Wake County Schools’ new proposal would extend terms to four years, stagger elections approved by county elections officials

Board approves $2.1 billion proposed operating budget

Wake County School Board members discuss replacement processes for the District Four vacancy at a Jan. 25, 2022, special meeting.

RALEIGH — The Wake County Public Schools (WCPSS) Board of Education passed another resolution on April 5 that extends the length of district seats while also staggering the election of board seats. 

The WCPSS board first passed a resolution on March 15 asking the Wake County’s Board of Elections to approve the school board returning to a four-year, staggered term cycle instead of the current process of the entire board being elected every two years.  

The first resolution was later shot down by Wake County elections officials who indicated they couldn’t act on the measure, citing a lack of statutory authority to do so and that the board’s resolution is merely a request and not a directive. 

On April 5, the WCPSS board approved a new resolution with a slight change in language in both the title and the final paragraph. The two resolutions are otherwise identical. That resolution was approved and implemented by the Wake County Board of Elections, per Stacy Beard, the external communications director for the county. 

The approved resolution changes certain seats to four-year terms in the upcoming November election. Those seats, according to the resolution, are Districts 1, 2, 7 and 9. These seats are currently held by Heather Scott (District 1), Monika Johnson-Hostler (District 2), Chris Heagarty (District 7) and Karen Carter (District 9) 

The remaining Districts 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 seats “could be elected for two-year (shorter) terms since they received five-year (longer) terms under Session Law 2013- 110.” District 3 is currently held by Roxie Cash, District 4 is held by the newly appointed Tara Waters, District 6 is Christine Kushner and District 8 is the current board chair, Lindsay Mahaffey. District 5 is held by Jim Martin, who has said he will not run for reelection this fall. 

Going forward “all elections would be for four-year terms,” according to the approved resolution. 

Continued protests of school boards around the country have resulted in candidates lining up to challenge incumbent board members, and Wake County appears to be no different. At least eight candidates so far have announced their intent to run this fall, including Wing Ng and Beatrice Setnik in District 3, Becky Lew Hobbs in District 4, Becki Allen and Lynn Edmonds in District 5, Jacob Arthur and Katie Long in District 7, Steve Bergstrom in District 8, and Michele Morrow in District 9.  

Seat changes were not the only hot topic at the April 5 meeting. The board also discussed its proposed $2.1 billion budget, with Superintendent Cathy Moore stating she intends to ask county commissioners for $600 million; $56 million or 10% above what commissioners have provided for the current year.  

The majority of the $56 million increase, $35.2 million, will go toward salary increases. Teachers would get a 2.5% salary supplement boost and support staff would see a minimum pay rate of $16 an hour or a 0.5% increase. 

Of her proposed operating budget, Moore said, “We have a long way to go if we are to put our students on a path to success in our new reality,” and that the work must start with “shoring up our workforce.” 

Moore’s ask comes as test scores have plummeted amid pandemic learning loss and a decline in student enrollment during the pandemic. Enrollment went from 161,907 in 2019-20 to 159,066 in 2021-22. Staff predicted a slight increase in enrollment for 2022-23 to 159,542. 

The board also approved spending $1 million in COVID-19 relief funds to give child nutrition staff additional bonus pay of $1,350. The district was allotted $431.4 million in relief funds which will need to be spent within the next two years. WCPSS staff estimate the district will have around $176.5 million left heading toward July 1 of this year. 

About A.P. Dillon 1310 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_