Seven vie for School Board

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 29, 2006

CONWAY – All seven candidates seeking seats on the Northampton County Board of Education were in attendance during Tuesday’s candidate forum at the Ashley’s Grove Community Building.

Forum moderator Willard Futrell pulled names randomly from the group of candidates and allowed each one of them four minutes to speak and then an additional three minute question and answer period.

The following is a portion of the candidates’ comments in the order in which they spoke.

Julius O. Webb

Webb is seeking to be elected to the Northampton County Board of Education. He is a resident of the county who works as Director of the Upward Bound Program in neighboring Halifax County.

He said there were two sides to the coin of education in the county, good and bad.

&uot;We have to make sure vision comes from the top to get students motivated and included in higher level courses,&uot; he said.

Webb said he felt the stressing of End-of-Course and End-of-Grade tests were making educators leave other things undone.

&uot;We need to incorporate other disciplines,&uot; he stressed.

Webb said he had talked to parents who did not feel welcome in schools and who were distressed about the lack of celebration for small achievements.

Grace Edwards

Edwards, a three-term incumbent. is seeking another four years on the education panel.

&uot;I’m seeking my fourth term and I’m asking for your support again,&uot; Edwards said. &uot;The record shows I have gotten support from Ashley’s Grove and I hope that will continue.&uot;

Edwards said during her tenure on the board, the district had been able to build new schools and had worked diligently to maintain the older ones.

She also stressed the need for more involvement in the district.

&uot;We need community involvement, not just parents,&uot; she said. &uot;Citizens have a lot of knowledge to share and I’d like to see that happen.&uot;

During the question period, Edwards was asked about the recent letter from Judge Harold Manning that said Northampton-West was one of several schools that would not be allowed to open in the fall if certain criteria were not met.

She said the board had already taken action to put a new principal at the school before the letter and that they were working to make changes there.

Another person question uniforms and Edwards said they would be required in the fall at all elementary and middle schools.

Charles Tyner

As he completes his first elected term in office, Tyner emphasized his desire to remain a servant of the people.

&uot;This is my community,&uot; he said. &uot;This is where I was born and raised. Thank you for your support, not just in the last election, but during my time with Northampton County Schools.&uot;

Tyner said he felt upon retirement that he should give something back to the school system. He said he was a product of the district, as were his children and his grandchildren attended the Northampton County Schools now.

&uot;I am your servant,&uot; he said. &uot;I listen to what the people say needs to take place. I want to continue hearing from you like I have been hearing from you.&uot;

Tyner said the school system had problems that needed to be addressed and insisted he was not satisfied with the status quo.

&uot;If you want things to stay the same, please don’t vote for me,&uot; he said. &uot;I’m embarrassed tonight. I’m embarrassed that we have a school that is low-performing.&uot;

The final reason Tyner said he solicited support was because of the finances of the school board.

&uot;I’m going to help manage it,&uot; he said. &uot;I’m not going to pay it all out for big salaries for the superintendent or anyone else.&uot;

Tyner was asked about the plan for improving West and indicated it was currently being developed by the superintendent and staff. He said the superintendent was in her first year and needed time to evaluate the situation, but would be making a recommendation soon.

Erica Smith-Hicks

Although born in Fayetteville, Smith-Hicks had parents who were from Northampton County. She moved back with her family at age 10.

After attending the county school district, Smith-Hicks left West to attend the North Carolina School of Math and Science and then went on to receive an engineering degree.

She has worked as a high school math teacher and is an ordained and licensed assistant pastor.

&uot;I have a problem pointing fingers at principals and teachers,&uot; she said. &uot;We need steady leadership.&uot;

Smith-Hicks used the acronym ACE to talk about her campaign. The letters standing for advocate, cultivate and elevate.

After her presentation, Smith-Hicks was asked if her children would attend Northampton County public schools if she were elected.

She replied that her children attend a public school because Gaston Prep is a public school. She anticipated her son would go to the school of math and science more than likely, but indicated no other changes in her children’s education.

Lafayette &uot;Lott&uot; Majette

After spending more than 10 years on the Northampton County Board of Education and another 40 in the classroom, Majette is seeking an additional term on the board.

He said he had spent his entire life working in education and wanted to continue to help the schools.

&uot;I’m not promising anything, but what I’ve been doing and I’ve been doing good,&uot; he said.

Majette said he spent every day in the schools of the district and that he would continue that effort.

&uot;I ask you to continue to put me back and pray for me,&uot; he said. &uot;I promise you the same thing I was yesterday, I will be today.&uot;

Clinton Williams

After serving four years on the school board, Williams fell short of being reelected two years ago. He is seeking to return to that post this year.

Williams said he was born and raised in Northampton County and was one of 14 children.

&uot;I know what it is to be disadvantaged,&uot; he said.

The candidate said he believed the best indication of a person’s behavior is their past and he was running on his record as a board member.

During his time on the board, Williams said he served on the facilities committee, the school improvement committee and worked diligently to support the children.

He said he was partially responsible for Gaston Middle, the expansion to Willis Hare Elementary and the new school being built as well as the first stand-alone alternative school.

Williams indicated he was concerned about an alarming absentee rate among students in Northampton County Schools.

Williams was asked what the absentee rate for the district was, but said he was unsure of the exact number. He said he was talking about a report where he saw that certain students had missed 70 or more days.

Don Johnson

A former member of the Northampton County Board of Education, Johnson is seeking to return to that post.

&uot;It’s all about the children,&uot; he said, &uot;but there’s more to it than just the children.&uot;

He said the board basically had three roles: making policy and seeing that it was enforced, hiring and firing on the recommendation of the superintendent and hiring a superintendent.

&uot;I’m not standing here to tell you what I’ll do or have done,&uot; he said. &uot;There are seven members and you have to work as a cohesive unit.

&uot;I’m one person,&uot; he added. &uot;I have no friends or relatives who need jobs. I’m running for the board to be an advocate for students and to be a steward of the finances given to us.&uot;

Johnson said he felt the board should make sure the money given to them was used wisely.

He said that he thought Northampton County had a good school system despite poverty, but felt things could be made better.