dollars worth of schools?” he asked.

The current school board has identified too strongly with the administration of Grier, Stone said.

“The school board has circled the wagons with the administration and said, ‘It knows best,'” Stone said. “There are some smart people in the administration, but you need new ideas from the citizens.”

Daniels, running for the District 5 seat, is an attorney at Teague, Rotenstreich, Stanaland, Fox & Holt, LLP in Greensboro and a US Army veteran who has children attending Alamance Elementary School and Southeast Guilford High School.

Daniels said, the school board has lost touch with its customers, the parents, has let violence spiral out of control and is building schools “willy-nilly” without a coherent plan.

His children have witnessed fights in schools, one of which resulted in the school being closed for a day, Daniels said. “There is violence in these schools,” he said.

Daniels accused the schools of “under-representing crime” and said he disagreed with school board Chairman Alan Duncan’s assessment that no principals would risk their careers by not reporting crimes.

“I would say the opposite is true,” Daniels said. “Reporting crime can also ruin your career.”

Daniels said many District 5 residents are justifiably upset that the proposed middle school in Jamestown was not built after cost overruns on projects built with the 2003 school bonds.

Voters who approved the bonds “got taken for a ride,” Daniels said. The schools should have top-notch construction planning done by professionals, instead of haphazardly approving new features such as toilets that flush with rainwater, he said.

“Are we going to build Taj Mahal schools with the latest green gadgets, or are we going to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money?” Daniels asked.

Daniels said he was angriest about the recent Guilford County Schools redistricting plan, which he described as “social engineering” and “one of the most egregious examples of, ‘We don’t care what the people think’ that I’ve seen.'”

The school board held hearings on four redistricting plans, then pulled a fast one, Daniels said.

“When it came to a vote, they pulled out Plan E, which no one hard heard of but the school board,” Daniels said. “That was a gross violation of the public trust.”

Huey, running at-large, said Daniels is “a level-headed guy” who is for fiscal conservatism and against the construction bonds.

“That’s two thumbs up, in my opinion,” Huey said. I will not run against him.”

Huey said his strategy is to build a voting bloc of more conservative school board members, including Daniels, Garrett and Garth Hebert.

If that happens, “we can actually get some things done,” he said.

Huey has scheduled a press conference on his filing for Friday, Feb. 29, at the old Guilford County Court on Market Street.

Huey praised Kearns for her long service to the county but said it was a good time for her to step down.

“I think she’s made the right decision to let a younger generation take the reins and make the decisions for the children of Guilford County,” Huey said.


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E.C. )


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