Meet the candidates who want to join Dare’s school board

By on March 10, 2016

 When voters go to the polls for this year’s primary elections, they will also be selecting school board members.

Posts on the Dare County Board of Education are non-partisan, so the winners on Tuesday will be the incoming members once the results are certified.

Ben Sproul of District 2, who is also chairman, is unopposed, as is Bea Basnight of District 2. Although members ostensibly represent districts, voters from across the district can vote for all of the candidates.

Contesting the District 4 seat are Carlos A. Babilonia and Mary Ellon D. Ballance. Running as candidates in District 5 are Brandy Foreman and David M. Twiddy.

The League of Women Voters of Dare County has once again graciously provided a guide to the elections.

Early voting is under way, and Election Day is Tuesday. Unaffiliated voters may vote in nonpartisan elections. They can also choose a party to cast votes in partisan elections. Voters registered with a party must vote in that primary. Photo identification is now required.

District 4

 Carlos Babilonia, Buxton

Education: High School graduate- American Military Academy- 1980-1994

Occupation: Maintenance Manager, Hatteras Realty by Wyndham Vacation Rental

Additional training and experience: Dare County Parent Advisory Committee representing CHSS middle school, Partnership in Education coordinator as a member of the USCG.

What motivated you to run for office?

My decision to run for the District 4 Hatteras Island board seat of the Dare County School Board was a joint one with all family members Salie (my wife), Carlos Jr. (12th grade), Enrique (10th grade), and Calia (7th grade) all answering a collective and enthusiastic yes. I made our children painfully aware that this new position would not help them with their grades.

My family is the most important part of my life. I retired from the Coast Guard with my final three years of service at Coast Guard Station Hatteras. We are proud property owners in Buxton. At the end of my Coast Guard career, as a family we really thought hard about the future. With past duty stations in Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Louisiana we had some interesting possibilities for a possible relocation. But in the end, the choice was easy. Buxton on Hatteras Island in Dare County won the final vote counting.

We love this island and the people of Hatteras. Our children have thrived in this unique environment. There is academic excellence at both Cape Hatteras schools. Our children are involved with sports, music and academics. I am sure you have seen the Babilonias at numerous basketball games, music concerts, Empty Bowls, and other school functions.

Since my retirement from the U.S. Coast Guard I have missed the interaction that I had with our schools through the Coast Guard Partnership in Education program. I have found that I am never happier than when I’m wearing my volunteer hat!

As care givers we are responsible for the development of our children. As a community working together we will ensure that our kids receive the best educations. The community needs to work as a team to elevate our school standards and also to seek fair compensation for our teaching workforce. We have amazing professional educators in Dare County. I will work to ensure that all students and teachers have the best tools and environment for success.

Hatteras Island, like many communities, has always been a great melting pot of residents and visitors. I am so proud of the ability of our Island to heartily welcome these visitors and residents. It is an island tradition that I guess started with the first shipwreck.

In season I meet a great many international visitors through my job at Hatteras Realty in Avon. As great as our community is, some our members have fallen through the cracks because of a simple language barrier. I am a native Spanish speaker and fully bilingual. I can offer a perspective that can alleviate some stress in these families new to Dare County. I have worked this magic at the Our Lady of the Seas Catholic Church is Buxton.

Please allow me to become our communities’ liaison to ensure that the challenges to our educational system and children are met with love and vigor.

What is the most pressing issue facing Dare County and the state of North Carolina?

Since helping with coaching at Buxton’s Fessenden Center, I really have started to appreciate just how lucky our children and parents are to have such a wonderful facility and recreation department. Our schools and students are the envy of our near neighboring counties. The county and the school system gets high grades. However, I have also started to question just how well we are preparing these same children for the future.

In the simple analysis, there are two futures for the kids of Hatteras Island. Number one has a solid future anchored by a good life of remaining and working Hatteras Island after graduation. The second and equally enviable direction places the graduate heading off to further dreams, education or into military service. We as responsible parents and citizens need to pave the way to success in every direction.

Our children need to be prepared to succeed. The island’s resort economy is demanding that each of our children become technologically proficient and socially sophisticated. We must expose our children to different trades and professions. We need sand on our beaches and we must educate our children in the dangers of an addicted life.

I want this and the next generation of Hatteras kids to be the best . . . the best teachers, DOT workers, resort professionals, Realtors, doctors, lawyers and surfers.

I wish it were as easy as sprinkling a miracle-grow like substance on heads of each or our young ones. If you elect me to the Dare County Board of Education I promise to work hard to deliver a better future for our children and Hatteras Island.

 Mary Ellon D. Ballance, Hatteras

Education: A.A. degree, Business Management, Harford Community College, Bel Air, Md.; Trade School Certificate — Manicurist

Occupation: Independant sales contractor; nail technician; commercial fisherman

Additional training and experience: I created, owned and operated a full-service salon for 15 years. I recently sold this business but still work there part-time. In 2013 I created a new company that provides construction companies management services for supply, shipment, billing and payment of materials. In addition, I work alongside my husband as a commercial fisherman.

Prior to moving from Harford County, Maryland to Hatteras in 1998, I was a lacrosse coach, referee and served on the board of directors for the local lacrosse program. Since my move to Hatteras I have been active in a number of areas. I was a Sunday school teacher and youth leader for six years at the Hatteras United Methodist Church and served as a board member for Hatteras Island Cancer Foundation. I have coached basketball for both the Fessenden Center and at the Cape Hatteras Secondary School as the middle school girls head coach.

Also, I have served as a board member on the Superintendent of Dare County Schools Parent Advisory Board and Calendar Committee. These are just some of the experiences that sparked my interested in running for the Board of Education.

I currently am involved in the following community organizations: President of the the Cape Hatteras Booster Club (5 yrs.); pres. of the HVFD Ladies Fire Auxiliary (1 yr.), Hatteras Community Fish Fry Coordinator (1.5 yrs.) and a Board member of the Fessenden Center Advisory Board (3 yrs.)

What motivated you to run for office?

I am motivated to run for the Dare County Board of Education by my vision for the children in this school system to have equal opportunities to grow and learn. My experiences make it clear that my passion for working with children to help each of them develop their potential is strong.

As a member of the Board of Education, I would work towards collaborative leadership with the board of education and the Dare County Commissioners to make sure that the teachers, administrators, and students have access to the tools and training they need to excel in this fast paced world of technology. Such a commitment will allow a well trained and energetic staff to provide the individual attention each student needs.

I am ready and willing to use my time and energy to make certain that every child in Dare County has the best possible chance at being successful doing whatever they choose to be in life. We need to take the necessary steps to get the teachers and administrators every tool they need to accomplish these goals.

What is the most pressing issue facing Dare County and the state of North Carolina?

The most pressing issue facing Dare County and/or the state of North Carolina as far as education is concerned is money. did a study for 2015’s Best and Worst States for Teachers, North Carolina has an overall ranking at 50! The state of North Carolina has a great deal of work to do to restore confidence in our educational system and integrity to the teaching profession. Politics often get in the way of education and we need to come together and find common sense solutions to big problems.

At the county level, we need to put forth a deliberate effort to foster stronger relationships between the teachers, the administration and the board of education to give our teachers the support they need in the classroom. We need to build teacher moral, not by judging teachers on test scores, but by working towards more of a results based accountability system that will give them the confidence they need to get the job done. We need to find ways to streamline heavy workloads and increase salaries. This will create a more stable environment for teachers to be both innovative and effective. Teachers should be free to be creative in their teaching and not bogged down to teaching to a state or federally mandated test that may ultimately be used against them. Simply put, if we take care of our teachers they will take care of our students.

As diverse as each of the schools in Dare County are, they all have things in common Each school has a staff and student body with the will to succeed and a surrounding community ready to work hard to make that happen. For 2016, Dare County is ranked by as 45th out of 100 school districts in the state. We are not the worst but we have some work to do.

No single person has the right answers, however, if we sit down and have some collaborative discussions with teachers, parents, administrators, elected officials and community leaders, we will generate an opportunity for creative ideas and positive results.

Given the opportunity, I will help lead the Dare County Board of Education to the next level and get our students prepared for their future.

District 5

 Brandy Foreman, Wanchese

Education: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; degrees in Elementary Education and Sociology.

Occupation: Upon graduation, I taught at Manteo Elementary School. My husband and I own Brew Thru, a business my family started in 1977.

Additional training and experience:I have a unique set of qualifications that I think are important for our Dare County Board of Education. I have always been directly involved and engaged in education here. I grew up in Dare County and attended Dare County schools from Kindergarten to 12th grade. I attended Kitty Hawk Elementary, Manteo Middle School, First Flight Middle School and Manteo High School, where I met my high school sweetheart, Philip Foreman.

Upon graduating from Manteo High School, I attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I pursued my dream career — Elementary Education. After graduating from college, I taught at Manteo Elementary until Philip and I decided to start our family.

Now, both of our daughters attend Dare County Schools. I started volunteering directly in the schools as soon as our oldest daughter, Emma, started Kindergarten at Manteo Elementary and continued to do so with our other daughter, Sydney.

Besides being a classroom and/or grade level volunteer for both our daughters, I have served on the PTO board and have held past positions as the volunteer chair, Vice President of Cultural Arts and PTO President. I’ve also served on the SIT team and have taken/continue to take any opportunity available to work with students in the classroom or assist the teachers in any capacity.

Outside of school, I’ve served on the Dare Education Foundation Board, the Elizabeth Gardens Family Focus Group and Events Committee, the North Carolina Aquarium Advisory Board and the Outer Banks Sporting Events Board. On each of these Boards I represented the family, and had the interests of parents and children in mind.

What motivated you to run for office?

Education has always been a passion of mine. My continued love of learning, working directly with students, teachers and parents and being an advocate for a positive education for everyone in our schools has motivated me to run.

As a mother of two daughters, I have a vested interest in our schools. As someone who loves our community, it’s my desire to see all of our students succeed both in school and beyond. I spend my time volunteering in the schools any way possible. Observing the students and teachers from this perspective allows me to reflect on the resources and support necessary to reach all students and create the best schools possible.

I think it’s important that we have members on our Board of Education that know first hand what is going on in the classroom, and know the real concerns our students, teachers and parents face. It’s important that every member of our community has a voice regarding their educational experience.

I am very proud of our schools and what we’ve achieved and would like the opportunity to continue to advocate for the best practices and support for everyone involved.

What is the most pressing issue facing Dare County and the state of North Carolina?

I believe the most pressing issue facing Dare County and North Carolina is the state of our education system. At a local level, it is our responsibility to ensure all Dare County students receive the best possible education and are prepared for a successful life beyond high school. This can only be achieved with the proper resources and support for students, teachers and parents.

Currently, this is not looking good for our state, and I fear it will trickle down to Dare County if North Carolina doesn’t start making some positive changes. It’s obvious we need great teachers in all of our schools; however, teachers are leaving the profession at an alarming rate. They are either going to teach in another state, or leaving the profession all together.

Schools of Education at the college level are seeing a dramatic decrease in the number of applicants. Teachers are frustrated regarding their insufficient pay, support, but most importantly, they are frustrated with the amount of testing/assessing required at all levels. As a former teacher, I understand you go into the profession because of your love of education; your desire to engage children and cultivate young minds. It’s a joy when you know you’ve made a difference in a child’s life. This is not achieved by constantly adding more and more testing. Too much time and money has been spent on this as it is, and unfortunately it is not producing positive results- teachers, students and parents are demoralized.

Our county and state needs to make positive decisions regarding our education system to ensure we can attract and keep the best teachers for our schools.

SONY DSC PicasaDavid Twiddy, Manteo

Education: Manteo High School
Occupation: Dare County Schools Transportation Department — 28 years of service as a school bus driver, fuel truck driver, mechanic and Transportation Director (not counting 2 years as a student bus driver).

Additional Training and experience: Member and chairman of the Dare County Airport Authority; National and North Carolina Pupil Transportation Associations (past president of NPTA); Dare County Community Center Board
Seafood Festival Committee; past member of the Outer Banks Marathon Committee; past member of several Department of Public Instruction committees; past member of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators; past member and president of the Heritage Point Homeowners Association; former member and chief of the Manns Harbor Volunteer Fire Department

What motivated you to run for office?

I believe in Dare County Schools. I’ve spent the past 28 years being involved with the school system as an employee . . . working up from a bus driver to the Director of Transportation. Before that, I attended Dare County Schools from Kindergarten through 12th grade.

We have a very good school system. We have wonderful and dedicated teachers, teacher assistants and support staff, but we can become even better. We need to personalize instruction to meet the needs of all students. We need to have a system in place where employees can be rewarded for a job well done and create opportunities for advancement. We need to strengthen our relationships with other agencies in Dare County, such as the Dare County Board of Commissioners and county departments, COA, and the NC Coastal Institute.

We need to promote partnerships with local businesses to allow our students to experience different types of jobs and in turn, get valuable feedback from them regarding the types of skills future employees need. We need to move away from being a top-down driven organization and instead be more open to ideas from our professional educators; they are trained professionals who are working daily with our diverse population of students and parents. If elected, this is what I will be working for.

What is the most pressing issue facing Dare County and /or the State of North Carolina?

I think that the most pressing issue in education in both Dare County and the State of North Carolina is getting parents involved with their child’s education. If teachers communicate with parents then both will be vested in reaching a common goal for the student. This could be especially effective for the at-risk, low income child who may need extra encouragement to be challenged academically and pursue a path preparing them for college or a career.

This must start as early as possible, beginning with pre-K and continue all the way through 12th grade. Students need to have positive role models, be encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities, and also be exposed to opportunities not only in Dare County but in more urban areas. If children know that you are sincere and really care about them, they will want to work hard for you.

Building a positive relationship with each child should be a goal in our schools and this can only be accomplished by building this same positive and trusting relationship with staff and empowering them to use their training and skills to best serve the child.

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