School Board hopefuls emerge
Democrat Deanna Taylor has announced her intentions to run for one of the two School Board District I seats up for grabs this year.
One District I seat is open, as Republican John Davenport has announced he will run this year as an at-large candidate rather than in the heavily Democratic district, which includes much of East and Southeast Winston. The other District I incumbent, Democrat Vic Johnson, has not yet said if he will seek reelection.
Taylor, a teacher’s assistant at Forest Park Elementary, is the wife of City Council Member James Taylor. Three years ago, she was one of the candidates the School Board considered to replace Geneva Brown. (The Board ultimately chose Davenport.)
“I’ve always loved being with children and working with children, and when Ms. Geneva Brown decided to step down, that was just another opportunity, another way that I would be involved in children’s lives,” said Taylor, a North Carolina Central University alumna. “I came up a little short with that, but I knew I would be back with the next election.”
As an educator and the mother of three school-aged children, Taylor believes she will bring a fresh perspective to the Board of Education.
“Not only am I helping my own children, I’m helping all of our kids,” said the 32 year-old. “I can be that parent voice on there, as well as the educator’s voice right now. I can bring that perspective.”
If elected, Taylor says she would focus on increasing diversity within schools systemwide, enhancing communication between board members and parents and expanding the already successful magnet school program. Although she doesn’t fancy herself as a politician, Taylor, a native of Fayetteville, admits she has learned a few tricks of the trade from her husband, who has served on the Council since 2009.
“I’ve learned to listen and be open minded and find out what people want and do your best to try to get it done,” said Taylor, who, per state law, would have to give up her teaching job if she is elected. “…I am extremely excited. I have my community supporting me – they’re behind me – my family’s behind me, and I’m ready to do what it takes to get the job done.”
Republican Mark Johnson says he will run for one of three at large School Board seats. After graduating from Emory, Johnson, a Louisiana native, fulfilled his commitment to Teach for America by spending two years as a classroom teacher at West Charlotte High School before enrolling in law school at UNC Chapel Hill.
Johnson believes his professional background and volunteer experience – which includes chairing the United Way’s Young Leaders United and serving on the Boards of Directors for Crosby Scholars and the United Way of Forsyth County – make him uniquely qualified for the post.
“I know what works. I know what doesn’t, and more importantly, I know what the school system can do to help teachers,” he said. “…I’ve been there as a teacher. I know what teachers are going through. I know how hard most teachers are working, and I can truly take that with me to the board.”
Johnson spent several years at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice prior to making the transition to his current post, corporate council for Inmar, earlier this week.
“As a business lawyer in my practice, I dealt with a lot with budgets and financial statements, and that’s an important part of being on the Board of Education,” he said. “If there are budgetary concerns, you need to have board members who will work to make sure that they don’t become budgetary crises.”
If elected, Johnson, 30, said he will do everything he can to support Superintendent Beverly Emory’s focus on literacy, particularly bolstering efforts to get students reading on grade level before the end of the third grade, when statistics show that students start to fall irrevocably behind. As a board member, Johnson, the married father of a one year-old daughter, said constituents can expect to find him at the ground floor, taking a hands-on approach to the policies and programs implemented.
“I see myself as a board member who will work with the new superintendent, work with teachers and work with parents in the community,” he said. “I will be actively involved as much as can to help the school system meet its goals.”
German Garcia, who is also expected to run at-large, is president of the Hispanic American Democrats and thought to be the first Latino to run for the local school board. Garcia could not be reached for comment by The Chronicle’s press time on Tuesday.
Chenita Barber Johnson, president of the African American Caucus of the Forsyth County Democratic Party, said this week that she is considering running again for a District I seat, after unsuccessful bids in 2004 and 2010. Candidates have until Friday, Feb. 28 to file for this year’s races.