Jeanie Groh column: School board race matters

Published 1:47 am Thursday, October 16, 2014

Maybe I’m biased because I cover education, but I believe that the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education is one of, if not the most, important races that will be on the ballot Nov. 4.

The decisions we make about our school board don’t just affect Rowan County’s students and teachers over the next four years. These decisions could affect the county for years to come.

Parents and teachers aren’t the only voters that are impacted by the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education.

We’re not just electing the men and women who will decide where to locate a consolidated elementary school or determine how to upfit Knox Middle School – these are the people who will establish the direction of the district and determine the educational experience our students receive. These are the folks who will make the policies that determine what kinds of teachers the district is able to hire.

These men and women have both an immediate and long-term financial impact on Rowan County – the stronger the school system, the more employers will be willing to move to the area.

But perhaps more importantly, the Rowan-Salisbury School System is educating the business, political and religious leaders of our county, nation and world.

Do your homework

So, I encourage you – do your research before you decide who to vote for.

Utilize the resources that are available – the Post runs its election tab on Oct. 26 and the candidate forum at Catawba College Tuesday will re-air several times on channels 16 and 22.

Most, if not all, of the candidates either have websites or Facebook pages. Check out those pages, and see where they stand on the issues that are important to you. See how they treat others online and on social media.

Call the candidates – they all have contact information on the candidates list on the Board of Elections’ website.

Here are some of the questions the Center for Public Education suggests asking yourself about each candidate.

• What are the candidate’s vision and goals for high academic achievement for all students?

• Does the candidate understand that the school board’s role is about the big picture – setting the direction for the district and providing oversight and accountability — rather than day-to-day management?

• Does the candidate focus on one issue or discuss a broad range of school district concerns?

• Does the candidate’s approach make it likely that he or she will be able to work effectively with the rest of the board to get things done?

• Will the candidate enhance the mix of skills and backgrounds on the board and help represent the diversity of the community?

Back to the basics

Just in case this is the first time you’ve really taken a good look at the school board race this year, here are some basics to help you get up to date.

There are four school board positions up for election this year – seats one, two, four and six.

School board elections are non-partisan, and each seat appears separately on the ballot. All Rowan County voters can vote for every seat, but each position must be filled by a candidate who lives in the attendance zone for that specific area.

Election day is Nov. 4, and terms last for four years.

According to the North Carolina School Boards Association’s school board candidates guide, “School boards are the policy-making body for school districts. Their function is set to sound educational goals and establish policies for the school system based upon state and federal laws and community values.”

“School boards do not manage the day-to-day operations of the school district – they ensure the district is managed well by professionals,” the guide went on to say.

Seat one represents the northern area of the county, including North Rowan elementary, middle and high schools, Hanford-Dole Elementary and Henderson Independent High School. Phil Hardin and W.F. Owens are challenging current Chairman Dr. Richard Miller for his seat.

Seat two represents the county’s southern schools — South Rowan High School, Corriher-Lipe Middle School and China Grove, Enochville, Landis and Millbridge elementary schools. Current board member L.A. Overcash is running for the seat, and he is opposed by Lawrence Helms and Dean Hunter.

Seat four covers the western area of the county, including West Rowan middle and high schools and Cleveland, Hurley, Mount Ulla and Woodleaf elementary schools. Travis Allen is running against incumbent Vice Chairwoman Kay Wright Norman.

Seat six is a special seat that represents an L-shaped portion of the county that runs through western and downtown portions of Salisbury and into East Spencer. Jean Kennedy is running unopposed for the seat.

Contact education reporter Jeanie Groh at 704-797-4222 or