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Sunday, May 19, 2024

2022 Election: Veronica McLaurin-Brown eyes a seat on NHCS board

Democrat Veronica McLaurin-Brown is running for the New Hanover County Board of Education in 2022. (Courtesy photo)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Democrat Veronica McLaurin-Brown hopes to secure one of four seats on the New Hanover County Board of Education in 2022.

Port City Daily has sent a questionnaire to every candidate running in local elections in the tri-county region.

McLaurin-Brown’s stances on issues are discussed below. All answers are included in full; the candidate’s opinions and statements are not a reflection of Port City Daily. Responses are edited only for grammar, spelling and clarity.

The paywall is dropped on candidate questionnaires to help voters make informed decisions ahead of Election Day.

To prepare, here are a few dates for readers to keep in mind:

  • Absentee ballots will be available Sept. 9 and have a Nov. 1 deadline.
  • Registration to vote will open until Oct. 14; afterward, according to the state board of elections, same-day registration only will be available during one-stop early voting. 
  • Early voting begins Oct. 20 and remains open through Nov. 5 (3:30 p.m.).
  • Election Day polls open Nov. 8, 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Locations to vote early in New Hanover County include CFCC Health Sciences and Learning Center (415 2nd. St.), Carolina Beach Municipal Building (1121 Lake Park Blvd.), CFCC North Campus (4500 Blue Clay Rd.), Northeast Library/Board of Elections (1241-A Military Cutoff Rd.), and the Senior Center (2222 S. College Rd.).

Once early voting closes, voters will need to go to the location listed on the voter registration card.

To see a sample ballot for the upcoming election, fill in voter registration info here.

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Port City Daily (PCD): Tell us your top three concerns within the school district and how do you plan to address them? 
Veronica McLaurin-Brown (VMB): Children Come First. We must ensure that every child at every school receives a high-quality education. No “low performing” schools should exist in our resource-rich county. I will fight for the personnel and resources that are needed to maximize each child’s opportunity to become a life-long learner and an engaged citizen. And I would evaluate all school board decisions based on the question: “How does this help our children?”

Quality Teachers and Staff are Vital. We must attract and retain highly qualified, certified and classified staff by increasing pay, providing professional support, and creating a positive school culture and climate. The evidence is clear that quality teachers are critical to increasing student achievement. Respect for our staff begins with acknowledgement of their expertise and by giving them a seat at the table where decisions are made.

Improve Infrastructure. The infrastructure of our school district, both policies and physical resources, need to be analyzed and improved to accelerate student achievement. We must promote policies that end disparities in student outcomes, as well as disparities in our buildings, especially for our high schools.

We must provide every child with a high-quality education. Only then can we say, “Our children are our first priority in New Hanover County Schools.”

PCD: The school board has stalled on a decision to end the practice of seclusion in schools for months. What indicators are you looking for to end the policy? Can you commit to ending the practice by a certain date?
VMB: A seclusion room is basically a locked, padded closet. Last year there were 282 seclusions of 71 students. It is shameful.

The NHC Board of Education can vote to pass a policy now that ends the use of seclusion rooms by the start of the 2023-24 school year. That would allow for a whole year of training on the proactive tools and collaborative strategies for the staff in the ten schools where seclusions are currently being used.

Three board members support ending seclusion rooms. When I am elected, I will be the fourth vote needed to change this inhumane policy.

PCD: How should the district address two years of learning loss due to Covid-19?
VMB: It is imperative that our schools address the learning needs of every child. Our teachers are best situated to continually observe and assess what students know and what they can do. They must use observations and assessments to adjust their activities and lessons to meet the students’ learning needs.   

The “learning loss” that has been reported in the media refers to a decline in test scores. Another “loss” that is most concerning to me is the limited in-person interactions students had with their peers and other adults when our schools were closed due to Covid-19. That is why it is so important that we also focus on building trusting student-teacher relationships and continue teaching life skills that are the essential building blocks of mental wellness.

PCD: There are 60 SROS across NHC schools. Is this effective for school safety? Why or why not? Should there be more measures implemented?
VMB: Our schools must be safe places for children to learn and for our staff to work. There may be a place for SROs in our schools, but more funding is needed for problems at their source.

Students need more access to guidance counselors, social workers, and community health workers. Trusting relationships are the foundation of learning. We need to address the social-emotional health of our children and staff before serious problems occur.

PCD: The school board has faced many calls to ban books in schools and offer more parental oversight of curriculum. How do you promote a relationship of trust between educators and parents and ensure both parties’ roles are respected? 
VMB: I am concerned about the books in our schools, too. We need more of them–and more that represent the diverse population we serve. For both text and library books, there is an existing district policy (3210) based on state recommendations that allows parents to inspect and challenge materials. Trust will be improved when there is better face-to-face and online communication, transparency of existing policies, practices, curriculum, and data, and easier access to information.

As a new board member, I will do more listening and less talking.

PCD: Research has shown the district’s “neighborhood schools” districting policy has increased segregation along racial and socioeconomic lines reflected in Wilmington’s residential segregation. Do you think the district should redistrict using different techniques, why or why not?
VMB: I support sending children to schools as close to home as possible — and there are other factors that can be used to promote diversity and resource equity, such as school capacity, projected enrollment, special programs, and bus ride duration. This criteria had been used in the past to create redistricting maps with a more balanced approach, but the results were always dismissed, resulting in increased segregation along racial and socioeconomic lines. 

While there are multiple views about the solution to this problem, I believe there should be an acknowledgement of the issue and an exploration of what combination of actions — including student movement, additional funding, and redistricting — could benefit our common goal of an equitable high quality school system.

PCD: Do you think schools are adequately staffed? Why or why not? Do you think teachers and staff are adequately paid? Why or why not?
VMB: Based on our academic performance and discipline data, we know that many of our schools would benefit from additional Pre-K and K-12 teachers, teacher assistants, school counselors, social workers, and community health workers.  Increasing pay would help our school system attract highly qualified staff, reduce the need for second jobs, and prevent teachers and staff from being dependent on government programs.  

The New Hanover County School District receives 65% of their funding from the NC General Assembly. Our education, business, faith, and community leaders must demand that the assembly fully fund the Leandro Plan. That plan could bring in over $57 million in additional funding to New Hanover County by 2028 to hire and retain the high-quality staff that we need to educate all of our children.

PCD: Current board members, please, answer this: What is one action you’ve taken as a board member you would do differently and why? Potential new board members, please, answer this: What would you bring to the board that is missing right now?
VMB: I’m both a parent and an educator with over 30 years of teaching and administration experience in this district. I believe that the school board should be accessible and responsive to teachers, parents, students and the community. For each policy reviewed and decision made, we must ask, “Is this good for all of our children?” I am a candidate for the board of education to promote a quality education that prepares all students to become life-long learners and engaged citizens.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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