Wake County school board candidate Jennifer Mansfield is praising the actions of the new school board majority while also warning that things have become too politicized.
In an interview Thursday on the Rick and Donna Martinez Show on WPTF, Mansfield highlighted he tightrope she's walking on of trying to get people who disagree with incumbent Kevin Hill to vote for her instead of Heather Losurdo.
"District 3 for the last four years has not had a voice for parents and students so that's first and foremost is to be a voice for District 3 residents," Mansfield answered when asked why she's running. "And we need somebody who's in there whose experienced and I've been doing this for over six years, been involved in school issues."
But Mansfield added that people are tired of the politics. She said a broad bipartisan coalition of people came together in 2009 to bring about change and make progress.
"We had a broad coalition of people and if we hadn't done that we'd still be where we were because a lot of Democrats came out and voted for these four Republican school board members because it wasn't about politics," Mansfield said. "People didn't care what party they were. They wanted somebody who was going to address these issues.
That was a great step forward. Now it's both parties. They're both fighting over this and people are tired of that. They don't want it to be about the party and about who is going to win. They want the students to win and they don't care about the party."
Although the official endorsements haven't come out yet, it's expected that the Wake County Democratic Party will back Hill and the Wake County Republican Party will back Losurdo.
Donna Martinez asked Mansfield if she would be siding with the old or new board majority if she was elected. Mansfield said she's side "mostly" with the new majority but couldn't say 100 percent because she's not sure what issues will come up.
Mansfield proceeded to praise school board vice chairman John Tedesco's community schools full-service model and noted she's on his ED task force.
"I'm definitely in agreement with the direction that they're taking," Mansfield said of the new majority.
Mansfield answered yes when Rick Martinez asked if "she liked the neighborhood school model."
Donna Martinez asked Mansfield if there was anything that the old board majority did or believed that she agreed with. Mansfield initially said she couldn't really think of anything offhand before pointing to how they sought more funding.
Mansfield said the school board should have asked for the same per-pupil funding it had received the year before from the county commissioners to keep up with enrollment growth. But she said the board minority should have asked for the increased funding earlier in the budget process this year instead of making it a "last ditch effort" to request the majority to go along with them.
Donna Martinez asked Mansfield to define what she meant in her campaign material about getting to a world-class system in Wake.
"We need to make sure that all of our students have access to the same programs and that to me is part of a world-class system," Mansfield replied. "A lot of people say, 'Oh well you know Enloe.' Or they'll list some of the top high schools. 'Oh These schools are wonderful.'
Well you should be able to get the same opportunities at Knightdale High School or East Wake as you can at Green Hope or Panther Creek."
Rick Martinez responded by asking whether Wake was too big and whether Mansfield would look at a "serious proposal" to break up the district and "make it more manageable."
Mansfield responded that she sees pros and cons to breaking up Wake and would be willing to take an objective look at the issue.
Donna Martinez asked Mansfield whether she sees charter schools as a choice for parents or something that takes away from school systems.
Mansfield responded that she had backed lifting the state cap and that she had heard "inklings" about some groups looking at establishing charter schools to help low-performing students. She said that should be encouraged because they don't have enough of those kinds of charters.
Rick Martinez asked Mansfield about going outside the education field to hire someone like Tony Tata, a retired general, to become superintendent. He also asked her what she thought about how Tata was doing.
Mansfield responded that "it was very appropriate to look outside" the education world. Pointing to how Del Burns had been promoted from deputy superintendent to superintendent, she said that "for so long we had been sort of stagnant."
"I think we really needed some fresh eyes and the strength that he [Tata] brings is something that was lacking, definitely," Mansfield said. "Being able to look at our school system objectively and have more of a business mind about it. I think that was a very good change for us and maybe someday we'll see we want to change to a different direction."
As for Tata's performance, Mansfield praised that as well.
"It was a very good decision to hire him," Mansfield said. "I've been very impressed with him. People feel very at ease speaking with him and they feel like he really listens to them."
Mansfield related how a teacher at Durant Road Middle School was impressed that Tata took the time to ask her opinion about the new math placement criteria using EVAAS.