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Monday, May 27, 2024

New Hanover County Primaries 2024: David Perry seeks first-time seat on board of education

David Perry is running for a seat on the New Hanover County Board of Education. (Courtesy David Perry)

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.

Republican candidate David Perry is a software engineer who ran for the North Carolina House of Representatives’ District 19 in 2018 and 2020.

He hopes to take one of three open seats on the New Hanover County Schools Board of Education. In the primary election, Perry is running against four other Republicans — Natosha Tew, Nikki Bascome, Kimberly Murphy and Aubrey Tuell. The primary will take place March 5.

Perry’s 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 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.).*

Perry’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 Perry (DP): I am helping to raise my 7-year-old grandson Lucas, who attends second grade at Codington Elementary School. Like all parents, grandparents, and guardians, my hope is that he will eventually become an educated adult who can think independently and critically, maximizes his potential, and becomes the man God intends for him to be.

A proper education is a critical component for him to meet those hopes. Unfortunately, our public school system is failing miserably. I am running for school board to turn the state of our school system around, so that Lucas, and all the children of the school district, can receive a top-notch education.

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

DP: I believe that the Republicans (save Stephanie Kraybill), who hold a majority on the current school board, all have very good intentions. By and large, they share my conservative vision to return our schools to being fiscally sound centers of learning that concentrate on individual student success rather than on social transformation projects and student indoctrination.

To that end, they have done some good things. It was good that they got rid of the middle school transgender sports policy, which was both unfair and unsafe for the other female student athletes.

In addition, their concern for parental rights should be applauded. Parents have an absolute right to supervise what their kids are reading. In a school library, parents don’t have that opportunity for supervision. Therefore, it is imperative that the material in pour school libraries is unquestioningly age-appropriate, and the current school board should be applauded for their efforts to make sure this is the case.

Finally, the dissolution of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion committee was a good first step; a step towards treating all of our student as unique and equally valued, instead of lumping them into identity groups.

That said, our current school board has also gotten some things wrong. So far, they haven’t done a thing to end the barbaric use of seclusion rooms in our schools. They have also done nothing to replace out-of-school suspensions with an in-school suspension program that can continue to educate students who have misbehaved.

However, the largest mistake by our current school board was the decision to extend Dr. Foust’s contract as Superintendent. This man does not share our values, and does not “work or play well with others.” Yet, 90+ percent of the management of our school district is in his hands. He can not be controlled with orders from the school board. He will continue to pursue his own strategic plan, and not the strategic plan of the school board. We need to begin searching for Dr. Foust’s replacement immediately.

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

DP: There are several “top issues” for me. However, the most immediate problem we need to solve is replacing Dr. Charles Foust with a superintendent that shares the board’s values and strategic plan for the school district. While the school board sets important policy, 90+ percent of the day-to-day management of the school district is in the hands of the superintendent. He has proven time and time again that can not be controlled and is a detriment to the school district. We cannot make the necessary improvements to our school district with him in charge. Furthermore, he has proven time and time again that he does not “work or play well with others.” He has alienated our teachers and school administrators alike with his dictatorial style of management. This is nothing new. Dr. Foust alienated many during his tenure as superintendent for the Kansas City, Kansa, school district. Finally, his unilateral attempt at closing the Mosley Academy (without public input or school board approval) demonstrates that Dr. Foust refuses to follow NC law. We need to immediately begin a search for his replacement.

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?

DP: As a Christian, I believe that each individual child is made in the image of God, is equally loved by him, and is unique. Therefore, I am definitely for the “equity, diversity, and inclusion” of the individual. But the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) programs that are entrenched in our school system have nothing to do with the individual student. These EDI programs are simply inserting identity group politics into the classroom, and their goal is not to help individual students succeed, but to use our children and grandchildren as pawns in their fight for social revolution. Instead of valuing each unique child, they lump kids into groups of “oppressors” and “victims” based on skin color, gender, and other immutable characteristics. This is just plain wrong!

Therefore, I believe the board’s decision to dissolve the EDI Committee was the correct one. However, we need to go further, and completely eradicate these divisive programs from our school district. Instead, we must concentrate on an individualized education that puts the individual student first. As outlined on my website (perryforeducation.com), I have a plan to have an informal IEP for every child in our school district that will foster true inclusion and true student success.

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?

DP:I am not an expert in demographics, but I believe the county’s conclusion that the student population of NHCS will “level off and decrease” is faulty, or at least premature. Since 2010, New Hanover County has seen a dramatic (15.6%) growth in overall population. This is far above the national and state averages for population growth rates. While it’s true that most of this population growth can be attributable to retirement aged folks moving here, I believe that the lack of a marked increase in the NHCS student population is a temporary phenomenon.

There was simply not enough available housing in New Hanover County to handle the overall demand, and the prices of homes within the county rose dramatically. Young families were still coming to the area but could find substantially lower priced housing in places like Leland and Hampstead. However, these places are now also filling up, the deals are disappearing, and the gap in housing prices is quickly eroding. In my opinion, once the gap in housing prices completely erodes, we will see an increase in the NHCS student population.

My opinion is not “gospel” and, as I mentioned, I am not an expert in demographics. However, since it takes about 5 years to properly plan and build a new school, we need to keep our “ears” to the pavement. I do believe can and should consolidate our facilities to the greatest extent possible.

We also need to invest in needed repairs to all our school buildings so that they are roughly equal. I believe in neighborhood schools, and we shouldn’t be busing kids to distant parts of the county to obtain statistical equality. We just need to invest in the needed repairs for such places like New Hanover High School.

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?

DP: Most of the changes to the educational processes in our schools during the COVID-19 pandemic have proven to be disastrous. Closing our schools and putting kids in front of computer screens severely damaged the academic progress of 95% of our students. The learning loss has not been remedied, and is only getting worse, as students can’t fully comprehend the new material since they never learned the predicate material. We need to return to a traditional and teacher-led classroom education, and set up remedial programs to at least try to our students back on track.

That said, I am not for a top-down approach to education. Our school district, and its elected school board, should have the discretion to implement policies that work best for our students, and not be commanded by the state to do things in a certain way. The state should set some basic standards and offer general guidance, but leave the administration of our local schools to its elected leaders.

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?

DP: Teachers, and the staff that support them, are the life blood of our local educational system. Sadly, we are increasingly finding it difficult to recruit, never mind retain, the teachers and staff that are essential. We have a major shortage, and we must act now to correct the problem.

The major source of the problem is a lack of adequate pay for the school district’s employees. Educators do not enter the profession in order to get rich. However, just like everyone else, educators have families they need to provide for. This is becoming increasingly difficult with the soaring cost of housing in New Hanover County and with inflation rates continuing to go through the roof.

Teacher salaries are generally contracted through the state, and based strictly on factors like years of experience and degrees held. As a school board member, I will certainly do my best to advocate to the NC General Assembly for higher salary rates.

However, I will go farther. I believe we have the power locally to solve the problem by ourselves by setting up a county funded performance-based bonus system for the school district’s teachers and staff. This bonus would be in addition to their base salary, and not in lieu of any part of that salary. It will be a true incentive that will allow us to hire and retain the teachers and staff our school district needs.

While all the details will need to be worked out, this plan will be performance-based. If the students that teachers and staff are responsible for are doing well, then those teachers and staff should be rewarded handsomely for the extra effort it took to make this happen.

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?

DP: Even though I have been requesting it, I have seen no evidence that NHCS disciplinary actions have been racially discriminatory. I might change my mind if someone were to show me evidence that white students were getting more lenient discipline than black students were for the very same conduct. That would be discrimination.

However, all I have seen up to now is statistical presentations based on demographics. We all know that statistics can be twisted to “prove” almost anything. That said, I do believe there are significant areas of reform in our student disciplinary practices that we should work on.

We need to get rid of seclusion rooms once and for all. We need to replace out-of school suspensions with in-school suspensions. Most importantly, however, we need local school administrators who can deescalate smaller problems before they become very large problems, and who are responsive to the concerns of parents. We can never have a repeat of what happened with Chance Deablo in 2021.

His mother reported to school administrators at New Hanover High School that he was being bullied. The school administration did nothing. Soon thereafter, a student was shot (luckily not fatally), and Chance Deablo is now sitting in prison until the age of 21. All because of an unresponsive school administration. I propose that we set up an independent Parent Advocacy Office for the school district. They can represent parents and ensure that school administrators take the proper steps to respond to the often-urgent concerns of parents.

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?

DP: Short of abuse, parents have the absolute right to raise and educate their children as they see fit. Our school system should never think that they know better. The balance should always be in favor of the parents.

While we should always provide an age-appropriate curriculum, it would be unwise to change it completely because of the protests of a small minority of parents. However, what we can do is to be completely transparent about our curriculum. We can ensure that parents get a syllabus beforehand that includes a list of what topics are going to covered and which materials are going to be used. If possible, we should allow parents to opt-out of certain learning activities and offer alternatives.

Parents have an absolute right to supervise what their children are reading. I am for the First Amendment, but we have to be more careful when it comes to school library material.Unlike when students are at a public library, a parent has no opportunity to supervise what their kids are reading at the school library. Therefore, we must ensure that materials at the school library are unquestioningly age-appropriate.

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?

DP: It would be ideal for all conversations between school board members and between the board and the community to be civil and not devolve into a series of insults and personal attacks. Once I am elected to the New Hanover County Board of Education, I intend to conduct myself in such a courteous manner. We can strongly disagree on the issues, but be professional and “agree to disagree” when the discussion and votes are over.

That said, I am a strong believer in the 1 st Amendment, and I fear that too many rules of decorum can just be used as a tool to quiet dissent. We are supposed to be a government “of the People, by the People, and for the People.” Sometimes that can get messy!

The answer to hateful and rude speech is not censorship, but more free speech. Finally, I would like to applaud the current school board for the Town Hall meetings they have being conducting over the last few months. This format provides a great opportunity for the community and the school board to have actual discussions. It promotes conversations over confrontations. I would be for scheduling more of these town hall meetings.


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