LaKishia Spaulding Sweat, school board candidate, District 2

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

I think my knowledge of being an accountant for the past 15 years qualifies me to serve on the Board of Education. The board is used as a tool to help budget money for our school system. So, with the experience I have with my current position as comptroller, this is only one qualification that helps me to serve as a member. I am also on the Tribal Council of the Lumbee Tribe, and as a council member we are required to budget monies that are awarded to us by Housing and Urban Development, grants and/or scholarships, and as council members we have sessions on how and where to place money for our programs. Also, my father was a principal, my husband is a teacher, his father was a principal and I have other family members who are in the Robeson County school system, so being close to them and hearing their experiences, I feel that knowledge and my experiences qualifies me of understanding the needs of our students and teachers.

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?

Failing? We fail in change, we fail in equality, we fail in providing to allow what all of our schools as a collective body need. We must treat every single school with the same equality that each school needs and deserves. There should be no reason why one school should get more than another school. I understand the difference in sizes of schools and you have to budget, but if one school can get brand new computers or iPads for their school, then other schools in the county should be rewarded with that very same privilege.

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?

If there is one thing that we should not have to fear is whether our students and our teachers are safe while at school. For us all, that is a given. We send our children to school to be educated and not have to fear for their lives. Unfortunately, this is not the day and time we used to live in. Now we have to fear for the safety of our schools. I feel the drills the schools have been testing, locking the doors, and making sure all visitors go through the offices are only one step towards keeping our schools safe. We need more security officers that are not just at our schools a few days a week, for only a couple of hours today. We need officers that are at our schools daily, and for the entire school day. We have to keep our children, our teachers and our administration safe. It is our job, our duty, to make sure that these procedures are intact so that nothing like this happens here or anywhere else in our country. Our children should not have to have any fear of attending school. They should feel safe and protected.

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?

You know, I grew up when it was OK for a teacher to paddle a child. I was one of those kids. I never went to the principal’s office, but if I got a little out of hand, like talking just a bit to much (which was always my issue), then I remember Mrs. Twitty and Mrs. Margaret giving me a little paddling. And when I got home, I also got it from my mother. Did it scar me? Did I hold a grudge to that teacher? No. I carried on and did my work as expected and respected why I was punished because these punishments always came with a reason why. I agree with punishment, but corporal punishment sounds way to harsh. If I had children in school that acted up and did not respect their teacher or their administration, I would allow a paddle. But think about the words corporal punishment in its own definition. It is defined as “physical punishment, such as caning or flogging; punishment under law that includes imprisonment and death.” This does not happen to our children. It sounds harsh, it sounds scary, but punishing our children is not something that should be frowned upon. I just look at myself, my husband, all of my friends that I went to high school with that were punished. It did not change us a human beings. What it did do was make us more respectful, more observant and make us understand that our teachers and principals are really here to help us and not hurt us.

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?

Our times are changing. When I used an encyclopedia for my research papers in school, there is now google, yahoo and a wide variety of search engines. I would favor E-books, because yes, they are more current, they are up to date with what others states are using, it lessens our children to have to carry these books home, especially if they are not allowed to use lockers, and it is something that can continue to be updated as information and technology changes.

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?

This would be the top of my agenda. Why should our county not be allowed the same funding as others counties?? We should be allowed the exact same funding, the exact same privileges as any other county. We are just as important. We are just as equal. Equality is what we need. We do not need to be ridiculed for what may happen in our county, so do not take anything away from our school systems that is here for the betterment of our children.

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?

I feel that as a member of the school board we do have to play well together and play as a team. Policy is made up by the school board, but as I said it also needs to play well with the administrators. At the same time, the school board must act as its own body and implement policy that is made up by the school board and hold to that policy and not sway from the decisions and policy that is made up by the board.

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?

If there is a building that is already in place, then why not use that space? I am sure many people think that building a brand new central office would be in the best interest of Robeson County Public Schools, and that it needs to be in a centralized location like Lumberton, so the cost along with the location should be weighed in for cost effectiveness, as well as what is best for the public’s best interest. Building a new central office would benefit all the new technology and office space that would benefit the Public Schools of Robeson County, so with that being said what monies that are allotted for new construction should be accessed with an already freestanding location. The cost of building, the time of constructing the building, the cost of the school system rent in the location they are in at the time of construction, all of those costs must be weighed in.

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?

Equality. Again, if we teach our students, if we treat our teachers, if we compliment our administrations, we can move forward as this collective body and move on and improve the graduation rate. Every school deserves the same technology, the same benefits. Our teachers deserve the continuing education to better our students. We all, teachers, students, parents, administration, must all come together and make our county, where we live, where we work, where we strive the best place there is. We must move ahead and push back the dark, glooming cloud of Robeson County being the worst place there is to being the best place there is. We must have change and we must focus on being positive and giving our students and our teachers a place to go to make them amazing. To make them the best achievers and make them proud to say they are from Robeson County. We need an uplifting and if we uplift our students and our teachers, the county as a whole would move forward.

Ask yourself a question and the answer it.