Tuesday, February 20, 2024

2022 Election: Josie Barnhart hopes to secure a seat on NHCS board

Republican Josie Barnhart is looking to take one of the four seats on the New Hanover County Board of Education in 2022. (Courtesy photo)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY ⁠— Republican Josie Barnhart is looking to take one of the 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.

Barnhart’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? 
Josie Barnhart (JB): Restoring accountability, school safety and parental rights are my top three priorities.

Parents and teachers are allies for learning growth and should be able to access any and all curricula to support academic growth. All curricula should be merited and consistent between schools. 

Schools should be safe violence-free zones. Discipline accountability should be restored with our students, as well as this will help our staff retention. Consistency in discipline expectations will create a safe learning environment, both at school as well as in transit to and from school. We need to maintain school resource officers at every school despite some board members actively trying to eliminate them.

In addition to school resource officers, we should have mentors and adult volunteers to help keep our schools safe.

Lastly, I believe in supporting parental rights. Parents or guardians are allies in the school system and we should be encouraging parent involvement, giving access to curriculum to families, and allowing parents to make medical decisions for their child.  The school system should not be keeping any information from our families.

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?
JB: I believe the practices and procedures in how we deal with students matter the most to me. To ban seclusion rooms, which were designed as a safety measure for violent children, makes me wonder what will be in place. 

If teachers are utilizing de-escalation strategies and a child gets into a dangerous, violent episode, to themselves or the rest of the students, what resources will the teacher have access to? Will the child be arrested? Will the child be told they are not allowed to attend school? Will the rest of the classroom be evacuated? 

I am uncomfortable making a decision to end seclusion rooms until we have tangible answers to those questions, along with staff feedback saying they feel good about the decision. 

The board of education needs to be working with our staff and families to make the best decisions for our district.

PCD: How should the district address two years of learning loss due to Covid-19?
JB: Our district needs to be intentional in how we are addressing learning loss.

I believe in categorizing learners into the following categories: remediation, EC (special needs), ESL (English as a Second Language), or AIG (gifted and talented).  Our district should be utilizing teaching strategies to address these four categories of learners and help equip all staff with skills they can utilize to facilitate growth. I believe collaboration among the district will help streamline this process. 

For instance, some teachers may have monumental growth with our AIG or our ESL population. If that teacher recorded a short video and then was able to share it with staff across campuses, then a teacher who is not seeing as much growth in those areas could share the lesson in the classroom, while at the same time walking around giving targeted intervention to students who need it. 

I would also love to incentivize our staff monetarily — who are willing and effective at teaching certain lessons so that the district can create a wonderful resource not only for staff and substitutes to access but also to allow our families to access to help close learning gaps at home as well.  

PCD: There are 60 SROS across NHC schools. Is this effective for school safety? Why or why not? Should there be more measures implemented?x
JB: SRO officers are absolutely necessary for school safety. The more adults we have in the building to keep an eye on and build relationships with our kids the better chance our students have at success. 

I believe in addition to SROs we should also have volunteers and mentors to be present and create relationships in particular with our at-risk students. I also believe we need to ensure discipline is under control at all campus locations. Working with tough kids should not mean lowering standards. 

I also was concerned to find out that our school district had not fully implemented the true North survey that was completed a few years ago to create safer schools, which should be immediately fixed. 

Finally, I believe transportation, as it relates to safety, is an issue. Some of the bus stops are on extremely busy streets, not all neighborhoods have good bus sign markings, as well as some school zone signs and flashing lights do not correlate to the appropriate times in which students are being dropped off and picked up. 

We need to work with the department of transportation to fix these issues. 

PCD: The school board has faced many calls to ban books in schools and offer more parental oversight of curricula. How do you promote a relationship of trust between educators and parents and ensure both parties’ roles are respected? 
JB: I believe parents or guardians should have access to curricula. Transparency promotes accountability. All curriculum that is being used should be a sound, merited curriculum. 

I support the process for parents to be able to opt out of their child of lessons that go against religious views. I also support parents being able to challenge curricula that are being used. 

Any curricula or supported material deemed “inappropriate” or “not merited” should be removed from all corresponding schools, i.e. all elementary, middle or high. 

Staff should also be able to collaborate on the curriculum being used to ensure that there is appropriate pacing and strategies for accommodations for various learners.     

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?
JB: I believe every child should have an equal opportunity for a sound education. As a board member, I will work to ensure quality staff members are recruited and our district invests in programs that our staff and kids benefit from. 

As we look at the possibility of redistricting, it frustrates me to think as a district we can only educate children if we bus students across town. Redistricting is not a golden ticket answer. 

What I believe we need to do is restore accountability in the programs we are investing in. The money is not adding up. Our highest funded schools are also often the worst performing. We need to stop investing in failing programs. Let’s incentivize highly effective teachers to work in low-performing schools by paying them more.  

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?
JB: Quality staff is important at all schools. I believe that our county does a good job incentivizing staff to work here. 

However, as a former public education teacher, I know that every individual who works in the school deserves to be paid better. The reality is, I know the budgeting comes from federal, state, and local levels. I will work to invest taxpayer dollars in programs that benefit the academic growth of our students. 

I believe as a school board that we should work to have a consistent budget for education with our county commissioners utilizing a percentage of the overall local budget. This will allow our schools to know what financials they will receive and allow for targeting staffing at specific schools. 

I will also reach out to our state legislators about increasing staff pay. I believe morale can be better in our district and we can utilize the all-hands-on-deck partnership to provide a much-needed consistent appreciation and support for all of our hardworking staff. When staff are valued and respected, the likelihood of retaining staff is higher.  

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?
JB: I would bring a sense of direction. Right now, our board doesn’t have a clear plan that they are trying to bring to fruition. Depending on the day of the week depends on the issue that is highlighted. 

I believe that we need to have a scope and sequence to focus on opportunities for our kids. The more opportunities and educational pathways that we can provide our kids, the more chance of success they will have. I will work with community members to help expand quality career opportunities and career fairs for early exposure to our students. Working with our community will open doors for our students.

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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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