We are just days away from Election Day, but have you considered who you will vote for when it comes to your children? Party affiliation plays a role in our area when it comes to school board elections, but why? 16 out of 108 school districts in North Carolina hold partisan elections, but why some and not the others? New Hanover, Brunswick, Bladen, Columbus and Duplin counties all elect their school board members through political parties. Ray Gilbert is seeking his second term on the Brunswick County School Board, but he is running as a Libertarian, after he was defeated in the Republican primary. “The fact of the matter is that I should not have to declare a political party to be on the school board. That's something you save for your presidential candidates, your gubernatorial candidates, but not your school board,” said Gilbert. Other candidates agree. Pat Chappell, New Hanover County School Board candidate, said, “It has nothing to do with improving schools, and I have been an outspoken opponent of that. A lot of folks who are extremely partisan will say, yes a school board is partisan because I want the schools to reflect what my partisan beliefs are, but the majority of people that I talk to will say they do not understand why a school board election is partisan." A state statute allows school districts to choose to be partisan or not. Gilbert said a qualified applicant may be over looked if people vote along party lines, instead of reviewing a candidate's experience and qualifications. "It would let the best people run, and there is a greater chance that the best people are going to win," he said. UNCW Education Professor Howard Coleman said Republicans tend to focus more on budgets and Democrats more on support services for children and teachers, but in the end it comes down to improving education. "I don't think it has a dramatic impact. Part of the reason is that we are dealing with students and peoples tax money, so those two issues tend to bring those together from both parties," said Coleman. The Bladen County Superintendent, H. Kenneth Dinkins is stepping down and will not be seeking a contract extension. In his resignation letter, Dinkins said there are too many personal agendas and political paybacks for him to carry out his vision of excellence in education for Bladen County.
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