By Cash Michaels
Editor’s Note: For the next several weeks up to the Oct. 11th Wake School Board elections, The Carolinian will take a look at key candidates to evaluate how they would change board policy, if at all.
This week, a look at Donna Williams in District 6, currently represented by Dr. Carolyn Morrison.
District 6, located in the Cameron Village, Millbrook, North Hills and the Crabtree Valley areas, is home to Broughton and Sanderson High Schools; Carroll, Daniels and Martin Middle Schools; and Brentwood, Brooks, Douglas, Green, Joyner, Lacy, Lynn Road, Millbrook, Olds, Partnership, River Bend, Root, Stough, Underwood and Wiley Elementary Schools and Mount Vernon School.
When Donna Williams, founder and former president of the Northern Wake Republican Club, addressed those attending the Wake School Board District 6 candidates forum last week, she declared, “ I will take a nonpartisan approach as I serve on this board.”
“To me this is not a red or blue issue, this is about our children, it is about all of our children,” Williams assured, pledging to work with “all” school board members to improve the schools.
But it didn’t take long for the conservative activist and mother of four grown children to show that despite her pledge to be nonpartisan and work with all, Williams’ conservative heart was solidly with the Republican Wake School Board majority at every turn.
Interestingly, her pledge to be “nonpartisan,” for the sake of not scaring off any moderate voters, flies in the face of the very statement she issued when Williams announced her campaign August 11th.
A statement with the very partisan title of, “Northern Wake Republican Leader Seeks School Board Seat.”
“I want to make sure that the policies of the past two years are continued and extended during the coming term,” she stated, adding that, again, she could work with all of the members of the school board.
That maybe because when the smoke clears after the Oct. 11 school board elections, the former Northern Wake Republican Club president fully expects there won’t be but one or two Democrats left, giving the GOP the super-majority they’ve admittedly desired.
Indeed, to Williams, Republican Wake School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta and company can do no wrong. Her Northern Wake Republican Club worked hard to elect the GOP school board majority in 2009. When members of the NAACP protested the board eliminating Wake’s successful student socioeconomic diversity in July 2010, it was Williams who organized a counter protest in front of the school system’s then Raleigh headquarters, claiming the board’s actions had “nothing to do with resegregation.”
It surprised no one that none other than Margiotta was among the first to endorse her candidacy.
“Donna Williams is one of the most respected and hardest-working leaders on the Wake County political scene,” Margiotta, who is running for a third term, wrote in his endorsement of her. “She will be a tremendous asset to the Board, and I know she will wage an exceptionally vigorous and issue-oriented campaign. I look forward to serving with her in the years ahead.”
Even the board’s Republican vice chair, John Tedesco, is leading the social networking chant for Facebook “likes” in support of Williams’ candidacy.
During last week’s forum, while the three other candidates in the supposedly nonpartisan race - all Democrats - consistently blasted the school board for fracturing the community with divisive tactics, Williams, who was originally supposed to be attending a Republican fundraiser that night for fellow conservative Heather Losurdo in the District 3 race, would have none of it.
Williams, 56, tried to credit the Margiotta Five with improvements in Wake’s graduation rate.
“In the last year, they’ve actually improved,” she declared.
Problem is Wake graduation rate was steadily improving before the board’s GOP majority even got around to addressing academic achievement, which was virtually two years after it took office.
She also tried to credit the GOP majority with instituting programs like the Wake/NC State University STEM Early College High School, which was in development long before the Republicans took office.
A questioner from the audience had to correct Williams for her overreach.
During the forum, Williams said Wake County schools were still dealing with “many of the same issues occurring today [that] were happening thirty years ago…,” due at an “unstable assignment model, and poor policy choices.”
This week, she issued a statement trimming that alleged problem period from 30, to 20 years, without explanation of why.
Williams' charge flies in the face of the school system’s tremendous success just ten years ago, when it was being nationally hailed for its academic achievement through socioeconomic diversity by Forbes Magazine and the New York Times.
George Morgan, a former assistant principal, said if elected to the District 6 seat, his main focus would be on the students and making sure that they had all of the resources they needed to succeed.
Mary Ann Weathers, another former Wake educator and District 6 candidate, said in order for the Wake School Board to change, the “special interests” controlling the board had to be removed. She added that those same special interests were controlling the Republican-dominated Wake Commission Board.
Christine Kushner, another District 6 candidate, says confidence needs to be restored in the Wake School Board, which must “move beyond the acrimony” and partisan politics of the past two years. She promised, if elected, to “...get to the issues of academics, curriculum, and put the focus back on students and teachers.”
“I will come to the board as a parent, a leader and an advocate…,” Kushner said, adding that her children had had a “wonderful experience” in Wake County schools for the past 11 years, and she wanted that “for every child, in every school in Wake County.”
Then, in an apparent slap at Williams, Kushner said, “I’m not an angry parent running for the school board with a personal or political agenda. I am someone who wants to advocate for public education in Wake County.”