First-term school board members Dianne Bellamy-Small and Byron Gladden each have two primary contenders to face off against come March 3.
In photo from left to right, top to bottom: Byron Gladden (i), Jayvon Johnson, Bettye Taylor Jenkins, Dianne Bellamy-Small (i), Jeff Golden and Ron Tuck
Two of the three incumbents up for re-election on the Guilford County school board will face primary challengers on March 3.
Of the nine districts including the at-large seat, only the odd numbers are up for re-election this year. Districts 2, 4, 6, and 8 will be up in 2022.
Democrats Dianne Bellamy-Small of District 1 and Byron Gladden of District 7 are both facing two challengers.
Bellamy-Small, who has represented District 1 since January 2017, faces two Democratic primary challengers in her district: Jeff Golden, a former High Point City Council member, and Ron Tuck, an independent contractor. The district runs horizontally, covering parts of south Greensboro near Sedgefield then radiating to the southwest, picking up areas of Jamestown and High Point.
“I am seeking a second term because I believe I have demonstrated hard work, responsibility, experience and integrity as the… District 1 representative,” Bellamy-Small wrote in an email to Triad City Beat. She noted several primary concerns for her district, including school safety, achievement levels for students, competitive pay for teachers and staff, and more medical and mental health services for students. With regard to a recent study that found a $2 billion need for school construction, repairs and maintenance, Bellamy-Small said she strongly supports Superintendent Sharon Contreras, and said she trusts Contreras and her staff to guide the priorities for the county.
Golden, who served on High Point City Council from 2012-19, said in an interview that while he has no issues with Bellamy-Small, that he believes the school board needs a voice from High Point.
“A lot of people feel like if you don’t have a High Point address on the board that they aren’t invested,” Golden said. “That may or may not be the truth, but people don’t feel like High Point is represented.”
Golden told TCB that he contemplated running for the school board four years ago and decided to run this year because of his past experience of working with children.
“All my early work in community service was around kids,” Golden said. “When I ran for city council, I thought I was gonna have more involvement with schools than we had. I felt like now was a good time to transition.”
Golden noted an imbalance in the schools within the county and the need to find adequate funding to help some of the poorer, older schools.
“We can’t take our most risky students and most at-need and put them up in one school,” Golden said. “I don’t know if mandatory lines are the answer. Back in the day, we drew our school lines so that you had to go to the school in your neighborhood, but now we have so many ways to opt out of schools and kids are opting out of districts.”
To fix the problem, Golden said that making sure that money goes to the right schools is a start. For that, he hopes to get community input on how to spend the money to address the needs found in the recent facilities study.
“I hope that I can build fresh ideas when it comes to the allocation of resources,” Golden said. “To put the right dollars in the right places.”
Ron Tuck, an independent contractor in Greensboro, is the third candidate.
The biggest plank in Tuck’s platform is the implementation of more apprenticeship programs for students.
“Kids need to be taught skills,” Tuck said. “Some of the schools in Greensboro specialize in certain career programs, but not in High Point; we are a growing city. Young people need the opportunity to thrive in the community.”
Tuck said he wants to provide students the opportunity to gain a skill whether it’s in construction, sales or service.
“I have a plan for the youth to become workable in this area,” he said.
While Tuck primarily works as an independent contractor, he has been known to openly preach on city streets. A News & Record article from 2014 described a scene in which Tuck protested against same-sex couples getting married at the Congregational United Church of Christ in Greensboro after the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was found to be unconstitutional. When asked about his remarks from that day, Tuck responded that he is “conservative when it comes down to families” and that he believes in the holy scriptures and that “it takes a husband and wife to raise a child.”
To the east of Bellamy-Small’s district lies neighboring District 7, currently represented by another first-term incumbent Democrat, Byron Gladden. The district runs north to south, covering much of east Greensboro from McNair Elementary near Lake Townsend all the way to Vandalia Elementary.
“I am running for re-election because I feel that my perspective, my voice and my connections with my district need to be continue to be represented on the board,” Gladden told TCB. “Over the last three years, I’ve been very dedicated to expanding my knowledge about my role.”
Gladden said that the biggest concern facing his district is equity.
“Not just with an equitable share as it relates to new facilities,” Gladden said. “and not just to keeping neighborhood schools open, but putting programming in those schools that will attract kids from all over.”
He also mentioned the need for high-quality teachers in addition to facilities in East Greensboro.
“There is a different level of expectation when it comes to my school district and other districts,” Gladden said. “No child can rise with low expectations. We need qualified teachers to go where they are needed. It doesn’t make sense for my district to have 80 percent first-year teachers but on the other side, they have teachers that have been teaching for 10 to 15 years.”
Gladden also talked about the balance of working with a diverse board, one that often times will not agree on various topics.
District 3 representative Darlene Garrett did not file for reelection after citing concerns with working with superintendent Contreras.
“There has to be mutual respect regards to difference of opinion,” Gladden said. “We’re not gonna get everything that we want; there’s no magic wand. You have to learn how to respectfully disagree. There is not one board member that doesn’t want the best for children.”
Gladden faces primary opposition from two Democrat candidates: Jayvon Johnson, a pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Greensboro, and Bettye Taylor Jenkins, a former teacher’s assistant with Guilford County Schools.
Johnson, who grew up in Durham, said in an email to TCB that he is running for the school board to be a greater advocate for children. Before becoming the youth pastor at Mount Zion, Johnson served as the at-large member on the Guilford County Council of PTAs. Johnson cited systematic concerns with regard to economics, racial tolerance and societal trust as the main issues facing District 7. When it comes to school safety, Johnson noted how he would work with police officers in schools, educating families on the student handbook and creating mini scenario workshops to train for different events.
A former teacher’s assistant for Guilford County Schools, Jenkins ran for the seat in the 2016, losing to Gladden in the general election by more than 30 points.
In a statement to TCB, Jenkins states that she believes that the district “needs an educator on the board who has been through the trenches and can see both sides, looking from the outside and inside.”
She notes her 33-year tenure of working within the state school system, where she served as a teacher’s assistant, school social worker and more. She also mentions the need for a reinstitution of respect during the board meetings, stating that “the community must play an active role to ensure board members who embarrass or shame our communities by yelling, being disrespectful and attempting to get in a brawl with other fellow members…are held to a higher standard and accountable for their actions.”
She also states that she supports increasing career and technical education courses, resources for students with disabilities and pay increases for employees as some of her platform points.
“I know that I can make a difference and will represent my community with the upmost respect,” Jenkins said.