Editor’s note: The Sun Journal has reached out to candidates running in the May 17 election to participate in a candidate questionnaire.
Craven County District 6 School Board member Kim Smith recently resigned as board vice chair, making room for the board to nominate and approve board member Naomi Clark as the new vice chair. after Smith’s resignation.
After 20 years of service to the school board, Smith also announced this year that she will not be standing for District 6, paving the way for further representation in the coming months.
On May 17, District 6 candidates Tracy Derby and Lauren Riggs Kitzinger will run against each other for the Republican nomination in the upcoming November general election.
The winner of the May primary does not currently have a Democratic nominee to oppose him in November, however, a candidate could apply for enough votes to become a write-in candidate before then.
Here’s what each candidate had to say in response to the Sun Journal Candidate Questionnaire.
Are you a holder?
The best way for voters to contact you?
Tracy: Email and Facebook are the best methods to contact me. Email: [email protected] Facebook: District 6 – School Board – Tracy Derby
Lauren: My email address is [email protected] My campaign Facebook page is http://www.Facebook.com/LaurenRiggsKitzingerCCBoEDistrict6. Call or text 804-837-3133.
What experience do you have that makes you a good candidate?
Tracy: I am the best candidate to represent the families and employees of the District 6 school system because I am deeply rooted here. I myself am a product of the District 6 education system, as are my two children. My family goes back four generations in Craven County, starting with my grandfather, who came to Havelock in the 1940s for the opening of the largest Marine Corps airbase in the world, called Cherry Point. My dad had a 30+ year career in the USMC (Sergeant Major, Retired) while we mostly stayed at Cherry Point as he continually deployed overseas. I am District 6 — I know this community; I am a product of this community and have very specific personal experiences in District 6.
Lauren: Well, I’m not a politician and have no experience in the school system other than my involvement as a mother of 3 (and I also have 2 stepsons), so my heart is in it. My stepsons are in high school, my two eldest are in elementary school, and my youngest is about to start kindergarten. I believe I am uniquely positioned to represent and serve the residents of District 6, because just as the population of the District is both civilian and military, I am dedicated to representing both equally. Not only has my husband been in the Marine Corps for 27+ years, but Craven County is my home. I was born and raised in New Bern and I am proud to finally be able to establish our roots and raise my children here as well. My mission is to make our public schools the world-class option they can and should be, rather than the last resort they are now.
What do you read to stay informed about the issues?
Tracy: I attend school board meetings and review meeting minutes and videos online. I keep abreast of county-wide issues, not just education-related, by reviewing minutes and issues of county commissioner meetings and attending those meetings. I also read the Sun Journal and stay informed of legislative updates through active involvement with our County Republican Party.
Lauren: I follow many of the major media sources such as The Washington Post or Politico, but include a handful of lower-profile networks like The Epoch Times and Media Research Center.
If you are elected, what would you do to remain transparent as an elected official?
Tracy: It is imperative that school board meetings, minutes and special decisions are accessible and easy to locate. It is also imperative that data and documents related to our schools are accessible and easy to locate – by all stakeholders, including budget documents, school improvement plans, curriculum and data on safety and discipline. As a board member, I would work to make information more readily available to the public, including requests to make information easier to navigate and locate online. School board closed sessions have been a source of public mistrust for many stakeholders. I would ask other members of the Board to review current closed meeting protocols and limit these discussions only to topics that are legally covered in North Carolina, with all other information discussed in camera being made available to the public in due course. timely. On a personal level, I will be available by phone, text, email or social media, providing wide access to stakeholders who have questions or concerns.
Lauren: Thomas Sowell once said, “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what you want to hear. I believe in it deeply. Honesty and transparency are of the utmost importance to me, and when it comes to the lives and future of our children, no one should be anything other than transparent and honest. Our children are too precious. They are the future and it is our duty to prepare the ground for them. No one is perfect, and you won’t hear me make many promises, but the one promise I will absolutely make is to be transparent and honest at all times.
What do you think is the most important problem for the headquarters you are running for, how do you want to solve it and what do you think of the way the current leaders have solved the problem?
Tracy: Basically, the performance of the school and the system as a whole is the most important issue for our school board. Many other peripheral issues – including teacher and staff morale, declining enrollment, parental disconnects, and employee retention, to name a few of the more pronounced issues – are rooted in overall performance (in decline) of our system and individual schools. Data from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI) indicates that 25% (6) of our schools are considered underperforming, and system-wide, 64% of our students are not proficient in mathematics and 55% of our students are not. proficient in reading. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, only that we need to recognize our shortcomings and put action plans in place for improvements, comprehensive plans with monitoring and follow-up by different levels of stakeholders, not just teachers and employees of Craven County Schools. The current board has seemingly focused only on qualitative results, almost turning a blind eye to the issues highlighted by the data, and we know the data doesn’t lie. There is a lack of current school board ownership of our school-specific and system-wide performance, coupled with attempts to distract from performance results by citing Hurricane Florence and the COVID-19 as the catch-all for all areas of decline. We need to stop blaming external forces and ignoring our internal contributions. We are better, and we must do better, together.
Lauren: District 6 in particular is currently struggling with staffing issues, associated with housing shortages. The majority of our teachers work in one district but live in another. How can we recruit the best teachers so that they not only want to work in these schools, but also want to live where they work? Also, the military population in Havelock will soon increase exponentially, and the housing problem surrounding it needs to be resolved quickly, which is not my area of expertise but rather working in conjunction with commissioners, I imagine, because most of these families would bring children to our schools. Finally, the council itself is in disarray and dysfunctional in the sense that problems are piling up and our residents are suffering. I will work to heal and build relationships inside and outside the school board; I will create new bonds and relationships and create a new healthy and positive climate where everyone involved can be assured that their voice will be heard and respect will be shown. Only then can positive movement be made towards results in any aspect.
Journalist Trevor Dunnell can be reached by email at [email protected] Please consider supporting local journalism by signing up for a digital subscription.