I am both grateful and humbled in receiving the endorsement of The Carolinian. In no way do I come close to the stature of President Barack Obama or Congressman Bobby Etheridge! My pledge is to continue advocating for the best interests of all children at all schools in the Wake County Public School System.
THE CAROLINIAN ENDORSES KEVIN HILL FOR
THE WAKE SCHOOL BOARD DISTRICT 3 SEAT
As many of our longtime readers know, The Carolinian Newspaper, throughout our over 70-year history, traditionally does not endorse political candidates for office. We pride ourselves with serving this city and state with hard-hitting, fact-based reporting, providing our readers, especially in the African-American community, with enough information and perspective to make up their own minds on Election Day.
When it comes to specific candidates, we traditionally prefer to tell you what we know, rather than what we think. There are only two occasions when we’ve determined that telling you both was of primary importance - the election of Barack Obama, and former Congressman Bobby Etheridge of the Second District. In both cases, we felt that their election to office was so essential to the welfare of our nation and state, that we had to do more than just report.
For only the third time in the history of this community newspaper, we feel the need to do so again.
The Carolinian Newspaper is endorsing educator Kevin Hill, the incumbent District 3 representative on the Wake County Public School Board, in the crucial Nov. 8th runoff race.
Mr. Hill has served on the school board since 2007, when he was first elected. He is a veteran educator, having spent over 30 years as a teacher, assistant principal and principal in the Wake County Public School System. During the past four years, Hill has displayed a keen knowledge and insight into how to improve WCPSS, give teachers what they need to get the job done, and spend our tax dollars wisely to ensure that our students get maximum benefit from the programs the system adopts.
There are two things that we particularly like about Kevin Hill: he has an unquestionable devotion to seeing that all children learn; and no matter how hard those around him try, Hill has no interest in being a politician.
After our own Rosa Gill left the board as chairman in 2009 to serve out the remaining term of then NC House District 33 Rep. Dan Blue, Hill was elected the new chairman, and led until the Republicans took over the majority in the school board elections later that year.
As The Carolinian has dutifully reported, the divisiveness and partisan politics that have been in evidence since the Republicans took over the school board has made what was once a leading school system in the nation, in terms of academic achievement through student diversity, now a punchline on Comedy Central, and a prime example of racially resegregating our public schools.
On Oct. 11th, the voters in Wake County said, “Enough” after two years of partisan politics over sound public policy. Democrats took four of five open seats.
Kevin Hill was 51 votes shy in his District 3 North Raleigh race from claiming victory. Thus the Nov. 8th runoff with Republican challenger Heather Losurdo, a former member of the US Air Force who has only been living in Wake County for three years with her husband; led the Northern Wake County Republican Club; says that she supports the ultra-right-wing Tea Party; and disturbingly, agrees with her husband that a skunk and the president of the United States have a lot in common - “they’re both black and white, and everything they do stinks.”
In short, whatever Ms. Losurdo’s qualifying credentials for the school board are, beyond her politics, we frankly don’t see them.
Before 2009, we wouldn’t have worried about this questionable caliber of partisan candidacy even having a prayer of being elected to our school board. But Ms. Losurdo has the backing of powerful Republican and Tea Party forces behind her, hoping to unseat Hill so that the GOP can retain their 5-4 majority, and bring about the racially identifiable high poverty, low-performing schools that their neighborhood schools policy will create.
Schools that will be jammed with our promising young people, while the suburbs get all of the attention.
To be clear, Wake County Public Schools were never perfect in the past. There were constant problems, issues with fair treatment when it came to suspensions, and more.
And yes, from 2006 to 2009, the achievement rate for black students in the system dropped, and many were found struggling on standardized tests. Part of the reason for this was that administrators admittedly took their eye off the academic prize - namely doing what they initially did that had 91.5 percent of Wake students, grades 3-8, achieve academic success at or above grade level ( with 81 percent of black students being rated highly as well) from 2000 to 2005.
People forget that for those five years, Wake was one of the top public school systems, out 115, in the state.
But Wake’s tremendous growth issues, due to its nationally recognized academic success, distracted the system’s leaders, and academic excellence from 2006 on, suffered.
They began to get back on track by 2007, the same year that Hill came on the Wake School Board, and the improvements and corrections put in place then, are baring fruit now with an over 80 percent graduation rate for 2011, the highest its been since 2006.
Hill says take the partisan politics out of school system policymaking; and devise a student assignment plan that emphasizes student achievement equally with proximity, stability and choice and doesn’t create more high poverty schools, and Wake Public School System can get back on track to greatness.
We believe him.
Kevin Hill has fought, and continues to fight hard for all children in WCPSS, especially since the Republican takeover of our school board two years ago. We need measured, experienced, reasoned, and seasoned leadership on our school board now to set a new course that brings the total community together, not further divide us with partisan politics.
It is for that reason that The Carolinian Newspaper endorses Kevin Hill in the District 3 Nov. 8th runoff race, and urges all voters in that district to come out, and be heard next Tuesday at the polls.
HILL IGNORES POLITICS, FIGHTS FOR CHILDREN
By Cash Michaels
For veteran Wake School Board member Kevin L. Hill, “fighting” to retain his seat does not include saying nasty things about his District 3 runoff opponent, Heather Losurdo - who is certainly saying a lot of bad things about him - or trumpeting the cause of the Democratic Party either, even though it’s pouring lots of man-hours and money into getting him re-elected.
In fact, in his latest campaign mailer to the voters of District 3, Hill does only two things - contrast the length and breath of his over three decades of work experience as an educator and school board member; to that of Heather Losurdo's "education and community experience" as a three-year resident of Wake; former president of the Northern Wake Republican Club; and training as an "Air Force mechanic."
The closest Hill even gets to being political is reminding people who see his mailer that "A vote for Losurdo = a vote for John Tedesco for Chair," referring to the brash Republican-Tea Party vice chair on the board.
Given some of the broadside attacks Tedesco has leveled against Hill lately, it's understandable that the District 3 Democrat may want voters to add Tedesco's possible elevation on the school board to their equations.
"I've always been taught not to judge others,” Hill, a Democrat, told WTVD-11 this week. “So, I'm going to stick to what we have to offer the voters.”
It’s also why Hill believes and adheres to Wake Board of Education Policy 1005, “Responsibilities of a School Board Member”:
A Board member shall endeavor to attend all meetings, discuss items presented on the agenda, and vote upon motions and resolutions presented. It is important that a Board member is nonpartisan in dealing with school matters and that he/she not subordinate the education of children and youth to any partisan principle, group, interest, or personal ambition.
For Hill, representing District 3, and, as he says, fighting for “all schools, all children” in the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), means getting teachers and administrators the vital resources they need to reach every child academically; developing system policy in a careful, consistent and concise manner to make certain that tax dollars are spent wisely; and whatever is ultimately implemented, moves WCPSS forward towards greater academic achievement.
“Final decisions must be data-driven, transparent, and with the needs of the school system in mind,” Hill says on his website. “Making decisions based on facts and evidence increase the likelihood that our schools are efficiently run and ultimately create financial benefits for everyone in Wake County, as a result of a greater return on our investment in education.”
“Wake County School Board member Kevin Hill has courageously stood up for our children's right to top-quality public education that is free to them regardless of socioeconomic or geographic status,” said Kimberly Yaman, who formerly worked in the WCPSS Central Office for over a decade. “Mr. Hill has not only my support for reelection, but my utmost respect and admiration.”
Yaman, and other Hill supporters hope that next Tuesday, voters in District 3 - North Raleigh, will agree, and turnout to re-elect Kevin Hill to a second term on the Wake School Board. Hill was just 51 votes shy of winning 50 percent of the Oct. 11th District 3 vote in a four-candidate race.
Because Republican-Tea Party candidate Heather Losurdo came in second with 40 percent, those two will square off on Nov. 8th.
The race is extraordinarily important because whoever wins decides the balance of power on the Wake County School Board, where currently, Republicans hold the majority 5-4.
But with Democrats impressively taking 4 of 5 seats during the Oct. 11th elections, thus crushing any hopes of a GOP super-majority, there is a 4-4 split until the District 3 runoff is decided.
Decide the balance, decide the board’s policy direction, observers say.
For her part, Losurdo has been running hard, raising a record $82,000-plus, running television commercials, appearing on conservative talk radio programs, and sending out partisan mailers throughout the North Raleigh district, in what’s supposed to be a nonpartisan race.
Her message - vote for Kevin Hill, and he’ll bring back “forced busing” and student diversity, and end neighborhood schools.”
Not only do Hill’s supporters dismiss Losurdo’s charges as scare tactics, but ask if she’s even qualified to serve on the school board, given that she’s only lived in Wake County for three years, has no college degree, and apparently, per published reports, allegedly padded her employment resume’ to seem more accomplished than she is.
Losurdo denies those charges.
Admittedly embracing the controversial Tea Party movement, and her agreeing with her husband’s Facebook portrayal of President Obama as a skunk, “…being black, white and everything it does stinks,” has Hill’s supporters adamant that Losurdo is too partisan, and not suited to serve as an elected official.
“If elected, she would be a rubber stamp for John Tedesco and his extreme Tea Party agenda,” Wake Democratic Party Chairman Mack Paul, who once again is directing a full-throated, well-funded voter strategy to again assure Democratic victory Nov. 8th, said in a statement. Later adding, “ Tedesco and Losurdo would lead to further division, name calling and disarray on the board."
The politics give Hill a headache, he says. But so do school policies and plans that don’t fully address the needs of all of the system’s children.
It’s one of the reasons why Hill, a retired teacher and principal with over 30 years experience in Wake public education and planning, has problems with Wake Schools Supt. Anthony Tata’s “blue” student assignment Choice Plan, which Hill voted against two weeks ago.
Though he supports the plan’s ultimate goal, namely to promote stability by giving parents the choice of sending their child to the best school possible within their proximity, Hill has serious questions about the very real possibility of more high-needs/high poverty schools being created. Schools where a majority of the students are free-and reduced-lunch, low achievers, and crowded beyond capacity like at the newly opened Walnut Creek Elementary School in Southeast Raleigh, which is already costing over $1 million more to operate than comparable Wake elementary schools, and is over 100 students beyond its 800-student capacity.
Hill asks where is the money coming from to operate more high poverty schools if the system has fiscally been cut beyond the bone already? Without adequate resources for the special programming and teachers needed for high poverty schools, Hill adds, those children will unfairly suffer.
“Kevin has a keen understanding of the ripple effect student assignment has not only on facility utilization, but to funding the classroom itself,” said Anne Sherron, a registered Republican, and former ten-year veteran of the school board’s now-defunct Student Assignment Committee. “Kevin's experience led him to the Choice Plan's unanswered questions that ultimately affect the allocation of resources.”
Sherron continued, “How we as a community educate our most vulnerable determines our overall strength. Kevin realized connecting dots were missing, and said so.”
Hill, who is currently an instructor at NCSU, has also noticed “dots missing” in the proposed Advanced Algebra I policy, designed to get more African-American students into the advanced classes in the 8th grade.
Both Hill and District 4’s Keith Sutton support the policy’s intent - namely to get more black students into college-track math courses - but are concerned, based on feedback from both teachers and principals, that despite the EVASS computer programming determining which students qualify, some of those students on the far edges of those chosen who currently are passing with just D grades, will flunk out if they aren’t given supplementary pre-algebra courses earlier, as in the sixth and seventh grades, in order to provide them with the proper foundation to proceed to Advanced Algebra in the eighth.
Hill says parents, teachers and principals should be involved in that determination process, not just a computer program.
“Having been a former principal, Kevin Hill's insight and knowledge, are invaluable to us as a Board of Education,” Sutton told The Carolinian. “He is thoughtful and conscientious, and is always prepared. He is a great asset to the board and works hard at keeping us on task. It would be wise for the voters to keep him on the Wake County School Board.”
Susan Evans, the Democrat who stunned the state when she handily defeated two-term incumbent Republican Ron Margiotta for the District 8 seat, agrees that Hill’s leadership and experience on these issues are sorely needed.
“I’ve observed Kevin Hill’s leadership at many school board meetings,” Evans told The Carolinian. “His experience and knowledge of our school system is always apparent. He is always prepared, consistent and level-headed and brings a true concern for the students. He has remained a calm voice of reason, even in the most tumultuous circumstances.”
Christine Kushner, the District 6 Democrat who, along with Evans and District 6's Jim Martin, will be sworn-in to the board, also looks to Hill for leadership.
"It is important for our community to have Kevin and his experience serving on the Board," Kushner told The Carolinian. "When reelected, he will be only one of nine Board members who will have served as a Chair."
If Kevin Hill has had his fill of the Ron Margiotta-led, controversy-laden Wake School Board per these past two years, it’s understandable. The political partisanship that ruled the school board’s agenda was stifling at times, Hill agrees, and the Republican majority moved steadily to dismantle the school system’s successful socioeconomic student diversity policy, and codify its neighborhood schools goal.
He adds that the morale of teachers and principals in the system is low as a result, because, they’ve told him, they don’t feel respected or valued by the board.
Indeed, at times, they’ve been scapegoated.
Hill was the first to fall victim of what some say was the GOP’s “ruthlessness” in December 2009 after newly elected board members John Tedesco, Chris Malone, Debra Goldman and Deborah Prickett were sworn in.
Hill was then board chairman, and by tradition, was supposed to have held that position until June 2010.
Former WCPSS Communications Director and spokesman Michael Evans, who was forced to resign from the system last August by Wake Supt. Tata, told The Carolinian recently that when Chairman Hill and board member Ron Margiotta were walking out to the meeting table to prepare for the 2009 swearing-in ceremony, Margiotta, who now had a five-member majority, assured Hill that “Nothing was going to happen. You have nothing to worry about.”
But as soon as the new members were sworn-in and all nine board members sat down to business, Margiotta executed a stunning procedural power-play that resulted in Hill being immediately removed as chair, with the District 8 Republican taking his place, and quickly implementing an agenda that none of the Democratic board members had even seen.
“Yes, basically 5-10 minutes prior to the start of the meeting,” Hill confirmed to The Carolinian, regarding what Margiotta told him then. “He told me afterward that "He could not stop them [other four GOP board member]," which I think is bunk!”
Since that time, Margiotta, who has since been voted out of office as of next month, and his Republican board majority, have delighted in not only ignoring Hill’s recommendations for properly planning for community-based schools and the costs involved, but also openly mocked him because of his considerable educational experience.
"If they bring [Hill] back, what he'd like to institute is a new busing system for student assignment based on busing for test scores and quotas at every one of the schools and restrict choice for our families," Wake School Board Vice Chairman John Tedesco recently told the Voice America internet radio program, “Free Markets with Dr. Mike Beitle,” adding that Hill has, “ been part of the problem for 35 years, not part of the solution.”
"That's just not what we're about so it's going to be a battleground here the next couple of weeks in Wake County,” Tedesco said, referring to the Nov. 8th District 3 runoff. “We'll see how that plays out."
Apparently one Wake County parent and Kevin Hill supporter, Amy Lee, didn’t take kindly to Tedesco’s apparent attack on his board colleague, in open violation of board policy 1005.
“Showing support for a candidate is one thing,” Lee, in part, wrote Tedesco in a curt Oct. 28th email exchange last week. “But trying to discredit a fellow board member to further your own personal agenda shows complete disrespect for your position on the Board of Education and to your fellow board members. Such behavior would not be tolerated from students or staff, and it should not be tolerated from our Board of Education either. I am extremely disappointed in the example you are setting!”
In an Oct. 29th email, Tedesco sarcastically replied,” [Great School in Wake] activist, campaign worker for Mr. Hill, vocal critic of the new board since our swearing in, and one who has spoken out against us publicly at almost every single meeting for 2 years, and specifically called me out personally in almost every comment. You are "extremely disappointed" in me?? I am just shocked. I can't believe I've disappointed you. I am so sorry.”
If Hill loses his runoff next week, Tedesco, with a five-member Republican majority, could become the next board chairman, as Hill has warned. Even fellow Republican Venita Peyton, who decisively lost to District 4 board representative Keith Sutton earlier this month, has said that she prefers someone else be chair, wanting, “No ego, no dance, no unwritten lyrics.”
When Hill initially ran for a second term in the Oct. 11th District 3 race facing three opponents, he was endorsed by the News & Observer and the Independent Weekly newspapers. Both papers have endorsed him again for the runoff.
In Wake’s African-American community, Hill is also endorsed by the Wake County Voters Coalition - a prominent African-American nonpartisan community organization; former Wake Supt. Robert Bridges; Dr. Dudley Flood, former executive director of the NC Association of School Administrators and former Associate State Supt. in the NC Dept. Of Public Instruction
This week, Hill adds The Carolinian Newspaper to his endorsement list, which is significant because only twice before in its seventy-year history has the twice-weekly African-American newspaper ever endorsed a candidate for public office - the first two being President Barack Obama and Congressman Bobby Etheridge.
“Kevin Hill has fought, and continues to fight hard for all children in WCPSS, especially since the Republican takeover of our school board two years ago,” the front page Carolinian editorial states. “We need measured, experienced, reasoned and seasoned leadership on our school board now to set a new course that brings the total community together, not further divide us with partisan politics.”
Community leaders agree.
“Kevin Hill typifies the commitment to educational excellence we see throughout our school system,” says former Wake County Commissioner Yevonne Brannon. “Kevin brings classroom and administrative experience to the board table and uses his instructional knowledge to ensure that best practices are considered in every board decision. Kevin has only one goal: do what is in the best interest of children.”