Cabarrus County school board candidates speak out on issues

Carolyn Carpenter

Address: 6526 Weldon Circle N.W., Concord, 28027.

Contact: 704-786-8656; 704-701-3413;

Age: 61.

Education: Olympic High School, Charlotte, graduated 1971. Courses at Central Piedmont Community College and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.

Employment: .

Public office: Cabarrus County Board of Education 2006-present. 12 years on Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners (chairwoman and vice chairwoman).


Biggest issue: Growth and keeping teachers and staff from leaving our system and going to other systems. We can address growth issues by completing the schools we (now) have in the plans: Odell and Royal Oaks elementary schools and Mount Pleasant Middle School. Support the November bond referendum for both Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and Royal Oaks Elementary. This will help growth and our community. … Help retain teachers (by) raising the (local salary) supplements.

Funding cuts: I constantly strive to keep our costs at a minimum. The best way … is with close collaboration with our commissioners, the school budget committee and the taxpayers, who have the most experience of always living within our means. This requires we have open dialogue with the parents, (county) commissioners and community on actual school needs and avoid miscommunication.

Rate the board: Good. (The school board has) done many outstanding things, such as the Performance Learning Center, STEM programs, the Early College High School, the high school academy programs and lowering our dropout rate. As we all know, this is the real road to prosperity. I appreciate all board members’ efforts. Even when we don’t agree, we know how to work together for the good of all the children.

Teacher salaries: We must compensate our teachers commensurate with their professional training. We must ensure they are always competitive with other educators in the area, especially in relation to (local salary) supplements. We always want the (highest-quality) teachers available. This is how you have a world-class school system, which is what brings high-paying jobs.

Proudest of: Our teachers, principals, school resource officers and school employees, as they make our schools … a safe place that is conducive to education. I (also) take great pride in the magnet programs: … STEM, International Baccalaureate, Early College, Performance Learning Center, the high school academies, and the (Career Technical Education) programs. … To improve, add more STEM and CTE programs.

Thomas Clark

Address: 608 Channing Circle N.W., Concord, 28027.

Contact: 704-785-9134;

Did not respond to questionnaire.

Tim Furr

Address: 3344 Muddy Creek Road, Midland, 28107.

Contact: 704-888-0443; 980-521-8828.

Age: 55.

Education: Attended central Piedmont Community College, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and Wingate University.

Employment: Owner of TAFCO Polymers Inc.

Public office: Cabarrus County school board 2008-12.


Biggest issue: We have to be responsive to making sure we get all of our kids reading on grade level in grades 1-3. It can be resolved with adding teacher assistants instead of taking them away. I think this is the most important time for a kid’s academic development.

Funding cuts: We have to look at the programs not funded by the state and measure their worth to the district, and prioritize each program accordingly, and drop the ones with the least effect on a kid’s academic growth.

Rate the board: The current board (has) done a pretty good job. They have four new members, and it takes a while to understand the role of a school board member. I also think we have a couple that are not very effective, and that is why I am running again.

Teacher salaries: For what they are expected to do with less, I don't know if you can put a number on it that any state could afford. However, they are very much underpaid, by 20 percent to 25 percent.

Proudest of: Our district has always pushed for perfection and truly cares about every kid in the system. I would like this amount of attention and encouragement be presented to the teachers and staff as well.

Blake Kiger

Address: 9803 Scheer Court, Harrisburg, 28075.

Contact: 704-454-5622.

Age: 46.

Education: Bachelor’s degree, University of Georgia, 1990.

Employment: Owner of Simon-Meyer Charlotte LLC, a construction consulting firm.

Public office: Cabarrus County Board of Education 2010-present (current chairman).


Biggest issue: Challenges ahead will focus on (dealing) with the change in the (state’s) growth funding formula. We have previously forecasted additional funds in April for the next year and then, based on projected growth, hired the (additional) teachers needed. (Now) we will not know about state growth funding until October, (so) we will have to find a way to hire teachers (before) knowing whether we will get the same level of funding as … previously … allotted.

Funding cuts: We have to continue to be efficient in all that we do. The John Locke Foundation has stated that Cabarrus County Schools has given the Cabarrus County taxpayer “great value” when it comes to building new schools. We build high-quality schools at a low price. We will continue that practice as well as continue to achieve operational efficiency.

Rate the board: The current board is proactively working on various issues that face our district. We have members that have differing gifts and talents, and we use those talents to our advantage. The board must balance state, federal and local requirements, as well as maximize funding from each source. The (state) Department of Public Instruction also has many requirements that must be followed … which complicates the decision-making process.

Teacher salaries: Salaries are an economic question that is based in the marketplace. Quality people follow high pay, so we need to identify quality people and pay them accordingly.

Proudest of: That we have raised the bar and strived for excellence during the last four years. Examples include starting a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) pipeline from elementary school to high school, creating an IB program as a result of economic development recruiter’s feedback that it was critical for our area to remain competitive, and our 2014 graduates obtained $33 million worth scholarships, which is up from just under $30 million previously.

Andrea Palo

Address: 1621 Bennington Drive N.W., Concord, 28027.

Contact: 704-796-8367;

Age: 58.

Education: Associate degree, business computer programming, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, 1994; paralegal studies, RCCC, 1998-99.

Employment: Paralegal, JM Huber Corp.

Public office: Cabarrus County school board, 2006-10.


Biggest issue: Cabarrus County had a 99 percent retention rate of highly qualified teachers in 2006-10. Teachers came from Charlotte, (even though) Cabarrus County paid less, because we were known as a strong education system. We need to identify the exact cause of them leaving, fix the problem and return to a system teachers seek out to teach.

Funding cuts: We need to begin from the top down. Classrooms cannot afford any more cuts. We need to look at positions, the services they provide, their impact on student achievement and the classroom, and adjust accordingly. Our primary focus in this difficult time must be on the students and what has the strongest impact on their achievement. I would also suggest we reach into our community for resources untapped.

Rate the board: I would rate the current board as 5 (of 10). Having worked in our schools these past few years, I was discouraged by the lack of the board’s presence to better understand the struggles from budget cuts, staff morale, impact in the classroom resulting from taking (teacher assistants) out of the classroom, etc. I hope, if elected, my advocacy in our schools would encourage more board members to do the same.

Teacher salaries: A fair salary for our teachers is one that is competitive with other districts and even other states. Our goal is to attract highly qualified, dedicated teachers to teach in Cabarrus County. To retain its teachers, CCS needs to be a cutting-edge system that cares about its teachers. However, to attract teachers from districts/states that pay substantially more, our salaries must be competitive.

Proudest of: Our teachers and staff, who work endless hours, despite their pay, to ensure our children have a safe environment to learn in and receive the best education possible. Our children are awesome. Their excitement for learning is contagious. I would like to see more focus put on our at-risk population, identifying learning styles and teaching them the victory of being a lifelong learner.

Vince Powell

Address: 8346 Pompano Road, Harrisburg, 28075.

Contact: 980-721-8336,

Age: 40.

Education: Master’s degree, school administration, UNC Chapel Hill; master’s degree, elementary education, Elon University; bachelor’s degree, math education, Lindenwood University.

Employment: Owner, Powell Properties, a real estate investing company. Taught math and coached baseball in high school for nine years; was an assistant principal of instruction for four years at a middle school and an elementary school.

Public office: Seeking his first public office.


Biggest issue: Staff turnover is too high. Teachers and staff are leaving CCS at three times the rate compared to eight years ago. We need to support our teachers and school level professionals more effectively. My experience working in schools will help develop strategies to encourage our best and brightest teachers to make CCS their career choice, not a stepping stone for a neighboring district.

Funding cuts: Keep children first. Every spending decision should be made with the classroom in mind. If cuts are made, (they) should be felt at upper-level management before classrooms are impacted. CCS has done the opposite in recent years. (School board) members should have some knowledge of the school-level inner workings. … A hands-off approach creates major gaps in leadership and communication. My experience will help bridge those gaps.

Rate the board: Our current board members do a very good job of managing the policies and statutes that govern the legal aspects of our district. I think there could be focus on relationships throughout the district that would help keep our most valued professionals from leaving the district and put a renewed focus on students that would help move our district back to a more community-based atmosphere.

Teacher salaries: Teachers are the most dedicated people I know. We need to bring back the small, locally controlled (salary) supplements to all staff to show them their true value. Small things like stipends for serving on extra committees … should all be reinstated. These things may be small, but it would show that CCS cares about our most valuable assets and (is) willing to invest in them before giving money to outside agencies for unnecessary salary or facility studies.

Proudest of: The reputation of CCS. We are regarded as a fantastic school district. People I talk to choose CCS schools before any private or charter school option because the reputation is so positive. I think my experience in schools could help CCS do a better job of supporting our younger teachers to encourage them to make Cabarrus County their final teaching destination.

Horace Stainback Jr.

Address: 446 Sunnyside Drive S.E., Concord, 28025.

Contact: 704-920-8202;

Age: 47.

Education: N.C. State University, bachelor’s degree, industrial engineering, 1993. Registered dental hygienist since 2007.

Employment: Hygienist and office manager for Healthy Smiles Family Dentistry. Worked in the food industry for 10 years.

Public office: Seeking his first public office.


Biggest issue: One of the biggest issues … is the widening gulf between school administration and the parents. … We are feeling unappreciated and pressured to comply with policies that are poorly explained and are often aggressive toward parents and students. Parents … are in a precarious position of being wary of … the administration and … unreasonable “no tolerance” policies that set up many students to fail. These policies need to be reviewed, changed or repealed (for) fair play and encouraging of differences.

Funding cuts: With shrinking budgets, school systems may not be able to be all things to all people. We may have to go back to the basics and expand from there to determine what programs make the cut. Programs that I would not consider cutting are reading, writing, languages, math, science, physical education and music. Real analysis of necessary equipment and facilities needs to happen. We cannot afford unwarranted pet projects.

Rate the board: The current board is made up of good people doing the best they can with what they have. That good can be improved upon, and … I can make the board more representative of the community it serves and bring a different perspective and skill set that is desperately needed.

Teacher salaries: I believe people should be paid a fair salary, however, I have never seen either side present information regarding the retirement benefits available to N.C. teachers. A fair look at the salary would have the potential future retirement dollars brought back to present day and injected into the annual salaries of teachers as if it were a 401-k contribution. If one were to look at the pay rate (that way), it may not look so bad.

Proudest of: How my district is able to encourage school spirit and community. Along with our local churches, it is where we come together and where all children of different ethnicity, socioeconomic status and beliefs are able to mingle and learn from each other. Everyone has value and is valued. I would like to stress this ideal.

Denver Walker

Address: 10000 Mount Pleasant Road S., Midland, 28107

Contact: 704-786-4485;

Did not respond to questionnaire.