NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Republican Pat Bradford is running for a seat on the New Hanover County Board of Education in 2022.
Bradford’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.
Port City Daily (PCD): Tell us your top three concerns within the school district and how do you plan to address them?
Pat Bradford (PB): My top issues are parental rights, student physical and mental safety, and returning a focus on reading, writing, mathematics and civics. We need a greater focus on teaching the trades. Our school district is going in the wrong direction.
Our public schools are not just pushing anti-family, anti-unity and anti-American viewpoints, they are robbing children of their innocence. The pendulum has swung too far away from what is most important and it needs to go back in the opposite direction.
Curriculum must refocus on the basics: teaching students to read, write and add a column of figures — those are equalizers for all — plus the history of our nation, spending less time on feelings. We must teach unity instead of oppressors vs. oppressed. (Parental rights and safety in the schools are discussed in other answers.)
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?
PB: I advocated for the end of seclusion rooms for about a year.
Recently, I met a former teacher that gave me pause. He was permanently disabled due to a headbutt from an out-of-control student. I believe the indicator I am looking for is the staff, including teachers, teacher assistants, and principals, to report they are equipped to handle the frequent violent outbursts that some children are having in the classrooms. This is traumatizing and disruptive for the entire class.
Some schools have no seclusion room use, what are they doing? Several have high use, why the disparity?
Unless I hear something new, I can commit to the date currently proposed, the start of the 23/24 school year, but if educators can be ready earlier, that would be far, far preferable.
PCD: How should the district address two years of learning loss due to Covid-19?
PB: This is a HUGE issue; we must make sure it never happens again. To begin with, we should talk about these losses and take responsibility for the decisions made.
In addition to the $4 million allocated in the budget for summer school programs, we should immediately implement free, easily accessible, high dosage tutoring that is tied back to what is being taught in the classroom. To accelerate recovery, we must reestablish a highly supportive school environment and stronger teacher-student relationships.
$15.4 million is being spent on laptop computers for all students (1:1), even those who have their own device. More than $2 million went to heating and air assessment and repairs. We should examine what happened to the remainder of the approximately $98 million in federal funds New Hanover County School received as Covid-related relief.
PCD: There are 60 SROs across NHC schools. Is this effective for school safety? Why or why not? Should there be more measures implemented?
PB: For the 22/23 year, there are actually 64 New Hanover County Sheriff Department SROs (school resource officers), as well as four Wilmington Police officers assigned to NHC schools. This is 18 more SROs than in the previous two years. These officers are walking around the campuses, inside and out, at all times of the school day.
Is it effective, yes, but I still want more measures — for example, increase camera use in and out. School safety is paramount. I am excited that Congressman Ted Budd has proposed Veterans-to-Classrooms program legislation, to enable veterans to pursue careers in education as teachers and school safety officers.
We need more volunteers in schools and strategic partnerships, like Dads in the Schools should be considered. The adoption of fingerprinting by the NHC sheriff department of new school hires this year is a much-needed start, but it should be expanded to include all school personnel.
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?
PB: I am not in favor of banning or burning books. I support the first amendment and I support parental rights. What is shared in homes by parents with their children is up to parents. But what is shared in the schools with children is everyone’s business. There are sexually explicit books and materials that are NOT at all age appropriate in schools. Trust has been shattered. To facilitate the regrowth of trust, we need absolute transparency. All, not just some curriculum, lesson plans and materials, and classroom and library book lists should be fully available for parents’ continuous inspection. Opt in to curriculum is more equitable than opt out. Parents should also be allowed back into the schools.
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?
PB: I am not a fan of traditional redistricting. Neighborhood schools are preferable because children should be growing up and going to school alongside the same friends and neighbors. All children should receive an equal education regardless of their race, where they live, or what challenges they face. Bring the equal to the school facility, without moving the students.
I don’t know that bussing students across town can ever make the district “balanced.” Consider our district’s racial makeup statistics: greater NHC’s three largest ethnic groups are white (77.1%), black (12.8%), and about 8% Hispanic/Latino. One race holds a significant majority; the school population is primarily 59.1% white, 17.5 % black, and 16.7% Hispanic/Latino.
I want to look into why some schools receive much more funding per student than others. Based on the numbers I have seen on NHCBOE charts, the lower socioeconomic schools receive far more funding per student and I want to dig into that.
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?
PB: Despite the new hires, the schools are not where they need to be. Teachers, teacher’s aides, and other workers are typically overworked, and not adequately paid. However, some central office staff received healthy raises over the last two years.
I do not understand why the elected school board did not vote to give teacher aides, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers the increases that were recommended by the salary study that was conducted at board direction and taxpayer’s expense. The school board chose instead to increase funding for social-emotional learning, along with equity, diversity, and inclusion.
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?
PB: I work well with others.
I was trained to be a teacher of children and have instructed many children and adults in a variety of curriculums. My journey in serving children began in 2006 when I was sworn in by the State of N.C. Courts as a Guardian ad Litem for New Hanover County. In simple terms, this is a child advocate in the courtroom. The court determined I was a good choice to speak for children.
I’m also a political outsider and small business owner (Wrightsville Beach Magazine), bringing common sense and much-needed leadership to the school board. I have decades of real-world experience in the structuring of multi-million-dollar budgets, human resources, hiring and firing, accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, vendor management, contract negotiation, employee health, Worker’s Compensation insurance, and RFPs (requests for proposals from vendors).
In addition, I founded and published “Lumina News,” the weekly newspaper from 2002 to 2015. As such, I became a government watchdog. That’s what journalists should do: hold the government accountable. I have literally attended hundreds, if not thousands, of local government board meetings, budget retreats, strategic planning sessions, and even excursions to Washington with local officials lobbying for the beach communities.
I am the leader needed to bring a culture of excellence to our county schools.
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