Watch video of WFJA’s interview with Republican Eric Davidson, who is seeking one of four at large seats on the Lee County Board of Education. Voters can choose up to four candidates. Republican incumbent Sherry Lynn Womack and challengers Sandra Bowen and Todd Ashley Miller, and Democratic Chairman Patrick Kelly, incumbent Lynn Smith, and challengers Tom Frye and Jamey Laudate are also seeking seats. Below, read answers submitted by Davidson to questions asked by The Rant Monthly for publication in August, September and October.
Briefly introduce yourself and describe why you’re seeking election to the Board of Education.
DAVIDSON: I am a native of Randolph County and I have resided in Lee County with my wife and two children for the last 34 years. I currently am President and CEO of EDJE Consulting Group, LLC, a local small business serving clients as a consultant, coach, trainer, and speaker. I also have 15 years of experience as a secondary school teacher and as an administrator, 13 years as high school coach, and six years as an athletic director. For the past six years I have served as an adjunct instructor in the Curriculum Department of Central Carolina Community College. I am a two-time graduate of Campbell University with a BA, summa cum laude, and a Masters degree.
I am seeking election to the board because I believe we can do better for the students in our school system. I have secondary education and higher education experience, and as a member of the board I will be seeking student success through a cooperative effort among students, schools, and society. I will bring to the board a fresh perspective with a new voice and a new vision that puts students first and focuses on student achievement. Nothing changes if nothing changes.
If you’re a challenger, what is the first initiative you’ll undertake as a member of the board and how will it work to the benefit of students in Lee County? If you’re an incumbent, which initiative have you taken during your tenure, and how has it been beneficial to students in Lee County?
DAVIDSON: One initiative of my multi-prong strategy to further student success is to mobilize the underused wisdom of individuals in our society who can have a tremendous impact on the education of students. We must resource individuals having experience and expertise in multiple settings in our society, including but not limited to non-profits, small businesses, corporations, and government.
To believe the burden of education is completely upon the shoulders of textbooks, schools, and teachers is to limit the breadth of education available to students in the 21st century. We cannot be afraid of losing control of the education system that worked well for decades. Rather we must embrace the reality that we need to expand learning under the guidance of our skilled and talented teachers and empower them to help students soar to new heights.
We must remove the blinders that have limited our thinking and look at similar school districts that have been successful in educating students and incorporate concepts and practices that can be successful in educating Lee County students.
I will make decisions and cast votes as a member of this board by asking “How does this help students?” or “How does this help teachers help students?”
More than 1,100 new jobs have come or are coming very soon to Lee County, a factor which will almost certainly lead to some level of increased population growth in the next four years. What should the school board be doing now to prepare for this growth and the subsequent need for increased educational resources?
DAVIDSON: Brian Floyd, Founder of TheCampaignSchool.com, stated in a personal email on July 22, “If 2020 has taught us anything, education is probably the most important issue in America if we’re going to address inequalities and have a workforce that’s ready for the critical thinking jobs that will be created by technological changes and decoupling from China.” I believe for Lee County to be a place where people want to reside, we must do all we can for Lee County to be a place where people want to live, work, and play. And an integral part of a quality infrastructure is the quality of our schools. To be honest, a forward-thinking School Board will have already been preparing Lee County Schools for this anticipated growth and not have insisted on the status quo. I believe even though it’s late, it’s not too late. With a directed and focused attention on providing both a comprehensive education for college bound students and equal educational training for students preparing to enter the workforce we can have one of the top-rated school districts in NC. We must provide an educated workforce for our existing and future industries.
An equal education for all students is mandatory.
Do you support the passage of the $25 million parks and recreation bond to pay for the construction of a multi-field sports complex in Lee County? Why or why not?
DAVIDSON: I am grateful the residents of Lee County will have the opportunity to decide on this $24 million bond because the residents of Lee County will be responsible for the repayment of the bond. I will be voting “for” this bond because I believe it is an opportunity Lee County cannot afford to miss.
We are in a prime location to attract thousands of players and families to spend money in Lee County thereby increasing the money available to facilitate improvements and upgrades in our infrastructure, including additional resources available for our schools. Whenever a community has high performing schools, a qualified workforce, and exceptional recreation facilities, that community is an attractive place for people to live, work, and play.
As a teacher and soccer and basketball coach for 15 years, I understand the importance of extracurricular activities for well-rounded students. The desire of many athletes to be their best involves their participation in sports outside of school. Many sports teams in Lee County travel to tournaments across the southeast, which for some families makes it too expensive for their children to participate. With a multi-field sports complex in our county, more Lee County children will be able to participate.
K-8 children will begin returning to school in person as early as Oct. 5, with high school students likely to return some time not long after that. What are your thoughts on balancing the safety of students, families, teachers and staff with the fact that many situations require parents to be away from their children for work?
DAVIDSON: As a parent of grown children, I can only imagine how difficult that has been on parents and their children. Yet sometimes, I wonder during these discussions if teachers who are also parents of school age children are not recognized for the added stress they are under.
I suspect that many parents have a greater appreciation for teachers after they have been asked to teach their own children. At least, I hope they do.
To make everyone happy at the same time is impossible regardless of the situation. Adding to this conundrum is we are living in a time none of us alive have experienced.
No doubt, this is a balancing act for students, faculty, staff and their families, even extended family.
We must, however, strive for safety.
There is no silver bullet that will make perfect what is imperfect. No one plan will work for everyone.
Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are frequently used in education. In a sense, what is trying to be achieved for all is an IEP. A case in point is some students who were doing average work in the classroom, are now doing above average work virtually.
The IEP for these students is learning virtually.
If a return to in-person learning led to a high number of new COVID-19 cases, would you be willing to consider going back to a more virtual setting?
DAVIDSON: A knee-jerk reaction could result in an automatic yes. I believe a measured and responsible reply is needed.
Would I consider going back to a more virtual setting? Yes, I would consider this as a possible option.
As a member of the Board of Education, one of my priorities and responsibilities will be the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and their families. On any decision before the Board, I will not make a knee-jerk reaction due to the tremendous impact the Board’s decisions have on all residents of Lee County.
All options must be on the table that will allow the Board to make a decision that is in the best interest of most every person. To limit the Board’s options by stating I would not consider going back to a more virtual setting under any circumstances is foolish.
I realize that common sense might not be so common anymore but part of the Board’s responsibility, to the best of our ability, is to provide an environment conducive to the success of each student’s learning.
The actions of this Board matter, and I commit to making informed decisions that are not guided by the wind.