Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Brunswick County Primaries 2024: Lavar Marlow vies for District 1 board of education seat

Republican Lavar Marlow is running for Brunswick County Board of Education in District 1 in the primary election. (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 Lavar Marlow is running for Brunswick County Board of Education. An award specialist at UNCW and pastor of Pleasant View Missionary Baptist Church, Sunset Beach, Marlow has never run for public office. Though he has served on boards, such as the Brunswick County Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention, the Farm at Brunswick board of directors, and Campbell University Alumni board of directors.

Marlow is facing off against District 1 Republican candidate Vickie Smith in the primary election, to take place March 5. His 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.).*

Marlow’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): Why do you want to run for the school board?   

Lavar Marlow (LM): Education is rapidly changing. We are on the precipice of how we do education and how we do it well to meet the demands of an ever-changing world. My heart resonates with support of Conservative School reform and look forward to serving. My goal is to ensure we, Brunswick County, one of the fastest-growing counties in America reject the status quo. What does that mean?

  • Making sure conservative leadership stays in office
  • Working to ensure student success is the priority
  • Connecting students with internships and externships to prepare them for the workplace
  • Making sure career and technical programs are revered just as much as college transfers. I get the privilege to see what the students look like when they get into the real world. As adults and college students. I am deeply concerned about the whole student when they get to the college/ university level
  • Ensuring students have the soft skills needed to excel in college or the workplace. I want to make sure adequate preparation is a must. Social skills are essential. Health and well-being are essential.
  • I am also a strong proponent of supporting our teachers, staff, and administrators
  • I will fight for teacher, staff, and administrator pay increases — to ensure we attract the best and brightest to our county
  • I am deeply passionate about mental health days 
  •  I am deeply concerned about our students’ curriculum. This is why charter schools are popular. I reject and am strongly against liberal topics and book choices.
  • Supporting citizenship education.
  • Supporting every parent’s right to be involved in their child’s education
  • Providing well-equipped facilities is a priority
  • Keeping our schools safe is a priority.                                                                             

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

LM: I believe our current board has done well with the major growth that is happening. It is in the best interest of the board to get ahead with strategic plans, feasibility studies, and provide continued support to teachers, facilities, and technology, to get ahead of the growth. We must prepare for the future, not be blindsided by it. It is my belief the board is doing well at this juncture. It is my hope to add my experience in evaluating policy and being an effective communicator to ensure parents, students, teachers, staff, and the community are all collaborative to ensure our students are successful throughout the entire county.

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

  • Facility upgrades with school innovation in technology, and overcrowding
  • Increased internships and externships
  • Increased community involvement and partnerships, especially with non-profits and businesses. Also, increase community communication
  • Increased academic success
  • Increased school and bus safety
  • Increased funding for athletics and the arts
  • Increased partnerships with our veterans, local community colleges, and local universities
  • To hold our community to support our teachers more.

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?

LM: Having the communities’ input increases the communities’ involvement. I agree with the district’s examination of curricular and library material. I would only add to the process to work more intently with our four local community colleges, universities, and manufacturing-technology businesses. 

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? 

LM: Sex education has changed over the course of time. It has become a more controversial topic in most societies due to cultural, religious, and personal belief norms changing. I am more concerned about the age it is introduced and what should be taught in a biological aspect. Some curricula are almost pornographic in nature and are not okay. Having the right kind of material and support to make healthy choices is important. This is up for debate with respectful conversations about our young people if I am elected.

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?

LM: I do not believe in deprioritizing any position. I believe with the amount of growth we are seeing, there is always room for improvement within budgetary restrictions. I believe having adequate elementary and High school staff and teachers is critical to student success. Conversely, in well-funded school systems, staffing levels may be more sufficient, allowing for lower student-to-teacher ratios, better access to support services, and an improved didactic educational experience. It’s important for us who help with education policy to continually assess, and address staffing needs to ensure that our schools can effectively meet the needs of students. Additionally, providing adequate resources and support for educators is vital for maintaining a positive learning environment.

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?

LM: Not to be preachy, but the COVID-19 pandemic affected many facets of life and left scars in all that we do as a people. The pandemic forced many school districts to adapt very quickly and like many areas conflicted with existing processes that were set by our state legislature and NCDPI. As we navigate back to a new normal, I believe the following:

1. Flexibility in calendar laws will allow us to compete with private and charter schools. If we become more rigid, it may limit our ability to adapt to challenging circumstances.

2. I believe we should be adaptable but stick to a traditional budget cycle. Though it may not align with unpredictable world systems like a pandemic, it is important to make sure allocations and funding are a priority with some adjustments.

3. Working with grant budgets, I see the necessity of flexible funding allotments. Funding formulas and allotments typically function to distribute resources. I believe the board and the administration have to be flexible and adaptable to maintain equitability to ensure needs are looked at by circumstances across our school district.

I believe each of these areas should be arranged as more of a priority.

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?

LM: I agree with Superintendent Cole. My doctoral dissertation was on student choice and Career and Technical Education versus College transfer. I couldn’t agree with this leadership decision more. Data-informed decisions tell us that we must look at evidence-based data that show the needs of the United States of America and the great state of North Carolina.

I would begin collaborating with our Small Business Centers at Brunswick Community College and Southeastern Community College to work on early college students working to incubate businesses.

And I would work with Brunswick Community College, Southeastern Community College, and UNCW to have Career and Technical Education awareness campaigns with our high school students.

I would collaborate with each high school to have an industry and workforce employer showcase to show the value of a CTE pathway.

When reviewing the curriculum, I’d make sure career exploration and guidance are a must and dual enrollment and articulation agreements are known and marketed.

It’s also important to assist every middle and high school so educators have current professional development on this topic with a fun incentive for them. This is to not overburden them with more work.

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?

LM: The board is doing a fantastic job. This is a hard concept to grasp with so much unpredictability. The first act of duty is to look at infrastructure plans currently and to do feasibility studies to check the capacities and student-to-teacher ratios in all of our schools.

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?

LM: I am a proponent of parents’ rights to have more parental control over public education. This is so long as it aligns with teaching and learning and not indoctrination.

I also want to say that teachers need to be given room to teach. This should include student accountability. There has to be a balance between teachers teaching and holding our students accountable and educating our parents to know the needs of the students.

If elected this is an area I’d research. I want to make sure the board is collaborative with parents, students, and teachers to make learning innovative and a pioneer for the state of North Carolina.

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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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