Back to Basics Craven County already on the campaign trail

Thirty-year-old Craig Sheppard said he had a tough time keeping up with his 78-year-old partner on the campaign trail Saturday in Trent Woods.

Sheppard, who serves as a materials engineer at Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, spent the day with the Back to Basics Craven County candidates speaking to voters who are ready to see Craven County Schools change direction.

Saturday’s focus was District 3 and the group lived up to its grassroots’ background by knocking on more than 200 doors to find out first-hand what voters expect from their elected officials.

The candidates of the effort to transform Craven County Schools include Eddie McKeel for District 1, Rick Hopkins in District 3, Kim Fink for District 5 and Sarah Benischek for District 7.

This group of Constitutional Conservatives want to know what changes residents want to see in the school district. They have several tenants they’ll work for such as replacing Common Core standards, limiting high stake tests, having open discussion among board members and making documents readily available to the public via the school district’s Website, such as the recently released audit of Craven County Schools which was in the news recently.

My personal preference when it comes to this group’s beliefs – besides replacing tests with actual learning and boxes with real math – is their strict insistence upon compliance of Sunshine Laws.

So, why should voters care about this group? I could list all their accomplishments. Fink has been to Raleigh so many times State Superintendent June Atkinson knows her by name. She’s no stranger to the School Board meetings either. All the candidates are well versed in policies and current education issues. But that’s not necessarily all you need to know about the candidates.

This dynamic group of four simply cares. They care about the education of children in Craven County. They have real issues with the fact that not a month has passed in the past year in which the current board hasn’t huddled in closed session – doing the public’s business without the public’s input.

Hopkins simply wants the focus to be on the teachers and students not bureaucracy. I can guarantee that if elected, he would be appalled if the board decided to spend more than $100,000 on events hosted by itself, as reported in their controversial audit.

McKeel wants to keep educators by enforcing genuine open dialogue so that teachers feel comfortable reporting on their experiences. He’s ready, willing and able to work with educators, parents and classroom assistants toward a value-added curriculum.

Benischek remains focused on the fiscal responsibility of the board. What she wants is simple – transparency. She will follow the money to make sure no area of the county is forgotten. She also recognizes the revolving door that seems to exist with educators in Craven County, which can be seen each month if you can obtain a copy of the passed personnel report. She’ll advocate for the county to be more competitive with surrounding counties when it comes to teachers and teacher assistants.

This group is asking for one thing – your vote. And not only will they work for it but they will listen to your concerns. You may not agree with all their ideas but there’s one thing most people can agree on: the current direction of the Craven County Board of Education is not headed toward success. Just pick up a copy of last week’s New Bern Sun Journal and you’ll read about a mother fighting for her child’s rights and a judge reprimanding the administration for a job they didn’t do.

Then, there’s the closed sessions and the lawsuit pending against Craven County Schools by a former student who nearly drowned on a school-sponsored field trip. Guess what voters? These attorneys – these civil claims – cost the taxpayer.

So, what’s the difference in the current board and the candidates? Openness. Fairness. Ethical standards.

Any candidate who spends their Saturday going door-to-door just to listen to others has my vote of confidence. Obviously Sheppard thought it worthy of his time to chase after a 78-year-old volunteer to campaign for this group. To me, that speaks volumes.

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Want to meet the candidates? A meet-and-greet will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at Golden Corral in New Bern or visit their Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/BackToBasicsCravenCounty or their Website at http://www.CravenB2B.com.

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