Featured photo (l-r): Lida Calvert-Hayes, Leah Crowley, Robert Barr, Jimmie Boyd, Stanley Elrod, Ronald Jason Lucero, Susan Miller, Yvonne Williams, Steve Wood
UPDATED (4/8/2022: 10:15 a.m.): This article was updated to include responses from Steve Wood.
Triad City Beat has previously reported on the large number of candidates — 28 to be exact — running for seats in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board election this year. In the race for District 2, 10 Republican candidates are running for the four seats that are up for grabs. The top four vote-getters of the primary will advance to the general election in November to run against Democrat Jennifer Castillo, who is running unopposed in the primary.
Currently, Republicans hold all four seats, but incumbents Dana Caudill Jones and Marilyn Parker did not filed for re-election this year. District 2 encompasses most of Forsyth County minus the central area which is taken up by District 1.
We asked candidates about their thoughts on critical race theory, teaching African-American history in schools as well as what they think the biggest challenges facing the school district are.
Candidates are listed alphabetically by last name, starting with the incumbents. Their responses have been edited for clarity and length.
Lida Calvert-Hayes (i)
Incumbent who helped pass school bond
Lida Calvert Hayes was first appointed to a District 2 seat in 2015 after board member Jeannie Metcalf resigned. She then won re-election in 2018 and currently serves as vice chair.
She has children who graduated from WS/FCS, grandchildren currently in WS/FCS and has substituted in the system.
Dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic is her campaign’s biggest focus, she told TCB.
“The pandemic was a difficult adjustment for our teachers, students, and staff,” she said. “We lost teachers as a result of pandemic-related stress. We now have a shortage in teachers. Students are falling behind due to the loss of interaction that occurs with being in a classroom setting. Additionally, students are now more afraid to attend school due to all the violence.”
One of her proudest achievements as an incumbent is her work on the buildings and grounds committee, she said.
“I worked hard to pass the $350 million school bond,” she writes on her website. “This bond enabled the construction of two new schools and allowed for much-needed maintenance and repairs to many more.”
When it comes to the highly politicized topic of critical race theory and the teaching of African- American history in schools, Hayes is more measured in her response compared to some of her opponents.
“Critical race theory has not been discussed in detail nor voted on by our board at the present time,” she said. “I am for teaching all history for all groups.”
Leah Crowley (i)
Incumbent for school choice, against CRT
Crowley successfully won a District two WS/FCS board seat in 2018, coming in second place behind Lida Calvert Hayes.
She currently has two children attending schools in WS/FCS and two that have graduated from the district. Over the years, she has volunteered as a PTA board member, coach, mentor and substitute teacher.
Her campaign focuses reading and math proficiency, disparities in resources, and competitive salary and wages for staff.
If re-elected Crowley said she will push for, “more support (pay, personnel, and professional development) for teachers to address reading and math proficiency, equity in school facilities and resources and making decisions based on what is best for students.”
Crowley has been a supporter of school choice and continues to push for options for parents. “I do think when parents have a choice, there’s more buy-in,” she told TCB in 2018.
On her website and campaign Facebook page, Crowley regularly talks about the importance of reading. When it comes to the wave of book-bannings across the country, she said, “children should have access to as many books as possible that are age appropriate (no pornography). Books that feature a non-traditional family (i.e. two moms) is not pornography.”
Regarding critical race theory Crowley spouted the popularized conservative rhetoric that argues that CRT is divisive, but said she supported teaching African-American history.
“Critical race theory makes assumptions about people and our nation based on race,” she said. “Teaching African American history is important for all students, as is other peoples’ history not represented in the curriculum. It is important that all students see themselves in what they are learning and that students learn about people who do not look like them.”
In 2019, initially Crowley supported the implementation of a mandatory African-American studies course. In the end, efforts by local groups to require the course failed and the school board voted 7-1 to approve the superintendent’s recommendation to expand an infusion program instead.
Former school board member and pastor
TCB did not receive candidate responses from Barr and there is currently no campaign website for him.
Robert Barr formerly served as an at-large member of the school board after being elected in 2014 until 2018. He ran for re-election in 2018 and lost in the general election as a wave of Democratic female candidates won all three seats. A 2018 article published by Winston-Salem State University, Barr’s alma mater, notes that he received a master’s in education from Wake Forest University and was appointed to WSSU’s Board of Trustees in 2018. Barr has served as a staff pastor at Agape Faith Church since 2002 and prior to that, worked as both a teacher and curriculum coordinator for WS/FCS for 14 years.
A devout Christian, much of Robert Barr’s social media presence revolves around his association with Agape Faith Church. He posts morning devotions almost daily and recently took a trip to Israel.
WS/FCS parent against teaching LGBTQ+ issues
Jimmie Boyd is a parent in the WS/FCS system and does not have a background in education, a lack of experience that Boyd said makes him more relatable.
“It is apparent those who have had an educational background failed miserably at creating a strong and proper education system for our kids,” he told TCB.
His campaign focuses on curriculum and giving parents more access to engage with their children’s education.
“As parents the school system has become over politicized,” he said. “It is time we educate our kids and not indoctrinate them. Public schools should be teaching core classes (not to be confused with common core) such as reading, writing, math, science, English, health, economics, etc. There is no room in our kid’s education for overly politicized or pornographic trash curriculums.”
As is evidenced by his responses, Boyd is part of a wave of conservative Republicans who view the fight for schools and school boards as one revolving around the teaching of race and LGBTQ+ issues.
On teaching critical race theory and African-American history in schools he said, “critical race theory is a disease of division. When any student walks into a school, that student will get the quality of education, equivalent to the quality of work they have put into it. As for Black history, yes it needs to be taught just as all history needs to be taught. History is a core element of our society.”
When asked about LGBTQ+ rights in schools and how it relates to sex education, Boyd stated “I would have to say absolutely not to LGBTQ rights being taught in school, that is a sexual preference and not an educational point. LGBTQ rights have nothing to do with sex education.”
Former WS/FCS principal with in-classroom experience
Stanley Elrod has served more than 30 years in the WS/FCS system with a range of positions that include teacher, coach, athletic director, assistant principal and principal.
His goals if elected focus on supporting teachers and helping students get back to pre-pandemic learning.
“Everyone has suffered through these past two years,” Elrod said. “Our students have lost crucial educational and social learning skills. It is our responsibility to work with students, parents and teachers to evaluate these losses and work together to find solutions to help overcome them as best we can.”
Elrod discusses how his past work as an educator in the WS/FCS system will allow him to achieve his goals.
“I feel I have walked in the shoes of most of our school employees,” he said. “I understand where the rubber meets the road. I understand the importance of forming partnerships with our parents and our community. I know that by working together, we can provide the best education possible for our students. I know why teachers go into the teaching profession, to teach our students and I know all they want is our trust, our respect and our support.”
When asked about critical race theory and teaching African American history, Elrod shares, “I have taught NC History, US History, and World History. I have never taught critical race theory. I have also never heard it being taught in our school system, so it is very difficult for me to comment on it.”
Ronald Jason Lucero
Conservative focused on transparency
TCB did not receive a response from Lucero and there is currently no campaign website or campaign social media accounts for him.
According to a recording of Ronald Jason Lucero speaking at the Forsyth County GOP Women’s meeting on March 24, his purpose of running for school board is to get back to the basics such as teaching reading, writing, arithmetic in WS/FCS.
When the question of critical race theory came up, Lucero shared he had different views than most. He said, “the way we stop this is right in this room. If we put seven people on this board from here, then there’s no way that’s happening.”
He also stressed the importance of transparency for parents as one of his main causes.
“[Parents] share there is currently a lack of transparency that is incredible, and they don’t have the transparency they’d like to have,” he said. “There’s a process and parents need to make sure the process is followed first. Once we go through the process then we get to structed problem-solving. This involves going and seeking answers, getting involved, visiting the schools and talking to these people. We need to find out what the root cause is before we try to make changes. We need to know what the problem actually is before we can solve and address it.”
Former WS/FCS employee focused on literacy
Miller was a Reading/Literacy Specialist with WS/FCS for over two decades up until 2019. Miller received a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s in education in Literacy/Reading (K-12).
Her campaign focuses on literacy and improving reading levels for all students in the WS/FCS system. She is very concerned about the reading proficiency rate for grades 3-8 in WS/FCS as it is currently at 38 percent.
Miller shares if elected she will, “focus on literacy as a priority and support Superintendent McManus 100 percent in her Initiative “90 by 25”.” The goal of that initiative is to ensure that by the end of the 2024-25 school year 90 percent of third graders test as proficient readers.
When asked about the current wave of banning books, Miller made the following statement, “Books should always be age and subject appropriate.”
Miller also told TCB that “critical race theory is not a part of our curriculum, and I don’t believe in it. African American history is part of our curriculum and that is appropriate.”
TCB did not receive a response from Pegram and there is currently no campaign website or campaign social media accounts for her.
Retired educator with a collaborative spirit
Yvonne Williams was an educator for 30 years whose background includes teaching in public schools and private high schools as well as teaching Spanish at the college level. She is currently retired but still volunteers and substitutes in the WS/FCS system.
Her platform focuses on increasing active community and parental engagement in schools, working to provide more after school activities for students, increasing pay for certified/classified educators and scheduling evening town hall talks with all educators.
“Members of the school board should be of sound judgment, even-tempered, be willing to collaborate and have a sincere interest in public school education,” she said. “If elected, I want to work with my fellow board members to focus on student achievement, help ensure success for all students and advocate for strong public schools.”
Williams shares the following statement on teaching African American history in schools, “It is important that all forms of American history are taught in our public schools. All Americans deserve to be proud of their cultural history.”
Former legislator in support of charter schools
UPDATED (4/8/2022: 10:15 a.m.)
Steve Wood served as a NC State House representative from 1984-2005. Wood was elected as Speaker Pro-Tem from 1997-99, becoming the second Republican elected to the post during the 20th century.
One of Wood’s main accomplishments during his tenure as a state representative was his push for charter schools as well as lateral entry for teachers from the military, higher education, business and non-governmental entities and a proposal for the first online public school academy.
Wood’s main concerns facing the district include budget transparency and accountability, board composition and elections, parental choice and input in student curriculum and school safety.
“I believe the WS/FCS school board should consider election of members from single member districts, with perhaps two at-large members,” Wood explained. “School choice should be a major priority. The ‘system’ may be too large. Perhaps the Board should consider structuring several smaller districts within the ‘system’ for closer grass roots management and communication.”
The number of seats on a school board is decided by the state legislature, not the school board.
On highly politicized topics such as critical race theory and the teaching of LGBTQ+ rights in schools, Wood fell in line with the conservative branch of his party.
He called critical race theory “wokeism at its worst” and “divisive and morally repugnant.”
“The poisonous heart of CRT is that one group of people, by virtue of merely existing, are morally problematic and always will be,” Wood told TCB.
On LGBTQ+ rights, Wood’s response was somewhat muddled and less direct.
“For all practical purposes, US citizens are living under ‘judicial oligarchy’ that keeps carving out group rights made of whole cloth,” Wood said.
“No group rights should be paramount over individual rights as provided in the Constitution,” he continued. “Leveling all playing fields is a fool’s errand.”
Lastly, Wood petitioned for smaller government and giving power back to the parents.
“Parents are the first teachers,” he said. “Every child can learn. More money is not always the solution. Parental choice in education matters, matters. Government does not always know better. Government that governs least, governs best.”
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Journalist should stop asking school board candidates about teaching critical race theory in K-12 public schools. It shows a woeful lack of knowledge about the academic discipline. CRT is taught at the university level, in graduate/terminal degree courses. To continue to raise this question to political candidates is a fool’s errand, and a worn out salacious journalistic trope.
We made note of these facts, but asked the question because several candidates have anti-CRT as part of their platforms.