Carl Lovette, school board, District 2

1. What uniquely qualifies you to serve as a member of the Board of Education?

I have been involved in the schools since 1999 as a parent until my child graduated. I was a school resource officer at Fairmont Middle School, Fairgrove Middle School, and Orrum Middle School from 2006 until 2009. Two of these schools are in District 2 that I am a candidate for. In 2011, after my retirement with 31 years in law enforcement, I couldn’t stay at home and I really missed the kids so I started driving a bus every day and working as a sub in the classrooms until 2017. I have witness the insides of the school setting firsthand from many angles alongside the students, teachers and parents, noticing strengths and weaknesses along the way. I quit my bus route due to feelings of frustration for the lack of response for an act I witnessed of bullying that could have resulted in criminal charges. I saw then that there is a needed change in our schools for our children and employees.

2. As a challenger, what do you see as the No. 1 failing of the current school board in general? What would you do to try and correct that failing?

In my opinion there is an unnecessary power struggle in the current board. Too many members seem to focus on their own interests and forget they are a representative of a community of teachers, students and parents of their district. This power struggle appears to cause board members to lose focus and the mission of the board and has decreased open lines of effective communication. My father taught me to not speak without listening. I am respectful and will focus on the mission of our schools and community. Humbly, I say that I don’t have anything personal to gain if I am elected to this seat on the board, but I feel that the board and the school system can gain from my experiences within the school settings.

3. Safety is always a concern for our schools, but more so after the killing of 17 people at a Florida school in February. What would you recommend to make our schools more safe?

As a retired law enforcement officer my first instinct: lock it down, increasing security by having fencing, guards and extreme regulation of goings and comings similar to that of a locked down unit; but what kind of an effect would that have on the mental state of our children and parents? Going to school should not feel like being imprisoned. I believe we need more school resource officers with proper training and facilitation. There are days that schools do not have SRO coverage and schools that aren’t covered at all. This is a shame. We need better SRO coverage and training on our campuses. The Peer Mediation Program should be implemented and used in cases they are capable of assisting with. Peer mediators are capable of counseling with students and initiating resources within the school of law enforcement to prevent possible actions of a disgruntled or disturbed issue. Looking into qualified counselors for students to speak, without fear, in a safe area. A simple, very cheap thing to do is have drop boxes in each school so students, staff, and parents can communicate anonymously. The military even uses this type of system and seems to help open communication. Communication is the first key. Last, enforce the policy and procedures that are already in place.

4. Our local school system is one of two in North Carolina that allows the use of corporal punishment, resulting in an embarrassing statistic, that most children who are paddled in North Carolina are minority and from Robeson County. Do you favor its use? Why or why not?

No. There is no reason for anyone to spank a child that doesn’t belong to them.

5. Our schools have been in short supply of textbooks in recent years, with some arguing that more books need to be purchased, and some saying that books become dated quickly, and arguing instead for greater use of E-books that stay current. What do you favor?

While there is no denying technology is very helpful, I believe our students need new textbooks. Yes, information changes, but technology changes as well. Tablets will need to be upgraded, replaced for damage or being lost or stolen. The average battery life for a tablet is shorter than the school day. Beyond that, where will the Public Schools of Robeson County get the money to buy, maintain and replace tablets, accessories and program updates? Teachers are already spending their own money to keep their classrooms stocked with essential items, so let’s just add tablet accessories to their list of needs they will need to keep on hand.

6. Our school system ranks next to last in the state for local funding by the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, about $1,000 short of the state average. How would you work to overcome that?

Our schools are underfunded, plain and simple. The stipulations of where money can be spent are restricting, so this is a hard question. It appears our schools are placed on a back burner by the state and local levels. We need to speak out to our state and local governing systems to request increased budgets and limit unnecessary spending and travel. Everyone, myself included, hates to hear about “increasing taxes,” but the money is needed. Property owners are carrying this load. If we could come together to look at a way for everyone to share this burden from the state level to the local level. Our county is poor with a large population that cannot do it on their own. Larger wealthy counties have access to resources we can’t tap into, but it sure would be nice. Why does it seem that the richer areas have more access to the funding?

7. Our school board has a reputation for micromanagement, and not staying within its jurisdiction of being a policy maker and allowing administrators to implement that policy. Do you agree with that assessment? What would you see as your role as a board member?

Yes, I agree. Being micromanaged is a miserable way to work and is wrong. It would be my job to help with policies within my role on the board. It would be my job to assist with questions and concerns regarding such policies. It would be my job to support the administration if they follow policy. It would not be my job, however, as a board member to have control with a personal agenda.

8. The school system is currently without a central office. There has been much conversation about the new one, where it might be located, and should an existing building be used or one built from the ground up. What are your thoughts?

A new building should be built. At the last board of education meeting that I attended, I learned that funds will be released that would allow a new board of education building, as well as a new school. To help the county save money, why not house both projects within the same property?

9. Our school system lags far behind those across the state in every education metric except the graduation rate. Do you think this is something that can be significantly improved, and if so, how would you work to achieve that?

This can be changed; it can be improved with a little effort. Encourage choices for students and parents regarding the student’s pathway. Not everyone is capable or wants to attend college. Learning a trade seems to be taboo. The Robeson County Career Center, Hilly Branch, is thought of as the place students go who need correction, an unofficial alternative school. This is so far from the truth and the reputation forgoes it. This needs to be changed. Hilly Branch should be encouraged for those students who learn better, or who simply want to learn through hands on vocational settings. Some students have difficulty in the classroom setting. Some students might want to work with their hands in machinery and such. More students should be given the opportunity to explore this option. Funding should be funneled to them. I recently met a gentleman who said that he was one of those students who couldn’t excel in the classroom. He went to Hilly Branch and is now an upstanding, employed citizen who is not living off of the backs of taxpayers. Again, like in medicine, prevention is important. Fix it before it’s broken. Boost student’s confidence and give them an attainable goal, even if it is “just” a welder, EMT, carpenter, electrician or mechanic. All of our schools should be feeding into this program so that all of the students have the same opportunities to excel in a skill they enjoy.

Ask yourself a question and answer.

Lovette did not do so.