Sunday, July 14, 2024

2020 Election: Pete Wildeboer (R), running for New Hanover County School Board [Free read]

Pete Wildeboer is running to secure a spot on the New Hanover County Board of Education. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Pete Wildeboer)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Republican Pete Wildeboer is running for a spot on the New Hanover County Board of Education.

The longtime educator will appear on the ballot alongside five other candidates; voters may select three.

Early voting begins Oct. 15. Same-day registration is available during the early voting period, which ends Oct. 31. Election day is Nov. 3. Check your voter registration and county elections office to confirm polling locations, dates, and hours.

Port City Daily emailed all candidates the below questionnaire and will run their responses ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Port City Daily edited responses for spelling and grammatical errors only.

Port City Daily (PCD): NHCS publicly changed its reopening plan three times before settling on a final course of action. How would you grade the current board’s handling of Covid-19? What, if anything, should have been done differently? 

Pete Wildeboer (PW): B-. First, I must say this pandemic is something that has never been seen in our lifetime, so the board was going into uncharted territory. With that in mind, I feel we need to get the full picture from the medical side, as well as a socio-emotional side of this pandemic.

First and foremost, we need to keep sour students and faculty members safe and healthy, while also taking into account that our children are being deprived a sound education. As a former elementary school principal, I find it very hard to understand how giving a kindergarten student an iPad and sending them home is an education. I would have researched things like germicidal ultraviolet, which is used in hospitals to kill bacteria and viruses, and move to install it in our schools to improve levels of safety. Our students need to be at school to learn and have the best education possible. 

PCD: How concerned are you about the achievement gap for minority students at NHCS? What, if any, policy changes would you push for to address it?

PW: Extremely concerned. The first and most glaring concern is the lack of readiness of students coming into kindergarten. As a former elementary principal, who has seen the benefits of a strong pre-K program, both for my rising kindergarten students and for the pre-k students. I also feel supporting our low-performing schools, and getting the suggestions and feedback from the teachers, parents and administrators of those schools on possible solutions to getting all schools to a minimum of a “B,” would be beneficial for all our students. Also, I would hold forums involving local and state schools that have had a turnaround.

The school that I was named principal of in 2008 was slated to go into state sanctions after two low performing years. The school was severely overcrowded and had low morale. By the end of my first year as Principal, we were named by the state as a “School of Distinction,” so I know a little about what it takes to turn a school around for the positive.

PCD: Do you support higher pay for bus drivers? How else would you address the district’s need for bus drivers?

PW: Yes. Pay increases and benefits for all drivers are needed—additionally, a wonderful plan that was shared with me in another district was for the district to help graduating students move into community college and pay for them to get their CDL, provided they will come back and work for the district for a set amount of time as a driver.

PCD: How familiar are you with the Isaac Bear school facility situation? What would you do to address it? 

PW: Extremely familiar. As a former assistant principal at an early college high school, I think the early college program is wonderful for our students!

In the program I was associated with, the early college shared buses and facilities with the Brunswick County Academy, which is the county’s alternative school. I advocated for several safety measures for both schools. I was told each bus had a camera, but in my view that would be helpful only after an incident occurred. I worked with the county transportation department to assign a monitor to each bus to proactively stop incidents before they began.

Additionally, I pushed for all students that entered the building to go through metal detectors. The principal at the early college was not in agreement, but I was able to convince her it was best for the safety of our students, as well as those in the alternative school. Each program has its obstacles to face, but the safety of our students needs to be a priority.

I will be sure that there is a bus or van to drive the students safely across the road, and will sit down with the college and work out a compromise to share the cost of a new facility to house our shared students.

PCD: Do you support the district’s current use of school resource officers? What changes would you make and why would you make them? 

PW: Yes. I have heard several concerns about the use of officers to discipline or as a scare tactic. I firmly believe we need SROs in schools to keep the peace and keep our students safe. Thankfully, we haven’t had a school shooting in our district, but when I responded to the situation at Topsail High recently, I was very proud of the work of the SROs.

I feel they should help educate our students on topics like internet safety and other important safety topics, as well as make suggestions to the administration on ways to help keep students safe from intruders and bullies.

PCD: How comfortable are you with the way the district uses local funds? What redistributions, if any, would you make? 

PW: Somewhat comfortable. The funds that the BOE is responsible for are often in different categories: facilities, instructional supplies, personnel and others. Teachers and teacher assistants, or instructional assistants, are so important to the day-to0day education our students receive, we need to attract the very best teachers and support them so they can do the very best for our students.

Raising the county supplement is an important first step, and supporting our instructional personnel through professional development is also very important. As previously mentioned, our support personnel are vital, and bus drivers, maintenance and cafeteria staff should be valued and supported.

PCD: In 2018 many board members branded their campaigns on increased transparency and accountability — do you think those goals have been met? Why or why not? What policy changes, if any, would you implement to improve those things?

PW: No, not fully. I have heard NHC BOE members accuse each other of holding meetings without letting others know and even about cliques on the BOE. Very simply, when elected I will be there to help provide the very best education and safety for each and every one of our students. I will be in the schools and meet with any parent groups or school groups when asked.

PCD: Has NHCS administration addressed long-standing issues that resulted in an alleged cover-up culture and consistent failure to protect students from pre-identified criminal activity on behalf of staff aggressively enough? Why or why not? 

PW: No. Until all our students are safe and feel safe, we haven’t reached our goal. Our students need to be and feel safe and we, as the board of education, need to regain the faith and trust of our parents and guardians. A student can’t get their best education unless they feel safe at school.

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