Monday, July 15, 2024

New Hanover County Primaries 2024: Kimberly McDuffie Murphy seeks board of education seat

Republican candidate Kimberly McDuffie Murphy, whose career is working in public schools, is running for one of three seats on the New Hanover County Board of Education. (Courtesy photo)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — 2024 is a presidential election year but also one that impacts numerous local boards — such as county commissioners and education districts in the tri-county region.

READ MORE: Here is who filed for the 2024 elections

Republican candidate Kimberly McDuffie Murphy, who grew up attending school in Pender County, has a career working in education from New Hanover to Brunswick to Onslow counties, as a teacher, dean of students and high school assistant principal. She is running for one of three seats on the New Hanover County Board of Education.

“This year I will have 20 years in the public schools system,” she told PCD. “I am not only an educator, but had a child to attend New Hanover Schools and currently a grandchild in the New Hanover County Schools system. I am confident that my experience and background will be serve as a great benefactor for the New Hanover County Schools system.”

In the primary election, Murphy is running against four other Republicans — David Perry, Aubrey Tuell, Nikki M. Bascome and Natosha Tew. The primary will take place March 5.

If elected, it would be Murphy’s first time serving government. Her stances on issues are discussed below. All answers are included in full; responses are edited only for grammar, spelling and clarity.

Port City Daily has compiled candidate questionnaires so voters can read up on contenders’ stances before heading to the polls. The paywall is dropped on profiles to help voters make informed decisions ahead of casting their ballots.

Voters will choose which candidates from their registered party they want to move forward in the formal election — or those who are registered unaffiliated can choose which party’s primary they want to vote in. After the March 5 primaries, Election Day will be Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2024; a valid photo ID will be needed to cast a ballot in both. 

Anyone not registered to vote can partake in same-day registration, available throughout the early voting period, Feb. 15 – Mar. 2. Check here to see if your registration is active at your current address.

Early voting in New Hanover County takes place at various locations: Northeast Regional Library (1241 Military Cutoff Rd.) in the David E Paynter Room, Carolina Beach Town Hall (1121 N. Lake Park Blvd.) in the police training room, CFCC Health Sciences Building (415 N. 2nd St.) and NHC Senior Resource Center (2222 S. College Rd.)

Early voting stops are open Feb. 15-16, 19-23, 26-29 and March 1, 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., noon to 5 p.m. on Feb. 24-25, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 2. 

Below is a breakdown of dates to expect ahead of the primary election:

  • Jan. 19, 2024: County boards of elections begin mailing absentee ballots to eligible voters who submitted an absentee ballot request form.
  • Feb. 9, 2024: Voter registration deadline (5 p.m.).*
  • Feb. 15, 2024: In-person early voting begins.
  • Feb. 27, 2024: Absentee ballot request deadline (5 p.m.).*
  • March 2, 2024: In-person early voting ends (3 p.m.).
  • March 5, 2024: Primary Election Day.
  • March 5, 2024: Absentee ballot return deadline (7:30 p.m.).*

Murphy’s questionnaire is below; all candidate’s opinions and statements are not a reflection of Port City Daily. 

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Port City Daily (PCD): What is the current board of education getting right? 

KM:I am a real fan of student voice. I am thrilled that our students have an opportunity to voice their concerns in the most appropriate way. I have watched several meetings where students spoke up for themselves. This is what we teach our children-advocate for yourself! I do not believe that any child should be shut down when expressing themselves as we have taught them to do. 

PCD: Wrong? 

KM: There is some division among our board. It is obvious based upon the meetings that I have attended and viewed. A house divided cannot stand. I would like to see more cohesiveness, regardless of how we view topics. If there is discord or any disagreements, that should be done in closed session. The public has seen too much division among our board. As a county, we need togetherness from the top down, setting the example for our students, parents, and the community.

PCD: If elected, what is the top issue you want to tackle? 

KM: One of the issues that I would tackle is the lack of transparency between the superintendent, the board, and the people. We are public servants. The community needs to be abreast of changes and/or implementations made by board members and the superintendent.

PCD: In December, the board voted to dissolve the equity, diversity and inclusion committee. Do you agree with this decision, and what is your plan, outside of reestablishing or opposing the committee, to promote inclusivity and ensure every child has the resources they need to succeed? 

KM: I agree with this decision. My rationale is that this type of committee should cover all students and not one class of people. I believe that more training and information should have been provided to those who served in this capacity and the public. When there is ambiguity and unknown information, it is difficult to support any type of initiative. As it stands now, I believe that this should not be a committee to focus on, when there are other programs in place that are already focusing on these matters.

PCD: A 2023 space needs study concluded NHCS needs significant capital projects and repairs to accommodate its current student population. However, other analyses by the county show the district could better distribute students across its facilities, indicating a redistricting is needed, and the student population is expected to level off and decrease in the future. Where do you stand on addressing potential growth and the district’s capital needs? What projects do you think the district should prioritize?

KM: My hope is that we focus on growth. Ashley High School was the last traditional high school established when Hoggard overcrowded. Our community has since grown and we must be able to accommodate families who are moving into New Hanover County. Overcrowded schools impedes student learning and can also cause safety concerns.

PCD: Since the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the school district has been grappling with a return to more rigid, and in some views inadequate, processes highlighted by pandemic flexibility. These issues — calendar law, budget cycle, allotment funding — often stem from the state level. What is your view on these topics, do you think they should be changed and how would you plan to do so? 

KM: I believe that these issues should be handled locally, as each county is different and has different needs.

PCD: Do you think the district is adequately staffed? What positions would you like to see prioritized and/or deprioritized, especially in light of the district having to make significant cuts to next year’s budget? What should the board do to create a better working environment for its employees? 

KM: I do believe that this district, along with others are understaffed. Although, I am aware of bonuses to gain staff. However, I believe that there should be a long term plan for staff retention.

PCD: Many districts, including NHCS, have been experiencing issues with student discipline. NHCS is also unique in its struggle with discriminatory discipline practices against Black students per a federal sanction. Do you think changes should be made to the way the district disciplines students, and if so, how? 

KM: I believe that there should be research conducted on how to discipline with diversity. There should not be one blanket disciplinary action for an infraction. There should be options hat aim toward positive behavior rather than punitive consequences.

PCD: Since the last board election, the topic of parental rights has influenced discussions, including over curriculum, library materials, surveys and medical care. Where do you think the balance lies between parent and school staff responsibility over a student’s education, particularly in these areas? 

KM: It is wonderful for parents to be able to express their views on topics. However, as an educator, not only do we need their voices on these topics but also we need parent involvement on a more frequent basis. Additionally, as an educator, my role is to help educate students. There is a boundary between our role as educators and overstepping our boundaries into parenting.

PCD: The board has discussed different ways to hold each other accountable, such as a code of ethics policy, and ways to make the board more efficient, such as adding agenda review meetings. Do you think the board should be doing more to promote civil and efficient discussion? If so, what actions would you propose to accomplish this?  

KM: I would propose establishing ground rules to follow. As adults, more particularly representing New Hanover County Schools, it is important that we speak professionally and civilly toward each other-as we are on one team to ensure the academic success of our students. 

[Ed. note: The questionnaire has been updated to reflect Murphy attended Pender County schools but did not work for the district; PCD regrets the error.]

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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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