MEET THE CANDIDATES: Iredell County School Board

   

Pictured above:  Robert D. Bennett and Doug Knight – Pictures courtesy of the candidates

STATESVILLE, N.C. (WSIC NEWS) – WSIC is surveying local candidates ahead of the 2020 primary election. All candidates were sent the same survey. Answers by candidates may have received light editing that does not impact the content of their answers.

Robert D. Bennett running for Iredell County Board of Education, District 2

What political party are you affiliated with?

Republican

Why are you running for this position?

I have been a public servant most of my life.  I have enjoyed serving and would like to help the school system move forward.

What qualifies you for this role?

My knowledge in local government in general but specifically in budgeting, personnel and facilities management would be positive for the system.

What changes would you make if elected?

None immediately, it will take time to get the lay of the land.  I would like to see better cooperation with the County Commissioners.

What issues/problems do you notice and how are you going to address them?

Problems and Issues are a daily occurrence in any organization. Issues important to me are Security and safety of our students;  Personnel; classroom discipline and teaching environment; Curriculum and the budget.  But, the most important are those of the parents and students.  We must deal with them in a realistic manner, not interjecting unrealistic expectations, rumors and misinformation.

What are some of the beneficial/positive things you notice and how are you going to maintain/improve them?

The School System’s staff is the most important asset we have.  They are where the “rubber meets the road” in providing a great education for the students.  We have to find new ways to recruit and to retain our current staff.

Why should voters choose you?

By bringing a cooperative outlook and positive interactions with the School Board’s partners we can improve relationships and move the system forward. I believe my life and career experiences give me the temperament and knowledge to make a positive contribution to the board.

What are some of your main goals/objectives you hope to accomplish if you’re elected to this position?

Improving the working relationship with County Commissioners. Improving security, working with underperforming students and increasing the number of career ready and technical performance classes.

Have you ever held any position(s) before in public office? If so, what position(s) and when?

No, I have served on Iredell County’s Personnel Advisory Committee and Local Emergency Planning Committee.

In the community where you are running, what are your favorite activities/things to enjoy?

My favorite things are the grandchildren!  After that just being retired and enjoying life.

Compare and contrast yourself to your opponent(s).

I don’t really think of it as running against someone.  I’m seeking to hold a position where I think I can make a difference.


Doug Knight running for ISS School Board in District 4

What political party are you affiliated with?

I am affiliated with the Republican Party

Why are you running for this position?

Because I believe a good enough school system is not good enough anymore. ISS does a decent job teaching the majority of the students. But the urgency to do the most for the greatest number of students, I haven’t seen or felt. And that bothers me. For the kids in underperforming schools, especially elementary ones, to those not being challenged and are bored, to those who school seems irrelevant to their interests or future, we’ve got to do a better job. These students are there and continuing along the road we are one will not reach the maximum possible.  I believe that my unique background and perspective as both a passionate, well rounded educator and industry problem solver can help lead the ISS system to provide a quality education for all students from all backgrounds.

What qualifies you for this role?

I have over 20 years in the classroom at the high school, community college and university level and am currently a physics professor at Lenoir-Rhyne University, my alma mater. I have both coached football and many competitive science and rocket teams over the years. For 10 years, I taught either physics or engineering at Mitchell Community College. This diverse background demonstrates and understanding of education from the inside out. I also have experience as a senior level engineer solving complex problems using diverse and often innovative techniques. These jobs were at young start-up companies or National Laboratories. Combine that with a personal understanding of the students served by ISS, North Carolina rural, suburban and small city, I believe this uniquely qualifies me to be a School Board member for District 4.

What changes would you make if elected?

As a school board member, specific changes are limited and must have a majority to implement. Some changes I think that need to be made are

  • Poorly performing schools need innovative solutions, not ones with new names framing old techniques that have previously failed.
  • Publically close the loop on how solutions to problems are implemented. The public needs to know not only what works but what doesn’t and lessons learned going forward.
  • School Board meetings need to be held in the community and be held on a rotating basis at individual schools. Sitting behind fancy furniture in impressive buildings is not going out engaging the public. This is a subset of techniques to engage the public where they are at, not make the public come to us.
  • As much as possible, budgets for individual schools need to be published. If not this, bottom line, increased understandable transparency for how taxpayer money is spent needs to happen.
  • Eliminate wasteful programs and redundant positions. In a system of this size, it is there.
  • A better relationship with the County Commissioners needs to happen. That is self-evident.
  • Innovative ideas for solving the problems and fostering system excellence need to be implemented.
  • Teachers that mentor competitive academic teams need to be paid a supplement similar to how athletic coaches are paid a supplement.
  • Individual teachers, not the school itself, need to have a budget, preferably a reimbursable type system, to spend on classroom equipment. Of course, oversight needs to happen but teachers need the ability to individually innovate in their classroom. And unfortunately, that most of the time requires at least at minimal amount of funding.
  • The last two bullets are specific ideas of the concept of putting the most money closest to the student to get the most “bang for the buck” from our taxpayer dollars.

What issues/problems do you notice and how are you going to address them?

I think I’ve answered this question in the previous questions and will let those answers stand in this place.

What are some of the beneficial/positive things you notice and how are you going to maintain/improve them?

Three beneficial and positive things going on in the ISS that I have seen are

  • Focus on STEM education, especially at the elementary school level. This needs to start early since STEM is so many times a path to breaking the poverty cycle. This also needs to be expanded at various levels to more schools.
  • The Chinese Exchange program is a definite good thing. Programs like this need to continue and grow into other areas of the world.
  • Expansion of technical and skills based education such as the CATS Center. This is a very worthwhile program with increased opportunities at local high schools and partnerships with other institutions such as Mitchell Community College along with industry must grow

Of course there are others but these stand out to me currently.

Why should voters choose you?

I am an independent, professional, innovative problem solver who is focused on doing the best for the most students within the ISS system. I know the educational system from multiple levels, speak their language and also know the system well enough to understand when the proverbial wool is trying to be pulled over my eyes. I strongly believe in fiscal responsibility with the taxpayer’s money but understand that excellence doesn’t come cheap.  I am a Christian who was born and raised in Caldwell County and put down roots in West Iredell 10 years ago. I am also a life-long Republican that first voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984 at 18 years of age. I am straight forward and will be as open as I legally possible about issues within the system. And I will do the best I can to do what I say I am going to do.

What are some of your main goals/objectives you hope to accomplish if you’re elected to this position?

The overall goal is to help more students have the opportunity to reach the goals they wise to achieve. As mentioned previous, I believe ISS does a decent job in this matter but so much more for many more students can happen. One specific goal would include no failing schools, period, no matter the location or student demographics. Others would be more varied and increased technical education, raising the academic quality at many of the rural schools, giving kids a greater breadth of after school experiences, not just athletically but academically, and increased the quality and hopefully pay of our teaching workforce.

Have you ever held any position(s) before in public office? If so, what position(s) and when?

I have held no public office. I was vice-chair of the most recent Facilities Task Force.

In the community where you are running, what are your favorite activities/things to enjoy?

West Iredell is just a great place to live with my wife and raise our kids. We enjoy just being out in the yard, spending time with our animals, walking the woods, riding go carts, being out in the barn doing something and talking to our neighbors. Here we can go by the community pool, visit friends, eat at Randy’s BBQ or Kat’s Patch for lunch or breakfast, attend football games in the fall and just enjoy a peaceful life.

Compare and contrast yourself to your opponent(s).

I have not met my opponents and do not know much about them except that their background does not involve education. I stand on my rural North Carolina background and life experience as a teacher, engineer, professor and mentor. I humbly ask for your vote.


William Howell, Tim Kendall, Tony Henderson, Kevin Angell and Charles Kelley did not respond to WSIC’s survey.


 

Author: Margaret Beveridge