Wednesday, July 24, 2024

New Hanover County Primaries 2024: Nikki Bascome vies for board of education seat

Republican candidate Nikki Bascome, a substitute teacher and executive director of nonprofit, is a first-time candidate for the school board. (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 Nikki Bascome, a substitute teacher and executive director of nonprofit, is a first-time candidate for the school board. Bascome told PCD she has never officially held a government position but has experience working on various committees.

“I know I am highly qualified and determined to fill this position,” Bascome said. “I cannot sit on the sidelines anymore and watch our school slowly implode.”

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

If elected, it would be Bascome’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.).*

Bascome’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?

Nikki Bascome (NB): As an executive director of an autism nonprofit, I have proven to be a fair and level-headed leader, with the ability to come together with people from many diverse opinions and backgrounds. I am fiscally responsible for our nonprofit’s success and combine it with my background of being a former business owner, I am highly qualified to hold our district leadership under a fiscal microscope.

I have also been responsible for developing and implementing trainings for early childhood professionals on age-appropriate practices and positive discipline techniques. This experience will benefit when policy and curriculum questions arise. I am qualified as a community leader, a professional, as a NHCS advocate for over 40 years, as a parent, and as a teacher.

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

NB: Our current school board took over quite a mess of issues that have lingered from former board leadership. The current board has tried hard to address each as they arise while also trying to stay compliant with state laws. I feel our current school board has also tried to identify and close loop holes within our policies that have been taken advantage of over many years.

What is our school board getting wrong? Some have lost the sense of civility. While we may not agree, we must find a civil way forward and leave political rhetoric out of the conversation.

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

NB: Fiscal responsibility. The possible closure of Mosely under the guise of “budget cuts” is deplorable. There are better ways to trim our fat without any children suffering the consequences.

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? 

NB: As a former student, parent, and educator within the system, I’ve seen where diversity and inclusion has been woven into much of our curriculum regardless of the EDI committee being dissolved.

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?

NB: There was a study done by Center for Poverty and Inequality where they found redistricting, while it can effectively address budget and enrollment problems, can disproportionally affect disadvantaged students and families. NHCS have tried redistricting many times in my 40 years and I have not seen where it has helped alleviate any of the issues we have to date. It will take a board working together and reaching out to county officials and state leaders and find solutions.

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? 

NB: I feel the flexible calendar was extremely beneficial. Each school district should be able to set their calendar to fit the needs of their community as a whole. I also feel our allotment funding and ratios should be reevaluated at the state level. As a board member, I would like the opportunity to push our state leaders for change in these areas.

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? 

NB: All positions working directly with children is important. I feel our district is understaffed especially in our EC classrooms. Many of our EC teachers and assistants get limited breaks, lunch breaks, and planning time. As a board member, I would like to see the ratio break-downs per student, per school, and compare it to district staff positions.

As for working environment, I feel staff have been put in the middle of a political war along with our children. There was a very large “them against us” mentality during Covid that has been hard to push past.

In the past, our district and board were so removed from the real classroom environment (which has changed drastically post Covid), they’ve lost sight of how to improve. There have been a few improvements made recently to bridge this gap. There is the new student voices, teacher round tables, and family advisory council. I would like to help bolster these programs and see them become sustainable. I feel they are a valuable asset in improving moral, engagement, and communication.

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? 

NB: NHCS distributes expectations on student behavior to every student and family at the beginning of the year. When expectations are clearly stated, staff, families, and students understand and acknowledge said expectations yet a student still chooses to deviate from expectations, there should be natural and logical consequences for their choice.

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? 

NB: There has always been an unwritten understanding that parents should have a say in their children’s education. It is my opinion that parents are their children’s best advocate, the expert on their children. School staff are the experts on sound education. There should be a partnership between the two and a mutual respect of the boundaries. When or if an issue arises with a child, school staff and parents should come together and discuss it, work toward a healthy solution. School staff can bring their education expertise to the table with options and resources, while parents bring their knowledge of their child and what they feel is in their child’s best interest. We are better when we work together and communicate.

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?  

NB: In my view, the board has been polarized by political agendas, which has led to discontent and stalemate in the decision-making process. Having meaningful dialog, especially with someone of an opposing view, helps us see things in a different way. We should be able to agree to disagree but always moving forward. Isn’t that what we are supposed to be teaching our children? Accept the differences?

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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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