CARY - A former Wake school board member, a former school board candidate, a long-time school system volunteer and a former state senator want to replace Debra Goldman to represent Cary on the Wake County Board of Education.
Bill Fletcher, who served on the Wake County school board for 12 years, is hoping to return. Lois Nixon, who lost the 2009 election to Goldman, also wants the District 9 seat. Nancy Caggia, who hasn’t run before, comes in with the support of three Cary Town Council members. And Linda Gunter, a former state senator who was a teacher at Cary High School, also filed for the post.
The filing period for the position closed on Friday, but the final list of applicants wasn’t available before press time.
Fletcher, 63, served on the school board from 1993 to 2005. The Cary resident said he wants to bring his “institutional knowledge” to the sometimes tumultuous board and to help build community support for public education.
“I can’t do anything about what’s in the past,” Fletcher said of the recent school board turmoil. “I can only contribute toward improving education for our kids and community.”
Fletcher was initially elected as a critic of busing for diversity who charged that Wake schools practiced wasteful administrative spending. But the former school board chairman became both a supporter of busing for diversity and increased school funding.
Fletcher was the Republican candidate for state Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2004. The contest, which saw him file a lawsuit charging illegal ballots were counted, was decided when the Democratic-led General Assembly picked his opponent, June Atkinson. The move came under a state constitutional provision governing contested elections.
Since losing his school board re-election bid in 2005, Fletcher said, he has been focused on his career as a real-estate agent and on starting a Rotary Club program that helps first- and second-graders at five high-poverty Wake schools improve their reading skills. Fletcher is the son of the late Fred Fletcher, president and general manager of Capitol Broadcasting.
The Republican and Democratic parties have become actively involved in the officially non-partisan school board races since Fletcher’s tenure.
“The school board is designed to be non-partisan,” he said. “Its focus is on delivering children a high-quality educational program.”
Nixon, 67, of Cary is an unaffiliated voter who ran for the board in 2009 on calls for more school funding and more focus on language, technology, green jobs and the service economy. Today she’s focused on finding compromise in the school board’s meeting room, she said.
“I would like to turn down the heat a bit, if I can help to do that,” Nixon said.
Nixon said she supports a hybrid of “community schools” and the “busing for diversity model.” She believes diversity in student populations can boost performance, but she blames excessive busing for the lengthy busing delays last fall.
Most important now, Nixon said, is a predictable and consistent system for student assignment.
“I think parents are more interested in stability than proximity. I think that’s a reasonable request,” said Nixon, a former environmental educator from Wichita, Kan. A mother of two, she now has grandchildren in the school system.
Caggia and her supporters point to her years of experience in education.
“I’ve had 14 years of volunteering, from the trenches to the state level,” said Caggia, 53. Like her competitors, she comes with a slate of qualifications and memberships to her resume – and she also boasts the endorsement of a bi-partisan trio of Cary council members, including Gale Adcock, Don Frantz and Jennifer Robinson, according to Frantz.
A former accounting and technology professional, Caggia moved to the area from New Jersey in 1993. She grew heavily involved with the system after the terrorist attacks of 2001, when she began working with state-level agencies on emergency response plans.
Caggia, a registered Republican, said the school board has made recent progress in bridging the partisan gap. “I want to be at the table, finally,” she said. “I’ve been around the (school board) room, listening, forever.”
The mother of three and also a Girl Scout leader, Caggia said she believes the school system should encourage diversity in schools, but she’s dubious of mandatory busing.
“I think the parent should have a right to say, ‘No, I don’t want my kid to be bused,’ ” she said.
Gunter, a Democratic Party activist and a lobbyist for the N.C. Association of Educators, said in a press release that she “has devoted her entire career to the advancement of North Carolina’s public school children.”
“Education is my life and I have given everything I have to it as a teacher, a parent of two Wake County Public School graduates, a legislator, and in my professional life,” said Gunter in the press release. “I know what it is like to be a parent, and now grandparent, who wants the best education for my children. I also know what it is like to be a career teacher and to shoulder that awesome responsibility.”
The release says that Gunter is a “professional education advocate.” She is the immediate past president of the Democratic Women of Wake County.
The school board is expected to appoint a person in March who will finish out Goldman’s term, which ends in November.
Goldman resigned Feb. 1 to lead a Wilkes County nonprofit group.