Friday, July 19, 2024

Brunswick County Primaries 2024: David Robinson seeks District 2 board of education seat

Republican David Robinson is running for re-election on the Brunswick County Board of Education. (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 David Robinson is running for re-election on the Brunswick County Board of Education. A small business owner, Robinson is facing off against District 2 Republican candidates Catherine Cooke and Rick Hessman 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.).*

Robinson’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?

David Robinson (DR): I’ve lived in Brunswick County my whole life. This place raised me and made me who I am today. Now I want to continue giving back to the community that gave me so much. Serving on the board of education is my chance to shape the future for the next generation of Brunswick kids, just like teachers and mentors did for me.

Our students are our future firefighters, HVAC technicians, engineers and doctors. I believe every child here has the potential to achieve their wildest dreams, if we give them the education and support they need. I remember what it was like sitting in those classroom desks, dreaming big but wondering if those dreams could ever come true. With the right resources, Brunswick students can accomplish anything they set their minds to.

I’m committed to making sure our schools provide the foundation our kids need to make their goals a reality. With a quality education, the possibilities are endless for Brunswick students. Just like me, they can aspire to great heights, serve their community, and make their mark on the world. My lifelong connection to Brunswick County makes me ready to roll up my sleeves and help our schools shape the leaders of tomorrow. I’m ready to serve.

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

DR: The current board of education has been unified in balanced conservative decision-making and has made commendable strides in community engagement and collaboration. Board members are responsive and work diligently to address citizen concerns through common sense, balanced decisions that benefit our schools. There has also been progress in expanding academic and career opportunities for students.

The current board has also been very fiscally responsible. However, more work remains to improve staff morale and retention through competitive salaries and recruitment strategies. An empowered, motivated staff is crucial for executing the board’s vision. By continuing to listen to stakeholders while attracting and investing in quality educators, the board can build on its accomplishments and ensure our district remains on an upward trajectory.

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

DR: If elected, I want to tackle multiple priorities to enhance our education system. However, a few key issues rise to the top. First, I will focus on core educational principles to equip students with foundational skills. Expanding career and technical education opportunities will also prepare graduates for fulfilling careers. To drive progress, I will ensure district leaders remain accountable for school success. Additionally, I aim to revise disciplinary policies to be more effective and continue addressing bullying aggressively. Finally, attracting passionate, qualified educators and improving infrastructure are critical to providing a high-quality learning environment.

My goal is to pursue a multi-pronged approach to strengthen education through smart policies, accountability, and investment in our schools and teachers. By staying focused on these key priorities, I believe we can work together to secure a bright future for our students.

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? 

DR: The district’s book review process warrants further scrutiny. As I’ve stated previously, robust community stakeholder input — especially from parents — is crucial when evaluating curricular and library materials. Often, people are unaware of concerning content in books and digital resources. Rigorous review of age-appropriateness by external experts plays a vital role.

Moving forward, I believe the makeup of the review committee should be re-examined to ensure diverse community perspectives are sufficiently represented. An inclusive, transparent process is essential to provide students with learning materials that align with community standards and values. By working together, we can thoughtfully shape policy to best serve all families in our district.

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? 

DR: I understand the sensitivities around sex education curriculum. Ultimately, no school curriculum can replace open conversations between children and parents on these important topics. I believe a great deal of emphasis must be placed on encouraging parental involvement. Regarding the curriculum itself, some have expressed concerns that abstinence is underemphasized. I agree we should thoughtfully reexamine this.

At the same time, we must acknowledge the realities of today’s society, where kids have unprecedented access to information. While schools can and should provide age-appropriate education on reproductive health and safety, parents have an equally vital role. Moving forward, I encourage ongoing dialogue between parents and the district to shape a curriculum that balances community standards with the needs of students in the modern world. By working together, we can develop a sex education program that provides students with essential knowledge, while respecting the values of families.

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?

DR: While our district has many talented and dedicated employees, I believe there are opportunities to better staff certain critical positions and create a more supportive work environment. Specifically, we continue facing challenges filling EC, math, and reading teaching roles — shortages mirrored across North Carolina.

To attract and retain talent in these areas, we should get creative with recruitment and retention initiatives, such as increased local pay supplements for teachers. We must also ensure our salaries for classified staff remain competitive. Fundamentally, we need to foster an environment where employees feel respected, supported through robust benefits, and heard through open communication channels. By taking proactive steps to support our current and future staff, we can build a district known for valuing its people and the vital work they do for our 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?

DR: The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted opportunities for growth and change within our education system. As Brunswick County works to emerge stronger, we must thoughtfully examine which pandemic-era policies served our students well, and which did not. Certain flexibilities enabled creative solutions, while others led to concerning declines in standards. As we move forward, I will prioritize a return to pre-pandemic academic rigor. Regarding calendar laws, budgets, and funding allocations, some conflict between state and local control is inevitable.

District leaders understand their communities’ unique needs. As your representative, I will collaborate with school boards to advocate for reasonable local flexibility, while ensuring standards are met statewide. With open communication and good faith on both sides, we can strike the right balance between state guidelines and local autonomy. Our shared goal remains providing every Brunswick County student an excellent education. By working together, we will get there.

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?

DR: The times are changing, and our schools must adapt to prepare our students for fulfilling careers in the 21st century. Superintendent Cole is right to emphasize career and technical education alongside traditional academic pathways. Not every student dreams of a four-year college, nor should they; skilled trades and technical careers are vital and rewarding. Our counselors should guide each student to find their best path, whether in college or directly into a profession. With equal encouragement for higher education and career training, we can build a workforce ready to take on tomorrow’s challenges. The key is flexibility — we must shape our curriculum, activities, and counseling to nurture our diverse range of talents and aspirations. Our students deserve an education tailored to help them achieve their personal definitions of success.

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?

DR: Brunswick County is certainly experiencing rapid growth, like many regions across our state. As the student population swells, it raises critical questions about our capacity to accommodate these bright young minds. Are we adequately staffed? Do we have the physical space and resources? Is our infrastructure prepared?

The district faces real challenges in these areas, as do many North Carolina school systems. But solutions are underway. The strategic planning process and demographic study will reveal specifics about facilities, staffing levels, and capital needs. While high schools have benefited from major improvements, elementary schools require attention. Schools like Lincoln, Union, and Southport are aging and prime candidates for expansion, renovation or replacement.

With more students arriving each year, coupled with outdated buildings, the district’s position is less than ideal currently. But by identifying needs, securing funding, and mapping plans, I’m confident Brunswick County Schools can continue providing quality education despite the surge in enrollment. It will take a collective effort — from administrators, teachers, staff, parents, and community partners — but our students are worth it. Their promising futures remain the driving force.

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?

DR: We must uphold parental rights as a guiding principle of our school system. The district has a responsibility to ensure its policies align with state laws and to maintain transparency with parents. Strong communication between parents, teachers, and staff is essential for student success. By keeping parents actively engaged in their child’s education and fostering open dialogue, we can work collaboratively to support each child’s unique needs. With parents as partners, we can find the right balance to provide our students with the best possible educational experience.

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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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