Elon resident Chuck Marsh is the first to announce his candidacy for one of three seats on the Alamance-Burlington school board that will be open in the 2022 general election.
Marsh says he’s running for the school board because he sees two areas that desperately need improvement: school safety and academic performance. As a former School Resource Officer, “I know we are ill-prepared when it comes to infrastructure to protect our kids in the event of a major crisis,” says the first-time political candidate.
Marsh started out working in law enforcement after completing the police academy at Walters State Community College in his native Tennessee.
He was working in municipal law enforcement when he met his wife of 15 years and “stole her from the Asheville community,” Marsh recalls with a chuckle. The couple moved to the area when he got offered a job at a radio station in Greensboro, eventually hosting the No. 1 morning drive-time show in the Triad, “Wake up with the Wolf,” Marsh says.
Now a 30-year veteran of the airwaves, Marsh hosts the “Maverick Morning Show” five days a week and owns Maverick Radio that features country, bluegrass, and gospel music.
Marsh, 52, lives at 2509 Elon-Ossipee Road in Elon with his wife Rebecca, who’s an ABSS educator, and their two sons. Their youngest son is a seventh-grader in ABSS. The elder son graduated from ABSS in 2020 and is currently enrolled at Guilford Technical Community College, where he’s on track to graduate in May 2022 with avionics degree in hopes of working on aircraft. Marsh also has two grown sons, he said this week in an interview with The Alamance News.
Shortage of school counselors concerns candidate
In the near term, the father of four children and two grandchildren fears the potential ramifications of a shortage of school counselors, who serve a critical role for children experiencing mental health crises, Marsh tells the newspaper.
Data compiled by a statewide education nonprofit showed that, as of 2019, ABSS had an average ratio of 426 students to every one school counselor, he says. By comparison, Orange County schools had a ratio of 292 students to one counselor during the same period. “If you have 180 days in the school year, that means these counselors have to see 3.2 kids every day, without missing a day,” says Marsh. “I have had law enforcement officers in Alamance County tell me, ‘It’s a tragedy waiting to happen.’”
High-ranking law enforcement officials in the county tell him they’ve approached school officials, offering to hold active shooter drills at ABSS schools, only to have their offers rebuffed, Marsh tells The Alamance News. Rather than wanting to learn how best to respond – just in case the unthinkable were to happen at an ABSS school – local law enforcement “had ABSS teachers tell them they wouldn’t participate,” Marsh explains.
As someone who’s worked in law enforcement, Marsh says one of the first things he thinks about when he walks into a school is, “How do you protect kids; how do you protect soft targets?”
“I think just having the awareness – if teachers have never even fathomed having something like this happen – [is important],” Marsh elaborates. “I personally think the sheriff’s department and an outside agency need to go in and find weak points.”
The school counseling data for ABSS was for 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic emerged last year, Marsh emphasizes. Isolation, brought on by the statewide school closure that Gov. Roy Cooper ordered on March 14, 2020, which for most ABSS students stretched well into this spring, magnified mental health concerns that students were already struggling with, he says. Students’ struggles include everything from problems at home to struggling academically or being bullied at school, Marsh reasons. “[ABSS schools] were already at a deficit,” he says, referring to pre-pandemic shortages of school counselors.
“Pre-pandemic, something like 47 percent of kids had some form of mental illness,” Marsh says, citing data compiled in 2019. Addressing the shortage of school counselors in ABSS schools is a critical component of school safety, he says, adding that some students “don’t know how to deal with their emotions” after being isolated for nearly a year.
What does Confederate monument have to do with educating children?
The political newcomer believes ABSS students and families would be better-served if school board members focus on academics, not the political cause du jour, be it Critical Race Theory, universal masking, or the Confederate monument in downtown Graham.
“I never thought I would run,” Marsh tells the newspaper. Then in June 2020, the biggest story in Alamance County “was that everybody signed the petition to move the monument,” he says, referring to the petition that outgoing Burlington mayor Ian Baltutis started, hoping to pressure county and state leaders to remove or relocate the Confederate monument in Graham. Six of the seven school board members joined other local officials in signing his petition, based on a listing of the signatories that Baltutis posted on his Facebook page at the time.
“What does that have to do with educating children?” Marsh continues. “What you did was divide people. Every single [school board] member except Pam Thompson said, ‘I’m willing to draw that line and spit in the face of every single parent who says they don’t want it moved.
They talk about how they don’t want division, but they did it that day. All I want is to send my kids to school to have a good quality public education.” (Thompson later won a seat on Alamance County’s board of commissioners in the 2020 general election; then-school board member Brian Feeley lost his bid for reelection to a second term in November 2020.)
Yet less than 40 percent of ABSS students in prekindergarten through eighth grade were below average in math and reading; and nearly 10 percent of ABSS students between the ages of 16 and 19 weren’t prepared to enter the workforce or enroll in college, based on 2019-20 data compiled by My Future NC, Marsh tells the newspaper.
If elected, Marsh would donate monthly stipend to ABSS schools
In addition to owning and operating the radio station, Marsh is also active in his church, Westside Fellowship in Elon.
He also volunteers with and raises money for charitable organizations like Alcovets, the Duke Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, the Richard Petty Family Foundation, and ABSS schools, as well as Christmas donation drives that the Burlington police department and Alamance County sheriff’s department sponsor.
In keeping with his passion for giving back to his community, Marsh says that, if elected, he will not accept the $300 monthly stipend that ABSS school board members receive. “Instead, I will donate that money each month to a different ABSS school to fund their clothes closet and food pantry,” he said in announcing his campaign.
The three school board seats that will be available in the November 2022 general election are currently held by first-term incumbent Wayne Beam, a retired ABSS administrator; two-term incumbent Allison Gant, currently the board’s chairman; and three-term incumbent Tony Rose.
The filing period for that race was scheduled to begin Monday, December 6. The State Board of Elections announced Wednesday that filing periods for some offices may be delayed until the second half of 2022; it was unclear at press time whether the school board race is among those affected by the revised filing periods.
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