Elections for Craven County School Board likely to change

By District, not County-wide // Ballot to display R or D next to candidate’s name!

Elected officials received praise for conducting civil debate over the contentious issues (Photo credit: Raynor James)

By Patti Mason

NEW BERN – Monday night, Craven County Commissioners passed a resolution to make the County School Board partisan and elect board members by district rather than county-wide. The resolution was passed along party lines – 5-2.   The meeting was extremely well run. The Commissioners heard from about 36 speakers.  All were allowed to speak for 3 minutes with the Democratic and Republican party representatives given 8 minutes.  All were treated respectfully.  The meeting concluded with two commissioners speaking – one pro and one con for the resolution. While I support the vote, I am disappointed the vote was along party lines – we have work to do.  

The issue is accountability of the School Board members – it is not about party or beliefs.  The School Board exists primarily to determine curriculum but more importantly to provide oversight of the School District.   Currently in Craven County the trend line for school performance is down – currently 12 out of 25 schools are less than 50% Perficient in math and reading.   Currently the trend line for Craven County School District compared to NC overall is the County Spending has increased substantially but the spending is not on the students or the teachers.   [reference:   www.publicschoolreview.com/north-carolina/craven-county-schools-school-district

Let’s tackle ‘BY DISTRICT’ first.   The main point was it is more expensive to run a county wide race rather than a district race.  That is true – very true.  However, the board does consist of representatives from each district. That board member can enable a concern to be forwarded to the board as a whole or determine that the issue should not be forwarded to the board as a whole.  Bottom line – the school board is run where district representatives make decisions for the citizens in that district.   In this case it should be the district determining its representative choice – not the county determining the district’s choice.   The vote holds each School Board member accountable for their decisions for their district based on the way they are currently operating.  

Now let’s look at putting the  ‘CANDIDATE’S PARTY’ on the ballot.  There are several arguments for and against on this one.  One argument against is that this will make the board partisan and put politics in the schools.  Again, the board is responsible for oversight – not execution so I fail to see how this will make the schools political.  

Execution is where the politics in the school occurs primarily. The School District should be overseen by the School Board but not RUN by the school board – this is the important point that was lost.  Also, the school board make up is political – that is why there is an election – making the race non-partisan does not eliminate the politics for electing the school board, it just eliminates a candidate making the claim which political party they support.   

Another argument for was that by documenting the political party to which the candidate belongs  provides voters information of stance.  For example, the Republican Party (which I admittedly belong to) states that it is against Common Core and Critical Race Theory – that it believes control of the schools must return to the local levels in government.  Currently in Craven our students are taught we are a constitutional democracy which is wrong and political – we are a constitutional republic. 

The Democratic Party Platform has taken God out and believes in larger government and more Federal control. So yes, the school board is caught in the middle of a larger political issue in the Country – more or less government control.  Craven County has spoken – more local control for our schools.  It is important to note that even at the state level, the Superintendent of Schools is a partisan race.  

Another argument was that making this a partisan race eliminates Federal employees from participating.   Cherry Point is a large installation in the County.  Per the Hatch Act if a Federal employee wants to run for office – with proper coordination they can do so.  [reference: 5 CFR Part 733 – POLITICAL ACTIVITY – FEDERAL EMPLOYEES RESIDING IN DESIGNATED LOCALITIES | CFR | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)]

The most important point is that the Political Parties do solicit candidates and fund them to run for School Board. The political parties are out there during early election and on election day promoting their candidates – THEIR CANDIDATES!.  This is the main argument – by placing political party on the ballot this is a big indicator of who is paying for the campaign – not how the person if elected will vote.   Admittedly it is an indicator of how the person will vote but not a dependable indicator.  I submit if the elected official does not represent ALL parties, they should and will usually lose a reelection bid.   An elected official should represent both government and civilian people – necessary for reelection.   By placing the party on the ballot – it says who the person took money from – who the person will feel accountable at times.  This was a point not made and is important.

Hopefully the approved decision will now be passed by the General Assembly.  The main points are the district should elect their district representative (not the county) if the board is going to enforce district representation and not at-large representation and the ballot should state who is funding the candidate to run.