NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Stefanie Adams is a newcomer in the Board of Education race for New Hanover County Schools. Adams is a registered Democrat.
Adams lives off Navaho Trail on Somerdale Court and is a parent of one.
Below are Adam’s answers to Port City Daily’s questions.
Author’s note: Port City Daily checked in with Adams to confirm her answers, as provided this spring, still applied. Her answers remain the same.
What do you see as the highest priority issue New Hanover County Schools face?
I have a number of priorities that I will advocate for when I’m on the Board, but right now, we are focused on safety in schools. There has been increased awareness and interest due to local and national events, and we need to keep the conversation going. However, creating safer schools is not just about physical safety, although that is paramount, it also includes emotional, and mental safety. We need to collaborate with our state legislature and County Commissioners to increase funding for mental and behavior health professionals; if students are struggling, they need to know who and where to go to find support and resources. Additionally, having worked in a school that partnered with multiple non-profits to support student needs, I am a strong advocate for collaboration with community organizations in schools because I’ve seen it work. We are stronger as a team then we could ever be as individuals; working together as a united group and building relationships with our kids, we improve culture and create safer schools. To learn about my other priorities, I encourage you to visit our website, www.stefanieadams4nhc.com, or Facebook page, @Adams4NHC.
Do you find the operating budget to be appropriate? Would you like to see it increased, decreased or stay the same?
As New Hanover County’s population continues to grow, our operational budget should reflect that growth; more students means more teachers, more teaching assistants, more emotional/behavioral support services, and materials in order to provide the highest level of education for the children in our community. However, I do not believe that money is the only answer; many of the issues our students and schools face can be addressed through the creation of community partnerships. We need to increase volunteer opportunities in our schools; mentoring, business shadowing, and tutoring, among other ideas, are ways that we can create relationships within our schools. These provide necessary support without additional funding, yet the results are priceless for the children who experience them, and the adults who provide them.
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?
If it were to be discovered that Mr. Kelly’s actions were known and/or covered up, I would hold all to the highest extent of the law. Parents put their trust in educators every day, and we must protect that trust by holding our educators at all levels accountable for the safety and security of our children.
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?
I believe that the socioeconomic composition of our schools is imbalanced at all levels, but it is a by-product of the decision to create “neighborhood schools,” partnered with the fact that our county has historically been split along socioeconomic lines due to the lack of affordable housing in certain areas. We have schools with active PTA’s that raise thousands of dollars every year, and then reinvest that money into those schools for technology, trips, educator appreciation events, etc. and that is fantastic, but to assure equitable education and experience, we need to provide the same for schools that don’t have access to additional funding resources. Exceptional schools build strong and productive communities; if we invest in all of our children, everyone benefits.
Do you support the NHCS board’s decision to delay school redistricting? Why or why not?
I attended the April Board Meeting, and was appalled when current Board Member, Janice Cavanaugh, made a motion to delay school redistricting “indefinitely”; just because you choose to ignore a problem, doesn’t mean it goes away. Many of our classrooms are overcrowded, teachers are overwhelmed, and families continue to relocate here. Delaying indefinitely is out of the question. That being said, I did not agree with the process the Board attempted this year of redistricting our high schools with two months notice. Redistricting affects all of us, and there needs to be better communication with students, parents, and the community as a whole before a final decision is made; it is a complicated process, and all insights need to be heard and taken into consideration. In my experience as an educational consultant for Johns Hopkins University, I guided failing high schools through a whole school reform process to increase academic success and decrease drop out rates; the process was often tense because not everyone was on board with the change. Through my work across multiple states, I learned that you can’t get to the “how” of an institutional change, until you fully explain the “why.” As a member of the Board, I will push for greater communication throughout the redistricting process.
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?
Historical knowledge is important, but in this age of technology where advances are happening every day, our educational leaders need to be agile, adaptable, culturally competent, and innovative to assure that our schools are keeping up with teaching and learning trends, and addressing the needs of all of our students. “This is how we’ve always done it” cannot be the norm. New Hanover County continues to reinvent itself as our population changes culturally, technically, and socioeconomically; we need Board members that understand the needs of students today, not 20 years ago. As a parent of a NHCS first-grader, and a 1515-yearducator and non-profit professional, I understand and respect the historical implications of our educational system, but additionally, I bring innovative ideas that work to assure our children are prepared for the future of New Hanover County and beyond. It is time for new voices on the Board.
What strategy do you support in managing school overcrowding?
Obviously, redistricting is a necessity to alleviate overcrowding in elementary and middle schools, but for high schools, I support the idea of creating ninth grade centers, and based on what I’ve learned attending Board meetings, it is a financially viable option. Research proves that if a child is unsuccessful in their freshman year of high school, they have a much greater chance of dropping out before graduation; ninth grade centers provide a more individualized environment where many students thrive due to the relationships they are able to create with both adults and classmates. Additionally, I fully support the growth and expansion of SEA-Tech, our Career and Technical High School as a means to alleviate overcrowding; the connection between education and the workforce is extremely important, and the creation of this school allows students to have a relevant educational experience that prepares them for work right out of high school.
What are your thoughts on Charter schools?
For specialized interests and experience, I support charter schools, and we are lucky to have some very successful options here in NHC; however, I am an advocate for public education first. I don’t believe that federal and state funding should be provided to charter schools if they are not held to the same standards as our public system when it comes to testing, teacher credentialing, etc. Additionally, if a child chooses to attend a charter school, but transfers back into the public system, I think the money needs to follow regardless of when the transfer occurs; currently, if a child is enrolled for at least 10 days in a charter and then leaves, the money stays with the charter school, and the public school, which is already short on funding, has to creatively find ways to support that student.
RiverLights is apparently receiving a new elementary school. Do you believe this is a fair prioritization of resources?
A new elementary school is needed in our county, and the population in the southern portion has exploded, so it makes sense to build there; if the developers of RiverLights are willing to provide the land and additional resources to make it a reality, I support it as long the school is open to all local residents, not just the RiverLights community. This school needs to be taken into consideration as the redistricting discussion continues.
You can check out all of the candidates under our elections tab.
Johanna Ferebee can be reached at email@example.com or @j__ferebee on Twitter