Candidate for Hoke County Board of Education 2020
1. Please tell voters a little about yourself, your background and experience.
I am a financial advisor with Edward Jones where I have worked since 2016. In January 2018, I opened the firm’s first branch office in Raeford. I routinely help clients save for children’s education, reduce taxes, and plan for retirement. My career gives me the pleasure of enriching the lives of my clients and giving them more options in retirement, regardless of what they decide to do. Prior to joining Edward Jones, I was a controller for Delta Apparel, Inc., where I worked 12 years. I also was an audit manager in Raleigh for Deloitte and Touche LLP, where I spent six years.
I have a Master of Accountancy degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Bachelor of Finance degree from Wake Forest University. I have a CPA license and am also a graduate of Hoke High School.
I am married to Melissa Wright and we have three children, a son, Samuel, age 11 attending East Hoke Middle School, and twin boys, Bradley and Christopher, age 9 who attend Don Steed Elementary School. I’m a life-long resident of the area with my family residing here for many generations. I’m an Elder in Bethel Presbyterian Church, a Director for the Hoke County Chamber of Commerce, and a member of Kiwanis. I am actively involved in Hoke County Parks and Recreation with my kids participating in soccer, basketball, and baseball. This is also my third-year coaching soccer for Parks & Recreation.
2. Why are you running for the school board?
A current school board member rolling off, Hank Richards, thought I would be a good asset to the school board and asked me to run in his place. After careful consideration and prayer, I realized that this would be a great opportunity to positively impact our children and future generations. The best way to effect lasting change is through education. My wife and I have three children in public school, and I see daily the challenges facing children, parents, and educators. I want Hoke County to have the best school system in the State. I want children to be able to graduate Hoke High School and have the skillset, know-how, and competitive advantage to achieve their ambitions. I want this community to thrive and have an abundance of opportunities for graduating seniors.
I believe being a native of Hoke County, having 3 kids in public school, and having a strong finance background give me a unique perspective to positively impact our school board and continue to improve our education system. Young people are our future and the better we educate them, the better this Community, this State and this Country will be. County Commissioner Chairman James Leach has often said that Hoke County is the best county in the State. I think we have to start thinking and acting like that and ensuring we do our part to make sure this county has the best education system in the State.
3. If elected for an upcoming four-year term, what are some of the things you hope to accomplish?
I want our school system to keep up with changing technology and make sure our children’s computers, laptops, and other devices are updated at least every 3 to 4 years. To do this, we need to foster and maintain good relationships with our County Commissioners who make the funding possible. I want every student’s home to have broadband access so they can learn not only in school, but also from home. I want to build strong relationships with fellow board members and be able to have positive discussions even on areas where we have differences of opinion and work together to accomplish great things for our children. I would like to see our graduation rate at 100% with these graduates prepared for work, higher education, and citizenship. I want our children graduating with a strong knowledge of credit cards, interest rates, time-value-of money, and how to be financially successful. I want these young adults to know how to avoid common financial pitfalls and be successful in their endeavors.
4. As a school board member, what will you do going forward to address the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on students and educators?
First, I would like to commend our educators, county commissioners, and school board for their forethought in obtaining a computer, crome book, or other device for every student in Hoke County well in advance of this pandemic. This put Hoke County in a much better position to deal with virtual learning compared to our surrounding counties. In terms of dealing with COVID-19 going forward, my priority will always be the safety of our children. We must ensure we have policies and procedures to prevent the spread of illness and that we have adequate supplies and training to administer these policies consistently and effectively. Currently, I think COVID-19 has created remote learning challenges that need to be addressed quickly. We have a lack of broadband across the county which is impacting kids’ ability to access class assignments and participate in Zoom virtual classrooms. I would like our county to seek additional grant money and public/private partnerships with communication companies to expand broadband access to all of our students.
I also understand our needs and obstacles change frequently, so if elected I would visit each of our 13 schools and speak with the administration to see what they believe the education needs are and prioritize this list. My specialty is finance, so I would weigh the cost/benefit relationship to improvements to ensure we are spending our resources in a way that is most beneficial to our children and stretch our dollars as far as possible.
5. Would you support building a new high school? What about other school facilities?
I certainly understand the need for another high school. We have a large population in the eastern portion of our county and already have elementary and middle schools there. Our current facility was not designed for its present capacity and continued additions and renovations may not be the best solution to the problem. At the same time, I recognize there can be advantages to a larger school from a cost standpoint in being able to offer more programs, more classes, and more amenities without having to duplicate facilities and cost. I know this decision has significant impacts to our athletic programs, as adding another high school would likely change our North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A rating which in turn could cost our kids scholarship opportunities. I think we have to weigh the pros and cons carefully to make sure we understand all the ramifications. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not on the board yet and I haven’t seen all the pros and cons facing each side. I like to keep an open mind and make the best decision for the children based on all the facts. As a financial advisor, when people bring me their life savings to invest, I don’t start making investment recommendations right away. There are a lot questions that have to be answered such as what are your goals, what have you saved, what is you annual spending plan, and what’s your risk tolerance. Only then do I make recommendations. That’s the same approach I would bring to the board: thoughtful consideration of all the goals, issues, tradeoffs, costs, and alternatives to ensure our actions move us toward our goal of having the best school system in the State. I definitely see the need for another high school and would be in favor of building one, but I would make sure I understood all the ramifications and costs before moving forward to ensure this was in the best interest of our children.
6. What do you consider to be “student success,” and what are some ways to improve it in Hoke County Schools?
I think we are often quick to put a letter or number grade on what constitutes passing knowledge or success and admittedly I hold my own kids to a pretty high standard. But ultimately, education is about preparing our children for the future and giving them the skillset, thought process, and knowledge to carry them through the rest of their lives. Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Our educators and children face a challenging and everchanging landscape. According to a PBS article written by Gretchen Frazee and quoting the Institute for Future, 85% of the jobs that students will do in 2030 don’t exist yet. That’s a lot of change in the upcoming 10 years; but many jobs such as drone operators, social media managers, app developers, and cloud computing engineers, didn’t exist 10 years ago. We didn’t have laptop computers, smart phones, and the internet when I was in high school and yet now that is an everyday aspect of most of our lives. Success is ensuring we prepare students today for this dynamic work landscape. For kids closer to graduation, we can have a focus on more technical skills and job training, but for our young children, we need to have a more flexible plan that teaches kids to focus on soft skills like problem solving or learning to work in a team.
7. Is there anything in particular you would like to change about Hoke County Schools?
I want the best and brightest educators teaching our kids. I want to make sure we are attracting and retaining the best teachers and administrative personnel. In order to do so, we need to ensure we have competitive pay and continuous feedback so we can address concerns timely. I want parents to know their children are safe in our school system. I would like to review our schools’ policies and continuous action plans for fire drills, tornado drills, bullying, cyber-threats, firewall protections, playground safety, active shooter situations, trespassing, access to the campus, parking lot safety, bus safety, food preparation, cleaning, COVID 19 protections, as well as others. I want to ensure that we continuously practice, monitor, and improve our procedures through training and best practice sharing.
8. Is there anything else you would like for voters to know about your views and goals?
My goal is simple: I want Hoke County to have the best education system in the State. The path to get there is fraught with difficulty, but the rewards are priceless. I believe my active involvement with the school system and having kids and family in school gives me a unique perspective for the board on our education system. My finance background gives me a unique skillset to assist our board in making the right decisions to move us toward that goal. Benjamin Franklin once said, “the only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.” We may be far from the wealthiest county, but we cannot afford to miss our mark. I see an advantage in our diversity, small town values, and shared commitment to the future of our children and this community.
9. If you have one, please provide a link to your campaign website or Facebook page that we can share with voters.
You can learn more about John Wright and my platform for School Board at URL https://www.facebook.com/WrightforHoke/