Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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Six candidates vie to fill three open seats on school board

Five of six candidates for the Alamance-Burlington board of education responded to the newspaper’s biennial issues questionnaire this week, revealing a number of points of general agreement, as well as some considerable divergences of opinion.

Seeking the three available seats are former county commissioner and state representative Dan Ingle; local radio station owner Chuck Marsh; Charles Parker, Ph.D., director of a Duke University lab; Seneca Rogers, a former 2020 candidate and LabCorp reimbursement analyst; and Avery Wagoner, vice president for marketing of Cary Oil Company. Also running is Leonard Harrison, who did not respond to the newspaper’s questionnaire or request for biographical information [see separate story this edition].

See story on Harrison’s failure to provide responses:

See biographical information on the candidates:

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Political parties weigh in on non-partisan races:

To view entire questionnaire, click HERE:

Among the five responding candidates, there are a number of areas of agreement. Perhaps most notably all five cite “bolstering student skills in traditional areas such as reading and writing ability” as the top goal for the school system.

“Increasing student test scores on the SAT and other standardized tests” is among the top three priorities for Ingle, Marsh, Rogers, and Wagoner, with Parker putting it fourth.

Candidates also share opposition to the “specialty schools” that had been proposed by former superintendent Dr. William Harrison for Cummings and Graham high schools. And all agree with a recent vote (passed 4-3 by the current school board) to set up seven attendance zones, one for each of the county’s high schools.

All also agree that the increased pay approved last year for school board members ($300 per month) is sufficient, and all say they would oppose any attempt to raise it during their term. Marsh adds, “I will be donating my $300 to schools in need of funds each month.”

All are opposed to legislation often sought by the state school board association to allow local school boards the authority to levy property taxes, independent from the county commissioners.


Gender Queer and other sexually-explicit books
Four of five responding candidates (Ingle, Marsh, Parker, and Wagoner) agree that it is “inappropriate” to provide sexually-explicit books in ABSS school libraries or to incorporate them into classroom instruction.

The same four also support the superintendent’s recent decision to remove the book Gender Queer from the Western High School library because of its sexually-explicit content.
Rogers does not respond directly to either question.


Can all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds succeed?
Candidates differed on whether “students of all races, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds can meet academic performance targets set by the state.” Rogers and Wagoner said they can; Ingle, Marsh, and Parker say they could not and offered explanations as to why not.

Says Parker: “Students from very low socioeconomic circumstances face significant challenges to academic performance. Some of these challenges fall beyond the reach of the school system.”

Ingle: “The one common denominator seems to be schools that have a higher percentage of students with an economic disadvantage have lower scores.”

Marsh: “Some kids do not have access to basic tools for academic success: parent(s) to help with homework, limited internet access, foundational skills necessary for success.”

The newspaper also asked candidates their views on various “socially-conscious” curriculums being circulated among school systems nationally and proposed for some North Carolina school systems and whether they would support or oppose the use of these kinds of materials and activities, if proposed for ABSS. These include “The 1619 Project,” as well as the “Black Lives Matter Year of Purpose” and what some observers have termed Critical Race Theory.

Ingle, Marsh, Parker, and Wagoner are opposed. Rogers did not respond to the question per se, but offered this view on a subsequent question seeking elaboration: “These curriculums are targeted at higher education. ABSS can support age appropriate curriculums that reflect the diverse experiences of our community.”

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“Socioeconomic balance”?
Candidates were also asked about whether providing greater “socioeconomic” balance at various schools is an appropriate purpose for redistricting or school assignment. And whether it is, in practice, a substitute for trying to achieve racially-based assignments and/or “racial balance” at certain schools?

Parker and Rogers believe “socioeconomic” balance is an appropriate purpose for redistricting or school assignment; Ingle, Marsh, and Wagoner do not.

As to whether it’s a substitute for racially-based assignments and/or “racial balance,” Ingle, Parker, and Wagoner say it is not; Marsh says he is “unsure,” and Rogers does not respond to the question.


Charter schools?
Candidates are divided over whether they support or oppose the concept of allowing additional public charter schools to be developed and started in Alamance County. Ingle, Marsh, and Parker support the concept; Rogers and Wagoner are opposed.

Ingle says, “I support school choice for parents. If we can reduce parental concerns (low test scores, disciplinary problems, etc.), we can lower interest in charter schools.”

Marsh says, “ A one-size fits all education does not work for every child. Parents need to have options for their child’s educational opportunities.”

But Wagoner says, “Invest more into what we already have to provide an education to all of our students.”


Partisan school boards?
Candidates were asked whether ABSS should join about one-third of school boards in North Carolina that are elected on a partisan basis. All are opposed, except Marsh, who says he is “neutral.” He adds, “We should be focused on kids, but party lines have become more important for some.”

A separate story about the party affiliations of each candidate and the party endorsements in the race begins on page 7.


Politics on the board
Ingle, Marsh, Parker, and Wagoner do not agree with a decision that most (6 out of 7) then-school board members made in 2020 to sign a letter that called on Alamance County’s commissioners to make arrangements to move the Confederate monument from the historic courthouse in downtown Graham.

Nor do those same four believe it’s appropriate for school board members to involve themselves in political debates such as this.

Rogers did not respond to either question, although he adds, “School Board members should be aware of political issues involving public education.”

Most of the other four say they believe in keeping politics out of the school board and school system.

Says Wagoner, “Political ideas or topics do not belong in the schools. [The] board is to govern education for our children and support for staff.”

So does Parker, “Public education is a non-partisan issue. School board members should avoid political controversies, especially in an official capacity.”

Ingle says, “Members of school board should be non-political as much as possible once sworn in, staying away from any political issue not directly related to ABSS.”

Marsh generally agrees, “My political debate would be based on education of kids. These types of divisive issues are not what school board members were charged with doing.”


School resource officers? How many? Who should pay?
Ingle, Parker, and Wagoner say they believe ABSS is responsible for providing school resource officers for ABSS schools. Rogers says it is the responsibility of local cities (to provide police for schools within their city limits) and county government (where the sheriff is responsible for schools in rural areas of the county). Marsh says, he would do “[w]hatever it takes to fund SRO program either ABSS or combination of ABSS and municipalities.”

None of the candidates agree with several community members who in 2020 called on school board members to defund the School Resource Officers (SROs) who work in ABSS schools – similar to calls to defund police that swept the country that year – and to redirect funding for SROs to other priorities.

While the school system’s current objective has been to get a SRO at every school, several candidates alluded to the possibility of needing even more SROs.

Marsh and Parker both raise the possibility of multiple SROs at schools. Says Marsh, “ I would actually like to look at an increase in SROs for schools that have a greater student population or schools with safety issues such as gang affiliations, drugs, etc.”

Parker says, “I support current level of one SRO per school. After a year, we can evaluate if specific schools would benefit from an additional SRO.”


Southeast Alamance High School
Ingle, Marsh, Rogers, & Wagoner say they would have voted with the 4-3 school board majority that recently voted to name the county’s seventh high school, now under construction along NC 119, as Southeast High School.

Parker dissents, saying he would have supported “Hawfields High School.” Parker says, “I think that the name is not distinctive enough and does not represent any aspect of the history of Alamance County.”


Another bond referendum?
Candidates are divided over whether there may be a need for another bond referendum for repairs and expansions at other grade levels (following the mostly high school-related repairs and expansions funded through the 2018 bond referendum).

Rogers and Wagoner say they believe another bond referendum will be needed; Ingle and Parker say no; and Marsh says he is “not sure.”

Wagoner says, “Alamance is growing. There will be a need for other facilities in the future. We cannot continue having deferred maintenance either. We need to be prepared for our growth.”

Rogers says, “ We need at least 2-3 elementary schools with our community growth.”
The full questionnaire is reprinted on pages 8, 9, and 10 of this edition. Biographical materials are on page 7 and here:


Check future editions for stories, biographical information, and questionnaires for candidates for the General Assembly (State Senate and State House Districts #63 & #64) and sheriff.

For previous stories, biographical information and questionnaires for candidates in the county commissioners race (2 seats):

What are “multipartisan assistance teams”?

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