NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Pete Wildeboer is looking to retain his seat on the New Hanover County Board of Education following his November 2020 appointment by the GOP.
Wildeboer came in fourth place in the 2020 election, losing 3,448 votes shy to Democrat Hugh McManus. He still made it on the board by selection of the GOP to replace Bill Rivenbark, who was elected to the county commissioners. In the case of a vacancy, New Hanover County Schools policy is for the board to appoint the recommendation of the former member’s political party.
Port City Daily has sent a questionnaire to every candidate running in local elections in the tri-county region. The paywall is also dropped on profiles to help voters make informed decisions ahead of casting their ballots.
As a reminder, the early voting period runs from Apr. 28 to May 14. The voter registration deadline is Apr. 22. Voters may partake in same-day registration throughout the two-week early voting period (check if your registration is active at your current address).
Primary Election Day is May 17.
Wildeboer’s stances on issues are discussed below. All answers are included in full and the candidate’s opinions and statements are not a reflection of Port City Daily. Responses are edited only for grammar, spelling and clarity.
Port City Daily (PCD): What is your top priority and how would you address it?
PW: My top priority is to improve education for all of our students. We need to focus our efforts on getting the best teachers and teacher assistants and support personnel and give them all the support they need. We need to get back to the basics of education, reading, writing and math and do that well. We need to rebuild the trust of the community and especially our parents. Communication and transparency are the keys to success in the future.
PCD: Mask mandates. Canceled proms and sports. Virtual schooling: How would you describe the current and past leadership’s management of Covid-19? Moving toward an endemic phase, what is your stance on how the board should weigh public health into its decisions?
PW: How have we handled the pandemic? When we erred, we erred on the side of caution. I have addressed this repeatedly, we have taken choice and freedom away from our students and parents. We put too much trust in our local health department, and as I have said repeatedly, we need to get important information from a wide variety of medical professionals. At the end of the day, the parents together with their medical professionals should be the ones to make medical choices for their children.
PCD: What is your opinion on the district’s current salaries and staff morale? What changes would you advocate for, if any, and how so?
PW: I am very pleased that we are able to pay our teachers the highest supplement in the state. They deserve that and more! However, our teacher assistants, custodians, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers need to at least be paid a living wage. I know from my past as principal of an elementary school, how important these people are to our students’ education. I have pushed for a freeze of all central office hiring- until we can adequately take care of all our educators and support staff at the school level. The morale throughout the county needs to be improved. We want faculty members who want to be at school and who enjoy what they do. We all need to take steps to support those in the schools and not continue to pile new things on their plates.
PCD: Some community members have expressed a desire to see less invasive measures taken in a school setting. Where do you stand on suspensions and seclusion rooms?
PW: I have met with community members who are proposing ending suspensions of our kindergarten through second grade students, and will be meeting with the group who have proposed ending use of seclusion rooms. They actually used my wording about the exclusions that would still be allowed in suspensions- “except cases of violence, drugs or alcohol, or weapons.” As I have stated from the dais, students that use the seclusion rooms usually have them in their IEP‘s, (individual education plans), so the teachers would have to meet with the IEP team, which include parents, to be able to change the plans. In all honesty, I would love to see the end of the need for these rooms. I have actually spoken with parents on both sides of this question.
PCD: Do you think community members, parents and staff members have a platform to be adequately heard? How can the district improve?
PW: I made a motion recently at a regular Board of Education meeting that directly speaks to this question. I feel that the call to the audience should be convenient for the community. Additionally, my motion directed that there will be quarterly additional meetings with the only focus of the meeting to hear from the community. I made suggestions of what these meetings could look like. I suggested town halls, small group discussions, and having dialogue with all our constituents in various ways.
PCD: What needs to be done to make schools safer?
PW: When I was principal at North Topsail elementary school, we had our own safety team, parents, law enforcement, administrators and other faculty members were part of this team. We also had the support of central office to aid us. No one knows the safety concerns of an individual school better than those at that school. At the middle school and high school levels, it’s important to include student voice on this team. SROs are a vital part of the safety plan of the school, and of the school safety team. Additional law-enforcement assistance such as drug dogs are important. Training the faculty and parents on things to look for and be aware of is also very important.
PCD: How comfortable are you with the way the district uses local funds?
PW: I previously mentioned my concern about the amount of funds spent at the central office. The focus needs to be in the classroom and school level. The BOE needs to get a handle on the spending and reign in some of the spending on certain programs.
PCD: Is there an additional issue or issues you think need(s) to be addressed during your term, should you win?
PW: I truly believe that the Board of Education should be an entity that demonstrates civility amongst its members. I was a coach for many, many years and the Board of Education needs to function like a team. A team may have a lot of talent, but if they don’t work together they can’t be effective. The bottom line is that the Board of Education and the whole school system needs to do what is best for the children of our county.
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