Raleigh, N.C. — Up for grabs in this year's general election on Oct. 8 are four of nine seats on the Wake County Board of Education – the same seats filled four years ago by Republicans who made up a bloc responsible for a number of changes to how the school system operates.
Those changes included a controversial move away from the district's longstanding student assignment policy – in which students were bused to other schools for the purpose of socio-economic diversity – to a plan that gave parents more feedback when it comes to where their children go to school.
Four years later, Democrats have gained control over the school board – a nonpartisan governing body – and some members of the former Republican-backed majority have moved on to other endeavors.
Board member Chris Malone, who represented District 1 in northeast Wake County, left in December to serve in the North Carolina House of Representatives. Debra Goldman, elected to the District 9 seat in eastern Wake County, left in February to serve as executive director for a nonprofit.
John Tedesco, of District 2, announced in July that he won't run for re-election for the southeastern Wake County seat. Deborah Prickett is the only one of the original four elected in 2009 who is seeking re-election for the District 7 seat in west Raleigh and Morrisville.
Here's a look at who's running in each seat:
District 1 – Tom Benton vs. Don McIntyre
Tom Benton, a retired principal who was appointed to replaced Malone, has more than 40 years' experience in public education, serving as a high school social studies teacher before a 24-year career as a principal.
"Our community wants every school to deliver a high-quality education to its students, and I am committed to this shared community goal," says Benton. "I am determined to make a difference and pledge to work relentlessly with our principals, teachers, parents and business and civic leaders to meet the high standards we will set for each of our schools."
Don McIntyre is an attorney and retired small-business owner who says student assignment is a "band-aid," not a solution, to the school system's desire to achieve economic balance in schools.
"As an attorney, I spent my career helping clients resolve what they consider problems. I don't see problems, I see opportunities to use creative thinking to make things better," McIntyre says. "I was very successful in doing that for my clients, and I can do the same for our schools."
District 2 – Monika Johnson-Hostler vs. Matt Scruggs
Monika Johnson-Hostler, executive director for the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault and PTA volunteer, says the fight to ensure students have access to a quality education is still going on.
"As an advocate, not a politician, I will listen and work hard to collaborate with parents, teachers, business leaders and community members," she says. "Putting students first and politics last will be the overriding principle in my decision-making."
Matt Scruggs, who works in the automotive industry, says he wants to make sure that children today are afforded the same opportunities he was given growing up.
"Matt realizes that children are the future in this country, and if we fail to invest properly in our future, we will not have one," according to a statement on his campaign website.
District 7 – Deborah Prickett, incumbent vs. Zora Felton
Deborah Prickett is a program administrator and education consultant with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction who was elected to the Board of Education in 2009.
"As a parent who personally dealt with constant reassignment for my own son, in addition to working with youth from every part of the county struggling with some of the same concerns, I decided to jump in, stand firm on the promises you helped me to make and change it,” Prickett says. “From voting for fair, common-sense discipline policies that keep students in school to providing learning environments that are conducive to student success to hiring effective superintendents and quality staff to making sure schools are safe and our dollars are spent wisely, (my decisions) demonstrate effective leadership.”
Zora Felton, a retired educator who taught in Wake County for more than 25 years, says she wants to "promote sound policies and solutions for students, teachers and our community, not politics."
"Every decision made by the Wake County Baord of Education should be made with children's best interests in mind," she says. "I will keep the focus on student success."
District 9 – Bill Fletcher vs. Nancy Caggia
Real estate agent Bill Fletcher served 12 years on the Board of Education and was appointed earlier this year to Goldman's seat.
"Our singular focus must be to prepare students for success at the next level," says Fletcher. "To assure high student achievement, we must add rigor, engage the community in setting high goals and hold our schools accountable."
With 32 years of business experience, Nancy Caggia wants academic growth for all students, board accountability, nonpartisan collaboration and innovative opportunities for students.
"By expanding educational opportunities inside and outside the classroom, our students will become marketable and responsible citizens," she says.