A frustrated parent. A frustrated teacher. And a frustrated education policy-maker. That pretty well sums up the field of Republican candidates for state education superintendent who made their way to Pinehurst Thursday night for a candidate forum. All three are vying for the honor of knocking off the zombie currently holding the top DPI job — in between shootings of ‘The Walking Dead.’
(I have to say that I learned more about education policy than I think I ever have in any other venue. The organizers of this forum did a great job.)
Wesley Sills: He is the frustrated teacher. The Harnett County native is hitting the campaign trail with some of his students making the case for teachers struggling to educate kids under outrageous regulatory burdens handed down from above. His platform includes adding rigor to the state’s curriculum, increased emphasis on reading, writing and other aspects of literacy; more flexibility in the classroom, more local control, less testing, and increased teacher pay.
Rosemary Stein: She is the frustrated parent — and an Alamance County pediatrician. Stein has been a leading statewide opponent of common core — instead favoring classical education, which focuses on correlating learning with a child’s development. She’s a fan of increasing parental involvement in the education process, as well as the use of phonics as a teaching tool. Stein also favors reforming current ESL (English as a Second Language) efforts so that there is more immersion than isolation. (Currently, she says, kids are pulled out of class to attend ESL sessions — causing them to miss other education opportunities.)
Mark Johnson: He is the frustrated policy-maker. Johnson is a Forsyth County school board member and corporate counsel for an IT firm located in that county. Johnson is a fan of local control and an advocate of ”smart, measured implementation of technology in all classrooms”. He is also a critic of what he calls ”over-testing” by the incumbent DPI superintendent.
As far as character and overall personal qualities go, it’s an outstanding field. I think any of the three would represent the GOP well in the general election. It all comes down to what you think the right direction is for public education: More of a focus on time-tested fundamentals or a shift toward more technology skills? Experience within the education field — two of the three have public school classroom experience — or someone who can think outside the box and offer innovative ideas from her position outside the educational arena?