Wake County Board of Education Starts Year With Full Agenda

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Final exams are looming for some Wake County Board of Education members, while others must study up for their midterms this year.

John Tedesco, representing District 2 and Southeast Wake County, Deborah Prickett, representing District 7 and West Raleigh and Morrisville and Debra Goldman, representing District 9 and Western Wake County are all facing reelection in November of this year.

Wake County voters will have to decide whether to stay on the trajectory that overthrew the former Republican majority in favor of a Democratic one this past May, or to once again overhaul the political makeup of the theoretically non-partisan board.

This year is less fraught for recently elected members Christine Kushner, Kevin Hill, Susan Evans, Keith Sutton and Jim Martin.

But there is a lot of policy on the docket already as the board searches for both a new board member and a new school superintendent.

Read Board of Education members’ bios.

New Board Member Search

While former board member Chris Malone suits up for his first days representing District 35 in the North Carolina House of Representatives, board members will be working furiously to elect his replacement in District 1. In its first work session meeting of the new year Tuesday, the board discussed the process of filling Malone’s seat. Here are the applicants:

  • Wendy Ford, a long-serving school board member in upstate New York
  • Tom Benton, a former Wake County teacher and administrator from Zebulon
  • Shinica Thomas, a parent of two teenagers enrolled in WCPSS and District 1 Board Advisory Council member
  • Wade Minter, an IT professional and father of two elementary school children
  • Hilda McCullers, a retired teacher and lifelong resident of Eastern Wake
  • Ben Clapsaddle, the program manager for the Intelligence Strategic Readiness Review Team and Deputy Chief of Staff, G2, U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) at Fort Bragg
  • David Menaker, a real estate developer
  • Donald Mial, a unit manager with the N.C. Department of Juvenile Justice

See the application packets for all District 1 applicants.

All eight candidates will be interviewed in a special open session in the main boardroom Feb. 5. The chosen candidate will be voted in at the end of the meeting and sworn in at the next scheduled Board of Education meeting that month, Feb. 19.

New Superintendent Search
The unceremonious hiring, then firing of former Superintendent Tony Tata — now appearing in state government as Gov. Pat McCrory’s Secretary of Transportation — left residents scratching their heads.

Item one on this year’s list of goals: to search for and find a new Superintendent, a search that, just two years ago, cost the district about $82,000 and six months’ time.

This year, the board accepted four bids from Coleman Lew & Associates, PROACT Search, McPherson & Jacobson, L.L.C. and N.C. School Board Association, to conduct an executive search for the next Superintendent. In the work session, members agreed to narrow the selection to just two: McPherson & Jacobson and the N.C. School Board Association.

Goldman expressed concern Tuesday about the firm selection process. She said there was little discussion about whether to even hire a search firm, and was unaware that a request for proposal had been sent out.

Board of Education member Debra Goldman expressed concern Tuesday about how the search firms were selected.

Lauren Ramsdell

Board of Education member Debra Goldman expressed concern Tuesday about how the search firms were selected. Photo by Lauren Ramsdell.

Sutton said a separate firm would be transparent, independent, and not run by the board.

“As far as the process, I don’t know if we’d use any other process other than a search firm,” he said.

Acting Superintendent Stephen Gainey said he recommended this search follow the same process that the school system follows for any other proposal or search initiative.

In the regular session, Tedesco made the motion to select McPherson & Jacobson as the search firm. The eight-member board was split, with Tedesco, Goldman, Prickett and Sutton for, and Martin, Hill, Evans and Kushner against.

“The firm that John just made the motion to recommend has the more routed sphere of interest,” Goldman said. “Although I’m not happy selecting someone in this manner, I will be supporting them. I almost feel forced that we have to make a decision tonight without opportunity for discussion.”

Martin then made the motion in favor of N.C. School Boards Association, which resulted in the same four-four split.

Tedesco once again made the motion for McPherson & Jacobson, which passed seven-one, with Kevin Hill against. That firm, based in Omaha, Neb. is estimated to cost $47,030.

Related: Jan. 8 Board Agenda

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