RALEIGH — The stage is set for a major shift in board members in the state’s largest school district. As of June, five of the nine incumbents in Wake County are now indicating they won’t seek reelection this November.
Jim Martin, Christine Kushner, Roxie Cash, and Heather Scott have made statements they will not run again. Martin and Kushner are the longest-serving board members having been first elected in 2011.
Karen Carter, the newest member elected for the first time in 2020, has also said she probably won’t run again due to issues with her mother’s health.
The current board has seen a series of protests by parents with complaints including pandemic and mask policies, curriculum, transparency, and issues with the district’s Office of Equity Affairs, as well as vocal opposition to obscene books found in district libraries.
There has also been pushback over Critical Race Theory, which is embedded in teacher training conducted by the Office of Equity Affairs. The district even offered an “Intro to Critical Race Theory” course last year but pulled the offering following North State Journal inquiries. The latest controversy involved a pre-school teacher using LGBT-themed flashcards depicting a pregnant man.
Official filing for the Wake County School board race is not until July 1, but candidates are already lining up to run for all nine seats. Six of the ten who have filed either have a child or grandchild in a district school.
Those who have already announced their intent to run include Cheryl Caulfield (District 1), Monica Ruiz (District 2), Wing Ng (District 3), Becky Lew-Hobbs (District 4), Jackie Wilder Boegel (District 5), Chad Stall (District 6), Jacob Arthur (District 7), Katie Long (District 7), Steve Bergstrom (District 8) and Michele Morrow (District 9).
The departure of the five board members leaves four members who intend to run in the fall; Chairwoman Lindsay Mahaffey, Vice Chair Chris Heagarty, Monika Johnson-Hostler and Tara Waters, who was newly appointed by the board to fill former Chair Keith Sutton’s District 4 seat earlier this year.
Waters was appointed after the previous board pick, Craston Artis, was disqualified in a drawn-out fight over his district residency. It was revealed that Artis did not live in the district until after he applied, a fact his estranged ex-wife became very vocal about on social media. Artis eventually withdrew his name from consideration.
Controversy also followed Sutton, who had been serving as interim superintendent for Warren County schools while at the same time acting as chair of the Wake County School board. Sutton was made the permanent superintendent of Warren County Schools in January of this year with a base compensation of $135,000 a year.
This is the last election cycle where all nine seats will be on the ballot at one time. In April, the board passed a resolution extending the term length seats to four years instead of two while also staggering the election of board seats.