- Oct 18, 2022
There’s a good reason you’re feeling oversaturated by the Moore County Board of Education election. That’s because the 2022 campaign began Dec. 7, 2020, the night three staunch conservatives — David Hensley, Robert Levy and Philip Holmes — got sworn in and began turning the nonpartisan board into a partisan battlefield of every national cultural wedge issue.
Critical Race Theory, book banning, claims of “woke” educators, unsupported allegations of staff improprieties — the Board of Education has experienced an unseemly level of disharmony and disaffectedness. It would be embarrassing, except that similar behavior has been commonplace among school boards nationwide.
Morale within school ranks has suffered. Administrators can’t fill the jobs on the books, much less fill ambitious desires to hire more teachers. Academic performance has continued to struggle, as a result of the pandemic. Construction needs are accumulating to update more schools, but the board changes its mind almost monthly.
Moore County needs stability. It needs leadership. It needs critical and independent thinking. It needs focus on what matters, not what doesn’t.
Of the three seats up for election, two are “at-large,” meaning those board members are meant to represent the entire county, not just a particular district. Current members Libby Carter and Ed Dennison, who had deep experience from years of service on the board, are not seeking re-election.
Running to replace them: retired Army Special Forces officer Ken Benway; retired special education teacher Pauline Bruno; longtime Moore County educator Robin Calcutt; and Rollie Sampson, also an educator, counselor and veteran who previously served as the school district’s liaison for military families. The top two vote-getters win.
Benway and Bruno
After our sit-down interviews with all four, we genuinely believe each has the best intentions for Moore County children, although they have different world views and how to achieve results.
Benway has exceptional military experience, and we appreciate his “get ‘er done” spirit. But his strident political rhetoric this campaign season has covered up for a generally weak knowledge of the complex issues that go into public schools. He has called school children “trophies” like they’re a spoil of war. That gives us shivers. His world view sees education as battlefield objectives to be conquered.
Bruno, with whom Benway is running as a “slate” endorsed by the local Republican Party and MAGA conservatives, has the better background as an educator. When she says she’d be a “grizzly bear” for the kids, we believe it. She could be an effective advocate. But she talks too generically about what’s wrong with our schools. Yes, improvements must occur, but her stridency blinds her to what is right. And her leading role last year in the fight against “CRT in our schools” was a total red herring.
Calcutt and Sampson
Robin Calcutt is clearly the top school board candidate. She has been a Moore County student, teacher, parent, principal and grandparent. She is a professor now at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, where she leads the teacher training program.
Calcutt knows public education. She is calm, rational, engaging and has a demonstrated ability as an independent thinker. She’s not going to kick and scream when she doesn’t get her way. She knows what children need, what teachers need and is able to work collaboratively.
Similarly, Rollie Sampson offers a depth of experience for voters. As a veteran, a military spouse and the district’s former coordinator for military families, she has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal money to support military-connected families and programs.
As a trained and licensed counselor, she understands the complex mental health crisis common among some students these days.
Sampson will never leave you to guess what she’s thinking; she is a demonstrated passionate advocate for schools unafraid to hold others accountable.
Calcutt and Sampson are not “rubber stamps” for anything. They know all is not well with schools. The difference is they start from a more informed, objective, non-partisan perspective and they’re not blind to the challenges our schools face. We endorse Robin Calcutt and Rollie Sampson for the two Moore County Board of Education at-large seats.