Candidate: Greg West
District: Cumberland County Board of Education
Why do you feel like you are qualified to run for the Board of Education?
I am qualified for many reasons to include the fact that I have served as Chairman three times during my 12 years on the board. I am the only incumbent and an elected board needs consistency, stability and informed board members. The learning curve is steep in public education. I also am not an educator and bring outside perspectives and business experience to the 9-member board, many of which are former educators. Additionally, I am the only board member who has children in our public schools. I have a child in elementary, middle and high school, so I am a vested stakeholder in Cumberland County Schools.
How do you envision Cumberland County Schools in 10 years?
In 10 years, I see us exceeding the state average in every meaningful measure. We have some unique challenges in Cumberland County with 58.5% of our population on free and reduced lunch. Additionally, we do not have as high a percentage of families with college degrees as other urban school districts. Nonetheless, we are seeing 89% of our schools make predicted growth and Cumberland County Schools is performing higher than our benchmark urban districts within NC. We were a top four district in the nation in 2013 as a finalist for the Broad Prize for Urban Education. I know that we will win that prestigious award within the next ten years!
What is the number one challenge facing the Cumberland County school system?
I feel the number one challenge facing our system are the challenges of being in a rapidly changing world and having to adapt with limited resources. Although the great recession ended in June 2009, the local and national economy has yet to fully recover. As such, there has been great financial pressure on school systems and budgets have been cut. However, we continue to raise the bar with more rigorous standards and our children are meeting the challenge. Until the economy has a sustained period of growth, the biggest challenge facing our schools will be financial. However, our system has prospered well in this environment over the past 5 years and I know we can succeed in the future, despite the obstacles.
How do you propose to fix the challenge?
The statutory role of the Board of Education is to set policy and hire the superintendent. That’s it. Perhaps our largest role beyond that is to be an advocate…a cheerleader…for public education. So, whether it is with our local county commissioners, the NC legislature, or the Governor, we are to lobby for adequate funding and then make sure we are good stewards of what we are given. The current school board has worked hard to adopt resolutions and campaign for teacher raises and to keep teacher assistant positions, to name a few recent legislative successes. We also worked hard to renew a funding formula with our Cumberland County Commissioners to ensure local budget stability. We are the champions for public education!
What new ideas / concepts can you bring to the office you are seeking?
Our biggest new idea is the Mentoring Works! initiative in the community. We need to work diligently to develop and expand the program. Partnering with United Way and other local agencies, Mentoring Works! will guarantee that a young person has someone who cares and who is available to help them navigate day-to-day challenges. A meaningful relationship with a caring adult has numerous benefits for youth and we need to double the number of participants in this young program. I also pushed for the board to go paperless many years ago. I have been an early adopter of technology and, since I am not from within the educational community, I bring the ability to think outside the box and bring solutions from other industries to our school system. I am a team-builder and creative leader and help groups perform at their highest levels.