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Monday, May 27, 2024

Brunswick County Primaries 2024: Catherine Cooke runs for District 2 board of education seat

Republican Catherine Cooke is running for Brunswick County Board of Education. A property manager for a homeowners association, Cooke served on the board from 2008 to 2020. (Courtesy photo)

BRUNSWICK 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 Catherine Cooke is running for Brunswick County Board of Education. A property manager for a homeowners association, Cooke served on the board from 2008 to 2020.

“I would like to be on the board again because I feel that the decisions I made with the board were important to uphold the integrity of the school system,” she said.

Cooke is facing off against District 2 Republican candidates David Robinson and Rick Hessman in the primary election, to take place March 5. 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 Brunswick County takes place at five locations: the Cooperative Extension at the Government center (25 Referendum Dr. in Bolivia), Leland Cultural Arts Center (1212 Magnolia Village Way), Brunswick Center at Southport (1513 N. Howe St.), Brunswick Center at Shallotte (3620 Express Dr.) and Sunset Beach Community Center (200 Station Trail).

Early voting at the Cooperative Extension is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 15-16, 19-23, and 26-Mar. 1, and on Mar. 2, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The other locations are open: 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 15-16, 19-23, 26-Mar. 1, and on Saturday, Feb. 17 and 24, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., and Mar. 2, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. The locations open one Sunday, Feb. 18, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.  

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.).*

Cooke’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): If elected, what is the top issue you want to tackle?

CC: Ensure that the gaps in education since COVID are addressed and long-term success is gained for all students.

PCD: What is the current board of education getting right? Wrong?

CC: Cooke did not answer.

PCD: In November, the board voted to review the makeup of the district’s book review committee, particularly examining more community stakeholder input. Do you agree with the way the district reviews curricular and library material? Would you change anything about the process, and if so, what? 

CC: I was on the board when the book review standards were created. I am happy to revisit and see if there needs to be any changes.

PCD: Also in November, the board voted to review its sex education curriculum after one board member said he found some of its content “inappropriate.” Do you see any problems with the district’s sex education curriculum, and if so, what would you like to see changed? 

CC: In 2008 when I came on the board the sex education curriculum was a hot topic in the General Assembly. At the time we faced the challenges presented and devised opt-out plans for parents. I would have to study the current curriculum and determine what the issues are that are being questioned. 

My main concern is that the same curriculum is being taught county-wide and not deviating from the main course of study. There was a time when this was not consistent and each middle school had their own lessons that were used as an additional resource.

PCD: Do you think the district is adequately staffed? What positions would you like to see prioritized and/or deprioritized, and what should the board do to create a better working environment for its employees?

CC: I think staffing is an issue that always needs to be addressed. We need to ensure that staff has the support they need from the administration and that they have the personnel and curriculum resources needed to provide the best education possible for all the students.

PCD: Since the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, many school districts have 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?

CC: My time on the board ended in November of 2020 at the height of the COVID issues. I am concerned that there are many areas that need to be addressed for long-term success. I am committed to study the issues, and see there are plans in place to further the challenges that COVID 19 brought for our society and how we can work to overcome the deficits that we face as a county, state and nation.

PCD: At a legislative luncheon in December, Superintendent Dale Cole said the district is focusing on providing students with education and connections with CTE and trade careers. Do you agree with a focus in this direction, and how do you think the board and district should promote these pathways, while also still providing support for students seeking higher education post-graduation?

CC: We have CTE classes available for students and there is always a need for growth in this area. Partnering with BCC has always proven to be a great plan. Students need a variety of options as each child is different and excels in their own way.

PCD: Brunswick County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state and nation. Do you think the district is in a good position to accommodate the county’s growth as far as staffing, capital needs and infrastructure? What else can be done to prepare for additional students?

CC: District studies have been the norm for predicting growth. This county is experiencing a lot of growth and we have to look at the 5- and 10-year plans to adequately provide the needed resources.

PCD: Many school districts are seeing an influx of issues related to parents rights, and the state has passed legislation, the Parents’ Bill of Rights, to promote better communication and more parental control over public education. Where do you think the balance lies between parent and school staff responsibility over a student’s education?

CC: A parent is the first defense for their child. They need open communication with the teacher and staff. They should have access to the things that affect the growth of their child academically, physically and emotionally. The Parent Bill of Rights promotes what should already be in place in our schools.

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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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