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Candidates have their say

Candidates have their say
April 17
00:00 2014

Democratic Party forum features School Board hopefuls

(pictured above: Deanna Taylor speaks passionately at the forum.)

The Forsyth County Democratic Party hosted a forum for School Board candidates Tuesday at the Central Library, ahead of the Tuesday, May 6 primary election.

Three of the candidates – Chenita Barber Johnson, Deanna Taylor and Malishai “Shai” Woodbury – seeking the two District 1 seats were on hand.

Woodbury, an instructor at NC A&T State University, said her experience with schools populated with students from low income families makes her highly qualified.

Shai Woodbury

Shai Woodbury

“I’m certified by the state as a priority schools leader and most of the schools in District 1 are priority level schools,” she said. “… I think I am one of the best candidates to be on the school board because my experiences will allow me to make a difference.”

Barber Johnson, an advertising consultant, said she wants to increase graduation rates, especially among schools in District 1, which includes much of East and Southeast Winston-Salem.

Barber Johnson

Barber Johnson

“Our students are graduating at a very poor rate in District 1,” Barber Johnson said. “…We can do better for our students. I think we can do better and we must.”
Taylor, a teacher’s assistant, said she would draw upon her experiences in the classroom as a board member.

“I see it firsthand,” she said. “I’m in the classroom. I talk to my colleagues. They tell me their concerns.”

Dr. Constance Johnson with Katherine Fansler and Suzanne Carroll.

Dr. Constance Johnson with Katherine Fansler and Suzanne Carroll.

District 1 incumbent Victor “Vic” Johnson was unable to attend the forum due to a closed-session School Board meeting. His wife, Dr. Constance Johnson, was his pinch hitter. There will be at least one new representative from the district, as current District 1 School Board member John Davenport is running for an At-large seat.

John Motsinger speaks as Deanna Taylor looks on.

John Motsinger speaks as Deanna Taylor looks on.

Elisabeth Motsinger, an at-large representative, was also attending the School Board meeting. Her husband, John Motsinger, a candidate for State Senate, attended in her stead. At large candidates Donald Dunn and German Garcia were also absent, although Garcia sent Marilynn Baker to represent him. At large candidates Katherine Fansler and Suzanne Carroll were on hand to pitch themselves.

“I’m hoping to bring some of my lessons from healthcare to the teaching world,” said Carroll, an advanced practice oncology nurse and mother of two. “…I’m not an educator, but I have a lot of life experience, in the school of hard knocks, to be perfectly honest, that I hope will help.”

Candidate Katherine Fansler speaks.

Candidate Katherine Fansler speaks.

Fansler, a grandmother of seven, spent a decade in the classroom before putting her career on hold to home school her eight year-old special needs grandson.

“Being a teacher is the hardest job on the planet, I think, outside of parenting,” she declared. “But it is also the only job that I’ve ever had that I never regretted doing.”

If elected, Fansler said she will work to promote equality across the board, and use proven methods to advocate for programs that will boost student achievement.

Four District 2 incumbents decided not to seek re-election, creating a wide-open field for hopeful Laura Elliott, the lone Democratic candidate running the largely conservative district. Elliott, an active member of the Democratic Party, said she favors a holistic approach to healing what ails the school system. She is hoping to become the wild card Democrat, winning a seat that is traditionally held by Republicans, and assuring a strong majority for her party in the process.

Laura Elliott

Laura Elliott

“There are many more resources that need to be targeted for schools when it comes to achievement gaps,” she noted. “I would love to be the Democrat in District 2 because I believe that these issues need to be dealt with on a holistic level. This is very, very important. It’s a political issue, it’s a community issue and it’s a spiritual issue for me.”

Attendees were given time to question the candidates. Johnetta Roberts told them that her grandson has to be driven from his home in District 1 to a school in District 2 in order to get an good education. She implored the candidates to find ways to not just talk the talk but walk the walk, instituting real change for their constituents.

“You can come up with all of these brilliant ideas sitting on the board, but if you don’t have something to put it into place, it doesn’t mean anything,” she declared. “You just can’t say what you want to do. You have to have a plan.”

The Forsyth County Democratic Party will be hosting a District 12 candidates forum for those seeking former US Rep. Mel Watt’s seat in Congress today (Thursday, April 17) at Rupert Bell Recreation Center at 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit http://forsythdemocrats.org or call 336-724-5941.

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