With all the air being sucked out of the room by the 2016 Presidential race, some key state races have not had enough of a spotlight on them. Case in point, the North Carolina Superintendent race.
This race is quite crowded, with five people in the running including the current Superintendent, June Atkinson. The race includes two Democrats and three Republicans.
Aside from Superintendent Atkinson, the candidates are Henry Pankey, Mark Johnson, J. Wesley Sills and Dr. Rosemary Stein. Of those running, it is interesting to note that only one challenger is female – Dr. Rosemary Stein. We’ll get to know more about Dr. Stein in a bit, first, some background on the other candidates.
Mark Johnson is a Republican from the Winston/Forsyth area. Johnson is a lawyer who sits on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth school board. Johnson has indicated to me that he is not a fan of Common Core which is a positive. On the negative side is his training through the politically charged Teach For America and subsequent short-lived career as a public school teacher before turning to practicing law.
Campaign website: RemarkableSchoolsNC.com
J. Wesley Sills is also a Republican and a high school teacher in Harnett county. After a series of interesting career choices and adventures that includes sailing around the world, Sills began teaching in 2012, but was did not complete his licensure until 2015.
Campaign Website: JWesleySills.org
Henry Pankey is a Democrat out of Durham. He has been either a principal or assistant principal in several North Carolina schools spanning from 1996 to 2009. Pankey describes describes himself a ‘tough love urban principal‘, having dealt with Durham’s problematic Southern High school in the late ’90’s. Pankey was named Durham principal of the year not long after. Pankey also authored a book titled, Standing in the Shadows of Greatness.
Campaign Website: HenryJPankey.com
Finally we come to Dr. Rosemary Stein. Stein, who is a medical doctor and a Republican, has a pediatrics practice in Alamance county. Stein is the only other female in the contests and she’s also of Hispanic decent. Stein is a member of the Board of Trustee for Alamance Community College as well as Chair of curriculum there, is the Chair of the NC Republican National Hispanic assembly and is on the Board of the North Carolina Smart Start Foundation. Of note, she is also on the NC Superintendent’s Graduation Task Force.
Campaign website: DrRosemaryStein.org
I sat down with Dr. Stein and talked to her about why she decided to run and what her biggest priorities are. When asked what the biggest factor that drove her decision to run for Superindent, Stein said that a small article in her local paper sent she and her husband on an investigative journey.
My husband and I started a pediatric clinic 16 years ago. Our clinic provides the best possible care to our patients regardless of the parents’ circumstance in life. Several years ago, we read the Sunday paper in which a list of the top 100 students in the area was printed. Not a single one of our patients was on that list.” said Stein. “This lead us to begin the process of determining why our kids were not succeeding in school.”
During our investigation of this problem, we realized that our children were not able to read at grade level, and in some cases not at all. To solve this problem and not misdiagnose ADD, we began to investigate better methods of teaching reading and math. It was clear that North Carolina was no longer using traditional phonics based reading methods and classical mathematics instruction.”
Today, our children are forced to learn using a curriculum based on Common Core. This method of instruction is developmentally inappropriate.” stated Stein. “It does not teach to the child’s brain development. In fact, because Common Core teaches things to the child at the wrong developmental period of their brain development, it is actually harming their brain development.”
This path is the primary factor in my decision to run for Superintendent of Public Instruction. It is my intention to return North Carolina to the Classical Education model that was used so successfully in America decades ago. It is proven to be developmentally correct for the brain development of the child.”
The different candidates all seem to have some topics that overlap in their platforms. Common Core seems to be a hot button, as is over-testing. I asked Dr. Stein what her top three issues or goals were and she began by telling me what wasn’t on the list.
“I am not running for Superintendent to be a better administrator of a failing education system.” Stein said. “I am running to change that system to Classical Education so that all North Carolina children can reap the benefits of an education system that is reserved only for the elite in our society. Only by doing this can we fix our education system.”
It is my goal to fix the English as a Second Language program and return it to an immersion program that was used when I was a Spanish speaking child.”
Stein addressed a critical, yet oft ignored, issue for the success of our schools – teacher prepartation.
Stein stated, “I will also work with the North Carolina University system to return Child Development courses to the curriculum for aspiring teachers. Teachers must understand child development in order to understand how and why certain techniques work to help them teach their pupils.”
On the topic of the educational course that the Department of Public Instruction has taken, as well as the noted waste and administrative bloat under Dr. Atkinson’s tenure, Stein responded that waste can’t be reformed and that state and local control needs to be restored.
We cannot reform the waste in DPI.” stated Stein. “We must change the way that our children are taught. By accomplishing this task, the reasons for the waste will be eliminated.”
According to many North Carolina legislators, we receive about 10% of our education funding from the federal government. In return for this, we receive nearly 100% of the rules and regulations from them.” said Stein. “I would like to cut the ties to these federal funds and allow North Carolina children to get the instruction from those local educators who know them the best.”