Voters in District 3 (North Raleigh) can finish the job of restoring responsible leadership to the Wake County Board of Education by re-electing Kevin Hill in the only school board runoff. We endorsed Hill in the first round, and he came within a few votes of winning an outright majority, getting 49.7 percent against three opponents. We urge all of Hill's supporters to return to the polls and take nothing for granted. The future of public education in Wake County is at stake.
The other four candidates endorsed by the Indy won big in the first round, ousting Republican School Board Chair Ron Margiotta and defeating three of his right-wing running mates by wide margins. The outcome was a stunning repudiation of Republican Party partisanship as applied to Wake's public schools after the 2009 elections, when GOP candidates took the four board seats elected that year.
But the job isn't done. The four Republican members elected in '09 remain on the board for two more years. Thus the four new members elected so far in 2011—Susan Evans, Christine Kushner, Jim Martin and Keith Sutton—aren't quite enough to take control. They still need Hill to constitute a moderate 5-4 majority. Otherwise, the right-wingers will remain in charge, with "Papa Ron" replaced by ambitious tea party favorite John Tedesco.
With Hill, the new moderate majority can help Superintendent Tony Tata as he introduces a new controlled-choice plan for student assignments. Tata's plan seeks to end the annual process of board-ordered reassignments to fill new schools while also maintaining diverse student bodies in all schools. It's a balanced, centrist approach with broad support after years of political sniping at assignment policies.
Hill has pledged to work with Tata's plan and protect the diversity element, which Margiotta's majority was fixing to gut. By contrast, Hill's opponent in the runoff, Republican Heather Losurdo, is for the pure "neighborhood schools" approach that Margiotta and the rest of the Republican slate advocated and which voters—turning out in historically huge numbers—rejected.
Aside from a brief stint as head of the Northern Wake Republican Club, Losurdo's sketchy résumé shows no record of civic leadership anywhere, let alone in Wake County, where she and her husband have lived for just three years. A stay-at-home mom, she has two children of middle-school age, but she won't say where they go to school. She's best known, unfortunately, for her Facebook slur about President Obama and for aligning herself with Glenn Beck and tea-party Republicanism. It's not clear that she even supports public schools, as opposed to publicly supported private schools.
Hill, a former teacher and school principal in Wake County who now teaches future teachers at N.C. State, is a thoughtful advocate of great public schools. If re-elected, he will be the only experienced educator remaining on the school board. Moreover, while he is a registered Democrat, he views issues from a classroom perspective, not a political one. In fact, he seems to have no political lens at all, which won't help him get elected—but will help him serve once he is.