Waynesville district school board candidates speak out

Oct 10, 2012

This fall, voters will select four school board members. While candidates must live in either the Waynesville or the Beaverdam district to file for office, all voters in the county vote in both districts.

School board seats are nonpartisan, and those elected serve as the governing body for the Haywood County Schools.

There are seven school board members elected at large, and a chairman that is elected separately. Incumbent board chairman Chuck Francis is running unopposed for the position. Francis is an agricultural supplies sales representative.  He currently serves as president to the North Carolina School Board Association.

Also unopposed in this election is Bob Morris, a small business owner who fills the seat designated for the Crabtree district.

In Wednesday’s paper, profiles will be included for the three candidates vying for two seats in the Beaverdam district.


Ann Barrett

Background: Age,  61

Community enrichment specialist, high school education, four years service on the board


“I am seeking re-election because I believe in our public education. I want to see that all children in our county get the best education they can. I will stand up for the rights of all children in our system to see that they get this opportunity. I also have a passion for children with disabilities. I had a child that went through this proramand I believe we have one of the best in the state. I don’t know if I am the best person but I am passionate about the job I have done.”


Top three concerns

The biggest concern is the fact that resources for funding public education get cut more and more each year. There are a lot of people out there who depend on public education beause they cannot afford to send their children to private schools.

Rebecca E. Benhart

Background: Age, 72, retired USPS, St. Petersburg College AA degree substitute teacher, Girl Scout leader, Literay Council tutor, mother grandmother


“A better education for all children is in Haywood County is the reason that I am running for the School Board. I want to build bridges, promote teamwork and bring positive energy to the School Board. Continued excellence and improvement during these challenging times is my goal. I consider the Responsibility as a Haywood County School Board member a full time commitment, and will dedicate all my energies to the position.”


Top three concerns

Literacy: All students must graduate from high school prepared to enter the workforce or college.  We must focus on reading and math to be sure every child is proficient. We need to reach out to the community to recruit volunteers and mentors.

Communication: To foster and increase community and parent involvement, I am convinced that the  real solutions for educational improvement involve communication among parents, teachers, students and the county as a whole.

Vocational education: Many students do not go on to college and must be prepared to enter the workforce with valuable skills. Industry is begging for qualified workers. We must restore technical education to a place of pride and prominence. Certification is as important as a college education for many students’ futures.

Vergil Daughtery IV

Background: Age, 26; table games dealer; junior at Queens University; Iraqi Freedom veteran, public and home schools, studied experiential education at Brevard College

“I am seeking office because I would like to contribute my experience to better the education of our youth. I believe I am best suited to the position because of my unique perspective of the many educational methods available, as well as their impact on the wide range of students we have in our school system. My experience, as well as my study in experiential education, lends me the tools needed to help our students succeed. I firmly believe learning is not a ‘one style fits all,’ and every student deserves a chance to excel.”


Top three concerns

Community Involvement: It is essential that part of our youth’s learning include the core idea of ‘community’, and what it means to be a member. By focusing community involvement, we instill in our youth a sense of belonging, and pride in a community they help create.

American government: Many of our youth today simply do not understand how their government works. One of the greatest aspects of American society is our government, and it is important that our youth understand how it functions, and how they can involve themselves to better the lives of themselves and their neighbors.

Critical thinking skills: All of the knowledge in the world won’t help someone who does not understand the problem. By focusing on critical thinking skills, we arm our youth with an invaluable asset, the ability to use all tools they have been given to confront problems head on and solve them.

Jim Harley Francis III

Background: Age,  41, works at Southern Mutual Church Insurance; BSBA Appalachian State, current board member


“As a fifth generation native of Haywood County, a graduate of the public school system and the father of two daughters, I truly have a vested interest in the success of Public Schools and want them to be the very best.  With the current economic situation, public schools are faced with more and more challenges.  We have to think more creatively and work harder to provide the best education possible for our children. The children are our future and we must place our focus on them.  I feel strongly that I have the skills and desire in working to make this happen.”


Top three concerns

One reason I am seeking re-election is to work for local school boards to regain control from the legislature.  Many recent changes have taken that control from us.  I believe that we, in Haywood County, know what’s best for our children, and we should have the control to make those decisions.

As budgets continue to be cut, I want to continue to work to see these cuts have the least effect on our schools. I believe the education of our students is paramount and we have the responsibility to see that they have the best possible opportunities in the classroom.

Finally, I am concerned about the new Common Core Curriculum transition.  I feel we need to make sure teachers and students have the tools they need so this transition is as smooth as possible.  There are big changes in some areas and we need to be sensitive to all those involved.

Lynn C. Milner

Background: Age, 63, retired principal, M.A. from Western Carolina University, 33 years as a teacher and principal for Haywood County Schools


“As a product of Haywood County Schools, I want to ensure that our system continues to be outstanding. I served 33 years as an eductor in Haywood County, including being a principal at every level -— high school, middle school and elementary school. In 1980, I was selected as regional Teacher of the year, and in 2000, I was selected as regional Principal of the Year. The experience I have acquired over the years can be valuable to the board of education.”


Top three concerns

State budget: Cuts have resulted in reducing school personnel, creating overcrowded classes and other problems. I would be willing to lobby legislators to make public education a priority in budget negotiations.

Student success: Some politicians want to cut programs such as early childhood enhancement. I believe that all children can learn if they have the necessary tools. As a board member, I would fighjt for programs that help all students achieve success.

School system advocate: Public schools receive a lot of unwarranted criticism. There is always room for improvement, but the positive aspects of public schools, especially Haywood County schools, need to be emphasized. I want to be a positive voice and an advocate for our schools.