Your choice: South Point Township seat on school board
Five people are seeking election to the South Point Township seat on the Gaston County Board of Education.
While the winning candidate will represent the South Point Township, voters countywide will vote on the seat.
The five running are: Joe Green, a 40, program director; Michelle Hughes, 49, who works in sales; Tod Kinlaw, 53, who works in drywall sales; Nate Seedorf, 28, who works for Lean Solutions; and 51-year-old Lisa Smith.
Candidates are not elected on a partisan basis, however, Kinlaw and Smith are Republicans, Seedorf a Libertarian and Green and Hughes are registered as unaffiliated.
The winner will replace Justin Davis, who served one term on the school board. Davis chose to run for Gaston County Superior Court judge.
The Gazette sent each of the candidates a list of questions. Here are there answers.
Question: How would you describe your current involvement with Gaston County Schools?
Kinlaw: I spent 25 years working inside Gaston County Schools officiating high school football, basketball and girls fast pitch softball. I am involved heavily with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as a FCA board member while helping students to be involved, engaged and motivated through the platform of sports.
Smith: I am currently not personally involved with the schools but I worked as a custodian and bus driver in the past.
Seedorf: I am more involved with some organizations that have a close connection with the communities around schools, parents, teachers, and students.
Green: I am a product of Gaston County Schools, with immediate family members serving as educators in Gaston County. In addition, I have volunteered at local schools.
Hughes: I currently have an 8-year-old daughter enrolled in North Belmont Elementary, and I serve on the PTO and School Improvement Team there.
Question: What qualifies you as the best candidate seeking your particular seat on the board?
Hughes: I think that parents should definitely be involved in the school board. I have the urge to make education better for my daughter and feel that being a part of the school board will allow me to do that.
Seedorf: My occupation requires me to analyze the status quo and make it more efficient by eliminating waste or restructuring the process. Additionally, I am young enough to remember the failures of public schools, but I am old enough to know how to move them into a better direction.
Green: My background includes over 15 years in education, specifically education policy work. I work in a non-partisan, non-profit national organization with student data to help promote cradle-to-career workforce programs immediately following high school or postsecondary enrollment to attainment. Moreover, I have managed federal grant allocations to states, school districts, and independent charter schools. In addition, I have worked in organizations to secure more than $36 million in grants to help build student intervention programs. I am not just passionate about education; it is my career and passion.
I know many candidates talk about their educational backgrounds; I have six degrees, including an undergraduate from UNC Chapel Hill and graduate studies at the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland. I have also served as faculty at UNC Chapel Hill and as a faculty and associate department chair at Elon University. I consider myself an educator. I am the most qualified for the school board and can represent all students in our classrooms.
Smith: I’m a parent and a Christian conservative with experience working with children as a church daycare worker and pediatric CMA.
Kinlaw: I understand the issues at hand. I was a GCS mentor for five-plus years. As a single man while I was a mentor to a young struggling student I was enlightened to the many struggles single parent and no parent students were involved in. I desired to be involved and engaged then as well as now. I managed a $100 million loan portfolio for over 13 years while being recognized as a company leader in my line of work. I am a proven sales leader skilled in the planning, implementing and managing of the sales and budget processes. I would never consider myself higher than the fine teachers in our schools today. I want to help, encourage, and be the leader I am called to be for our teachers, students and essential workers. I do possess the communication or "people" skills to work together with a team of fellow board members to make sure Gaston County Schools is positioned as the leader in education in North Carolina as well as throughout the country. I am the candidate in the South Point Township School Board race that will hold staff accountable and work to make sure every parent is fully engaged and well-informed. I will be an advocate for each student during my tenure. I can assure you I am the candidate of trust, transparency and accountability.
Question: Could you explain your understanding of "critical race theory" and how you feel about it?
Green: I am very familiar with "critical race theory" and its embedding of media, social, economic, and political movements and how these movements are influenced by race identity and ethnicity. My knowledge of this does not change my opinion. I believe that state public instruction guardrails should set the instruction of the classes, and our educators should have academic freedom to build lesson plans that consider the students and parents they serve. Said differently, I feel it should be up to the individual teachers to work with their students and parents to design a curriculum that cultivates learning while empowering the professionals in their field to teach the necessary materials to invoke wisdom.
Smith: It teaches victimization and division. It has no place in our schools. Teachers are educators not psychologists!
Hughes: My understanding is that it’s a label/classification that is more of a social construct than an actual theory. I do not feel that it accurately represents history and should not be taught in K-12.
Kinlaw: It is my understanding that it most likely is not currently being taught in Gaston County Schools. With that, I believe 100% it should not be taught in our schools in Gaston County. Every student in Gaston County, in North Carolina and in the United States of America should all have the same opportunities to a quality education learning reading, writing and arithmetic.
Seedorf: CRT is an ideal which suggests racial repression is a foundation for modern society. I believe teaching students they are either being oppressed due to their ethnicity or they are responsible for past evils is wrong. This will only divide students and promote them to not work hard.
Question: What kind of books, if any, would you favor banning from students based on the book's theme or stance?
Seedorf: Students need to be exposed to all types of ideas. Banning books means they are not allowed to study opposing views or historical opinions. However, the material should be age appropriate and not sexuality explicit.
Smith: Anything with sexual content of any kind. They are kids, and kids shouldn’t be reading something that would be considered rated PG or higher at a movie.
Hughes: I disagree with banning books in general. There has to be some parental guidance into what their children are reading. Every child tries to get around "bans" and restrictions, and I think that it would add to the problem instead of achieving what is wanted.
Kinlaw: I do not have any "books" that I can name right off hand that be banned. I do know that children do not need to be exposed to any form of pornographic material. I have a moral compass, God’s holy word and it shows me every day what I need to allow in my mind and heart. What you permit, you promote. That is a great quote that I have taken to heart. We need not permit filth, race baiting, nor pornographic books in our schools. I will not be moved from that stance in any way, shape or form!
Green: I do not think the school board should be responsible for determining the books offered in our schools. Our schools should follow state-issued standards as they have for years. Equally, I do think we should bring in books that create disruptions to quality education. Should students desire to go above and beyond the required reading, they should not be banned from doing so.
Question: What is your top priority as a school board member?
Green: While my top priority is the safety of our students, teachers, and school staff, I think the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in many supporting services being lost. We need them added back to our schools immediately. Instead, dedicated support roles were eliminated from the district and became "a choice" for schools. Our learners need not be a choice – they need to be a priority.
Kinlaw: My priority is to get the payroll issue corrected and teachers to made whole in all aspects of their payments and school safety. Once we get those corrected and fortified, we can tackle issues that continue to hold us back as a school system.
Seedorf: I want to restructure the budget so that schools are allowed to spend money on the actual needs of the school, not where the state thinks it should be spent.
Smith: Ensure a safe place for our children to learn how to succeed and contribute to society.
Hughes: Firstly, getting Gaston County Teachers paid. This has gone on long enough. Then working with parents and teachers to make the best choices to improve education in Gaston County.
Question: What could Gaston County Schools do, if anything, to make schools safer?
Smith: Our schools are unsafe because we moved God out of schools, without morals we have violence and because of this we need school resource officers at all schools, and proper training for all staff.
Hughes: I was misinformed that there were full-time school resource officers in every school, but have been told there are not. That would be the first thing needed. There are so many moving parts to school safety that need to be addressed, but that is the first.
Seedorf: I believe schools would be safer by allowing community leaders to aid resource officers in running security. Additionally, I believe teachers should be allowed to work with local law enforcement in keeping defensive tools in their classroom.
Kinlaw: To make schools safer, I would implement more school resource officers that are highly trained and well equipped. In conjunction, I would propose more security features utilizing cameras and communication equipment to help in remediating any unwanted attacks on our schools.
Green: Our students need to feel safe and expect fair treatment in our schools. First, we need assigned resource officers fully funded for all schools. This should not be compromised. Second, we need to change the philosophy that safety is the job of the resource officer or administration. Third, our educators and staff need coaching and training on proper interventions for incidents where they or their students become a safety risk. Many school districts have districtwide toolkits for all employees. Fourth, schools need adequate support services for students with disabilities to protect them and others around them from behavior that may be directly tied to their disabilities. Finally, we need firm and consistent discipline for students that should include removal from school to promote a safe environment.
Question: What's one thing you want to do to make Gaston County Schools better?
Green: Within our schools, we need stronger community alliances. Community alliances include many things: maintaining stronger relationships among and between educators, more parent involvement in our schools; more robust partnerships with our employers; and deeper connections with our communities at large.
Hughes: Work with the parents and the teachers to find the happy medium. I want my daughter to be excited about school, as I used to be.
Seedorf: I think teachers are overburdened by duties which are not related to teaching. I want to remove the cumbersome tasks assigned to teachers and simply allow them to focus on creating an engaging educational classroom for students.
Smith: Hold everyone accountable for their actions! Ask the questions that the people are asking.
Kinlaw: I have a few, but the question is one. We should explore innovative partnerships with the private business sector to create more opportunities for Gaston County Schools students with internships, work study programs and other opportunities for career development. This could help students know and have an idea of whether they want to go to trade school, college, armed forces, or the private work sector. Higher learning institutions are not for everyone.
You can reach Kevin Ellis at 704-201-7016 or email him at Kellis@gastongazette.com. Support local journalism by subscribing here.