NEW HANOVER COUNTY—Nelson Beaulieu is a new candidate for the New Hanover County Schools’ Board of Education. Beaulieu is a registered Democrat.
Beaulieu lives off Gordon Road on Olde Well Loop and is a parent of two.
Below are Beaulieu’s answers to Port City Daily’s questions.
Author’s note: Port City Daily checked in with Beaulieu to confirm his answers, as provided this spring, still applied. His answers remain the same.
What do you see as the highest priority issue New Hanover County Schools face?
I think the highest priority our schools face is the struggle of our teachers. Speaking as an
educator, teaching is a calling. Speaking as a father of two, struggling to provide for my family on an educator’s salary, I can also say unequivocally that teaching is a job. Our teachers are already spending a considerable amount of their own income on their classrooms. They really shouldn’t be forced in to a position where they have to do that. I plan on fighting to increase the teacher supplement and using my public platform to fight for a $400 per teacher stipend given to each school and specifically designated for classroom improvement purchases. By empowering our teachers we will inevitably empower our students.
Do you find the operating budget to be appropriate?
Would you like to see it increased, decreased or stay the same?
Budgeting is above all, a statement of priorities. We only have so much money, so what do we want to pay for? I think schools should be our first funding priority. Education is cited in polls as being the issue people care most about and that should be reflected in our county policies. The 21 percent increase may sound like a lot, but it was long overdue and should be seen as a sign that a lot of improvement was needed. It’s difficult to answer questions about future budgets because nobody can be sure of future needs but ideally I would like to see the budget increased slightly over time and avoid big increases like this past one.
Author’s note: Port City Daily initially identified the “operating budget” in our candidate survey questions as the total budget. The question has been simplified in its published form.
Michael Earl Kelly has been charged with at least 14 counts of indecent liberties with a minor. He taught at Isaac Bear Early College since the school’s inception. If information becomes available that NHCS staff members were aware of any of Kelly’s abuses, how would you plan to hold those individuals accountable?
My position is that any staff members who were aware of these activities and failed to report them should be terminated immediately and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law without leniency or exception! These employees should lose their benefits, and be immediately and irrevocably banned from New Hanover County school property
Author’s note: Since Port City Daily’s questionnaire was shared with candidates, Michael Earl Kelly has been charged with an additional 27 charges related to sex crimes against children.
Do you feel that New Hanover County elementary schools have a fair and just
socioeconomic study body composition? Its middle schools? Its high schools?
The elementary schools do not have a fair and just socioeconomic student body composition. The middle and high schools get progressively better, but in those schools, too, there is certainly plenty of room for improvement. Improving socioeconomic diversity is a stated goal of our board’s redistricting efforts, but I don’t think we’ve seen any positive moves in that direction. In fact, in the 20-plus years that three of the four incumbents have served on the board, the problem has gotten noticeably worse.
Do you support the NHCS board’s decision to delay school redistricting? Why or why not?
Absolutely not. Redistricting needs to be done and in October the board voted unanimously to move forward with that effort. In my opinion the decision to delay now can only be ascribed to politics. That certain board members have changed their minds on this because some citizens were upset about the proposed changes demonstrates a complete lack of leadership and is frankly, an act of cowardice.
What is your opinion of having a board comprised of multiple individuals having served 15 or more years? What are the strengths or weaknesses of having a majority veteran board?
Bruce Shell is finishing his first four-year term. The other board members have been there for 24, 24 and 28 years respectively. There is certainly a benefit to experience, but I think the county is at a disservice with a lack of fresh perspectives and new ideas. These board members are the ones who likely put MACs in the classrooms, and gave us projectors and games like Number Munchers and Oregon Trail. Board members with this length of service can be an asset. When they comprise the majority of the board it is often a liability. The way in which we educate our students, and the issues and barriers our students face have changed dramatically. I would be the only millennial board member. I have two daughters who go to Blair and in 2016 my wife was volunteer of the year there. I think our board could benefit from that type of perspective.
What strategy do you support in managing school overcrowding?
All of our schools our overcrowded. Redistricting can alleviate some of that, but in the end if all schools are over-capacity today, the time has come to begin building a new high school. It is unlikely that given our incredible rate of growth that four high schools alone will be able to service the needs of the community. I plan on looking in to the feasibility of asking the citizens of our county for a new bond to support such an effort.
What are your thoughts on charter schools?
That is always a tough question. Charter schools in North Carolina are less diverse. They are selective and have less poverty as a result. The original intent behind charter schools was to be experimental. It was not about making money and different states have taken different approaches with vastly different results. Louisiana and in particular New Orleans has had some great success with charter schools and improving scores and standards. If you are talking about efforts like that, I might be in support of them depending on the impact to public schools in terms of funding. However in place like Michigan you have an unqualified disaster. I will fight any similar implementation in North Carolina with every fiber of my being.
River Lights is apparently receiving a new elementary school. Do you believe this is a fair prioritization of resources?
The need for an elementary school at RiverLights is there. However other areas have even
greater needs. This issue gets to the heart of the problem when we talk about education. We’re not talking in the abstract. We’re talking about our kids. I will fight with everything in me to make sure my kids get the best they possibly can. We all do that. So it is easy to say ‘They have and we need.’ It’s more than easy. It is inevitable. We need to do a better job of allocating our resources, but at the same time we need to fight for more resources. We are not building New Hanover County for a year or 10 years. We are building it for generations and this is where it starts. What will our county look like in 25 years? What will our citizens think of each other? Will we strive to truly be one community or will we continue to be uniquely fragmented along socioeconomic lines? These are the issues that the Board will address one way or another and I hope to be a part of that discussion.
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Johanna Ferebee can be reached at email@example.com or @j__ferebee on Twitter