Monday, September 26, 2022

Election 2022: Steve Gainey campaigns for District 5 Brunswick County Board of Education seat

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. ⁠— Republican Steve Gainey is running for the District 5 seat for the Brunswick County Board of Education. He will face off against Democrat Cameron Hankins; incumbent Gerald Benton did not file for reelection.

Port City Daily has sent a questionnaire to every candidate appearing on ballots in the tri-county region, even those unopposed, ahead of the Nov. 8, 2022 election.

PCD asked candidates to address issues regarding learning loss due to Covid-19, SROs, teacher pay and more.

Gainey’s stances on issues are discussed below. All answers are included in full and 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 Brunswick County include the government center (25 Referendum Dr., Bolivia), Leland Cultural Arts Center (1212 Magnolia Village Way), Brunswick Center at Southport (1513 N. Howe St., #1), Brunswick Center at Shallotte (3620 Express Dr.), and Southwest Brunswick Branch Library (9400 Ocean Hwy W.).

Once early voting closes, voters will need to go to the location listed on their 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): What are your top three concerns within the district and how do you plan to address them?
Steve Gainey (SG): Overcrowding — Overcrowding stresses teachers & staff thereby reducing instructional quality. It is also a school safety concern. In the short term, considerations must be made regarding the best use of available space & resources. Simultaneously, long term planning, using expert consultants, must be pursued immediately. This problem cannot be handled in-house.

Teacher Retention — BCS, like the state as a whole, is losing teachers. This is a multifaceted problem that calls for a strategic re-evaluation of our teacher supplements and a commitment by the board to ensure that the work environment, i.e. the classroom, is honoring and safe for teachers and students. Behaviors inconsistent with this goal should be met with zero tolerance.

Outside Influences — The state school board, through the office of the state superintendent and the NC Department of Public Instruction, is embracing and implementing the latest trends in liberal educational thinking (CRT, SEL, gender fluidity, etc.) which appears to see schools as instruments for social engineering, as much as for education.

As a board member, I intend to oppose this threat by regularly attending state board meetings so I can report back on pending initiatives and policies. I will also reach out to conservative board members in other school districts across the state to organize a noteworthy presence of conservative school board members at state board meetings.  

PCD: How should the district address two years of learning loss due to COVID-19? 
SG: Provide afterschool and summer-school classes in reading and math so students have every available opportunity to make up for the classroom work and instruction that they were denied by unnecessary mandates coming from Raleigh.

PCD: There are over 24 SROs across each Brunswick County school. Is this effective for school safety? Why or why not? Should there be more measures implemented? 
SG: As a school board candidate, I asked for, and was given, two conferences with the commander in the sheriff’s office that oversees the SRO program. There is some consideration being given to expanding the program by adding three additional officers, which would bring the total SROs to 27.

I think the change being considered would be an improvement because it would dedicate three managers to oversee seven schools each. Currently, management is being handled remotely and that is not optimal.

Above all, the board must take the lead in continually and intentionally facilitating open communication between the school resource officers, their superiors in the sheriff’s office, school administrators and the superintendent’s office. Everyone involved must always be on the same page and have the same understanding of the role each plays.

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?
SG: I am not familiar enough with all the staffing roles to know if staffing is adequate or inadequate in most areas. Everyone knows there is a shortage of teachers, substitute teachers and assistant teachers. It is a problem across the state.

Regarding pay: BCS lags behind adjacent counties in local pay supplements. This is a problem if we intend to attract and retain the best teachers and coaches available. We must thoroughly examine this situation with a long-term, strategic view rather than the recent practice of giving out Christmas and performance bonuses piecemeal, in an effort to mitigate supplement disparities.

PCD: In what ways do you think the district is handling Brunswick County’s growth well — and what could it be doing better?
SG: Brunswick County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. Considering that, the local district must be given credit for scrambling, as circumstances dictate, and continuing to do a good job overall.

We must invest in hiring the best and brightest consultants who have a proven record of expertise when it comes to growth forecasting and planning for the consequences thereof. This situation cannot be managed in-house.

PCD: The school board has faced many calls to offer more parental oversight of curriculum and/or consider banning certain books in schools. How do you promote a relationship of trust between educators and parents and ensure both parties’ roles are respected?
SG: Teachers are employed by the local school district and are accountable to administrators and, by extension, the board of education and, by further extension, to the parents. It is the responsibility of the board, working on behalf of the parents, to establish a work environment and culture that upholds the norms and mores of the community at large and to hire administrators that wholeheartedly buy into that culture and likewise promote it within their schools and classrooms. And they must be willing to enforce it upon uncooperative teachers if that is required.

Teachers are accountable for what they teach, how they teach and the materials they use in the course of teaching.

And, finally, in opposition to Port City Daily’s stated premise, this has nothing to do whatsoever with so-called “book banning.”

PCD: What would you bring to the board that is missing right now?
SG: Three things: 1) Require all board committee chairs to recap their committee’s actions during regular monthly board meetings; 2) appoint a board of education member to monitor and report on the activities of the NC Department of Public Instruction each month; 3) address the idea of a “Parental Bill of Rights in Education” for parents of Brunswick County students. 

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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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