LINCOLN COUNTY – The race for the three seats for the Lincoln County Board of Education looks to be a tight one. Partisan for the first time this year, the Board of Education race has three open seats. Each candidate was asked via e-mail to tell a bit about their backgrounds and why they believed they were qualified to be on the board of education. If they had children in the Lincoln County School System or not. Why they were running for election. If they were incumbents, what they felt their accomplishments were while serving the current term and what they’d like to do if they were re-elected. If they were new candidates, what they thought they’d like to do different or better if elected.

This compilation will comprise two parts, the second to publish in the Friday edition of Times-News.

For the District 5 seat, there are three Republican candidates running, Martin Oakes, Krista Heavner and Matt Brown. 

Martin Oakes

As a former county commissioner, Oakes said that he analyzed budgets, including the school system’s, looking for inconsistencies.

“My five granddaughters locally attend both public and home-schools, so I see the contrast between the two approaches,” he said. “I’m focused on the overall system, not a specific issue that affects my family. As a business analyst and former county commissioner, I know how to find money buried in budgets. Every four years the budget should start from zero and worthwhile programs added, instead of merely asking for x% more.”

Oakes’ key issues include What is being taught? Why are Parents leaving the school system for other options?  Are Parents’ rights being ignored or violated?

“I’m fully retired and expecting to spend several months monitoring a variety of classrooms, as well as talking to parents who have taken their kids from public school,” he said. “The school system should adopt a “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” like the one on my website electmartinoakes.com. A 15-year slow decline in enrollment in a growing county means the system is not delivering for its customers (parents) and its clear that a significant re-tooling needs to take place. Social promotion, social emotional learning, especially in math, discipline, or lack thereof, bullying and poor course work are all things that I hear about.”

Krista Heavner

Heavner is a native of North Carolina and attended Burke County Public Schools. She attended UNC-Chapel Hill for undergraduate and also received my master's degree in speech-language pathology at UNC-CH.

“My husband and I relocated back to the area and have lived in Denver for 15 years,” she said. “We have two children in Lincoln County Schools, one in middle school and one in high school, and they have attended LCS since kindergarten. I’m running for this office because I have children in Lincoln County Schools, and I believe in parent involvement in a child's education. Parents have a right to know as much as possible and their involvement and input should be encouraged at all levels. Our school district has done a wonderful job of fostering parent involvement throughout my experience, and I know for a fact that many administrators and teachers would welcome even more involvement. I’m very thankful for Lincoln County Schools.”

Heavner added that she has over 20 years of experience in and around education, specifically special education. She worked for the NC DPI for six years as a consultant for the deaf and hard of hearing. She covered Region 5 (Gaston, Lincoln, Iredell-Statesville, Catawba, Burke, Union, Charlotte-Meck, Stanly). Her my main role was to evaluate programming and help administrators, related service providers, and teachers develop education plans to close learning gaps for children with hearing loss so they could graduate. 

“As a result of that experience, I understand the challenges and limitations that school systems face and want to be a part of helping our system allocate and use resources wisely and effectively, while continuing to provide the excellent education that Lincoln County Schools has historically provided,” she said. “Because we have lived in the area for over 15 years, my husband and I are both involved in our church and community. I serve on the Sally's YMCA board of managers and volunteer in children's ministry at Grace Covenant East Lincoln, and my husband volunteers with our son's local Scout Troop and is on the Piedmont Council. We do not just live here, we are invested here. I’m around children and teens and understand the issues and challenges our school systems and educators face. School looks different than it did even a few years ago. That means the decisions our school board may make will look different, regarding retention of teachers and staff; mental health support for students and teachers; and evaluating and addressing the changing needs of education in our digital age.”

Heavner added that she believed that she would be a perfect fit for this role because she has children in our public schools, understands special education laws, and talks to and listens to people who serve in various roles in LCS across the county.

“I have years of experience helping educators make difficult decisions on how to best help students given the budgetary and time constraints placed on them,” she said. “I’m motivated, driven, and passionate. I’ll serve the children and families of Lincoln County well.”

Matt Brown did not respond to Time-News’ request for input.

Fred Jarrett and Kaila Clippard, both Republicans, will oppose for the District 2 seat formerly held by Joan Avery. The winner of the primary vote will face Democrat Linda Armstrong Wolfe.

Fred Jarrett 

“I’m running for District 2 seat on the Lincoln County Board of Education because I value education and believe in the ideals of community service,” he said. “I understand the social, ethical, and economic impacts of education to our community and the competitive advantage that a quality education provides. Four generations of my family have been educated and positively influenced by Lincoln County Schools, and as a lifelong resident my personal experience is no different.”

Jarrett added that he believes the long-term vision of a board of education should be to provide leadership and set the direction to help all students reach their full potential. 

He included his qualifications as having served two terms on the Lincoln County Board of Education as Chair, Vice-chair and Chair of Finance Committee and during that tenure, his major accomplishments as

Five new schools – NLHS, LMS, NLMS, St James and Childers Elementary 

Five additions/renovations – ELHS, LHS, WLHS, WLMS, and F. D. Kiser Intermediate

Graduated from Lincolnton City Schools, UNC-Chapel Hill (BS Science Teaching - Chemistry), and Winthrop University (MEd Administration and Supervision)

Jarrett’s retired from Duke Energy’s Nuclear Electrical Generation Department having held several management positions there. He’s also served as past chair and board member for United Way of Lincoln County, past chair of the Lincolnton Downtown Steering Committee, a member of the NC Judicial Standards Commission, chair of the Lincoln County Local Emergency Planning Committee, a volunteer fireman assistant chief with the Lincolnton Fire Department, past chair of the Lincoln County Republican Party and as a substitute teacher with Lincoln County Schools.

Jarrett lists his reasons for running 

•          Focus on what is best for all students

•          Contribute and apply my unique talents, experiences, education, training and leadership skills to work together with students, families, and the community to ensure a quality, innovative educational program in a safe environment where students become responsible, contributing citizens and lifelong learners

If he’s elected, his plans to achieve include

•          Increase the learning outcomes for all students

•          Keep the community updated on what is happening in our schools

•          Develop procedures to assess the effectiveness of the board of education, leaders in central office and our schools

•          Recruit and retain quality personnel

•          Secure adequate funding

Kaila Clippard

Clippard has 13 years of experience in banking, finance, and project management, all of which she believes could easily translate over to the board responsibilities. 

“We now own and operate a local residential fencing company in the community,” she said. “Although, I do not have any direct educational experience, I come from a family involved in early childhood education for over 40 years. I fully understand the importance of a great foundation in education. I have a passion for children and our teachers. Historically, teachers are under appreciated. I want to ensure that they know they're valued and are equipped with the proper resources necessary for our children. After all, our children are our future. I’m a team player and an analytical problem solver. My experience in another industry would allow me to offer a fresh perspective and unique skill set to the board.”

Clippard doesn’t have any children in the Lincoln County School System. She has a seven-year-old child enrolled in a local Christian school.

“I never thought I would have a child in private education but when reviewing the statistics for public school success, it was alarming,” she said. “Over the last 20 years, North Carolina went from being ranked 12th to 36th in the nation in education. One of the reasons why we decided not to enroll our child in the public school system.”

Clippard said that she’s running for this office because she felt called to do so.

“Our children are our future, and they need as many individuals in their corner advocating for their success, and I plan to do just that,” she said. “I also plan to be a shield against government mandates, and social agendas such as CRT that don't belong in the classroom. I want to ensure our children have the resources they need. It's imperative that our children are given every opportunity to achieve what they desire in life. I’m a team player and would like to develop a partnership with existing members of the board working together in accomplishing what's best for Lincoln County students, teachers, and parents.”

The winner of the primary vote will face Democrat Linda Armstrong Wolfe during the general election in November.

Wolfe is a graduate of Lincolnton High School and was born and raised in High Shoals. She’s a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, received her master’s of education at the Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. She’s been a school counselor for 38 years, in two different states, for all three grad levels. Wolfe returned to Lincoln County in 1999 and was a school counselor at ELMS, BGES, NBES. She retired in 2017, but returned as interim school counselor GEMS for eight weeks, interim school counselor at WLHS for eight months and interim school counselor at ELHS for 15 months. 

Wolfe and her husband, CB Wolfe have two grandsons who are graduates of Lincoln County Schools and two more who currently attending Lincoln County Schools

“I’m running because I believe in public education and appreciate public education,” she said. “I believe I have a unique perspective having served as an educator across the county and at all three levels. I want to unite this county in educating all of our students. We must be positive in working together to ensure that every student has the opportunity to have choices. We must work together, be good role models, and listen. As residents of Lincoln County, we have ownership and a responsibility that comes with that ownership to help every student and every educator feel valued and successful. What greater cause than to help a child.”

For the at-large seat, there are two Democrats, incumbent Joan Avery and Keith Poston running against two Republicans, both incumbent candidates with multiple terms on the board, Tony Jenkins and Todd Wulfhorst. Wulfhorst is vacating the District 5 seat, but decided to run for the at-large seat instead of re-election for District 5.

Joan Avery

Avery was born and raised in Lincoln County and a product of Lincoln County Schools. She graduated from Lincolnton High School, attended Gaston College and finished her degree at Lenoir Rhyne University with a BA in Health and Physical Education. She’s a certified water safety and CPR instructor and received a media specialist degree from Queen’s University in Charlotte. Avery also obtained a registered nursing license in North Carolina from Gaston College.

Avery has worked at West Lincoln High School, G.E. Massey, Asbury, Park Elementary, Oaklawn Elementary, Aspen Elementary, Love Memorial Elementary, and Union Elementary. 

“When I taught P.E. at Love Memorial, we received the State Championship Physical Fitness Award,” she said. “I’m a retired educator with 33 years of service all in Lincoln County Schools and am still an active registered nurse in North Carolina. I’m serving presently on the Lincoln County School Board as the only educator/teacher. I truly know what our school family is and has experienced.”

Avery worked with the North Carolina of Educators offering the school system supplies dealing with the pandemic. Both of Avery’s children attended Lincoln County Schools and graduated from Lincolnton High School. 

“My daughter, Dana Avery, started her teaching career at Battleground Elementary,” she said. “Then, Sheila Finger, hired Dana as a Teacher at Rock Springs Elementary. She taught there for nine years before transferring to Love Memorial Elementary where she presently teaches Kindergarten.”

Avery is running for re-election because of her concerns of employee retention – teachers, guidance counselors, nurses, EC staff, bus drivers and replacements are hard to find. She wants to make sure that each and every student is given every chance to receive support and educational opportunities that they deserve to be successful. 

“The dropout rate is a continued concern,” she said. “We need to ensure students are supported so that they are able to finish high school. Low teacher pay that needs to be addressed by the state. I’m concerned about burn out of the staff, parents, and students. They need support.”

If Avery is re-elected, she said that she wanted to help maintain with the school board, superintendent, and his staff on the best possible budget that received from the county commissioners and the state.

Avery lists her accomplishments while serving this term are as:

•          Do no harm to anyone. As an R.N. and a school board member, we must continue to be vigilant after the past two years of the COVID pandemic. No one likes to wear masks. Our staff and students survived due to the parents and community working together.

•          I’m available to talk to everyone and I listen to their concerns, problems, issues, or any other topic they wish to discuss. I address the Board with these issues.

•          I made the motion to accept the $1 million grant that North Lincoln High School received. Jason Saine is working to provide us with grants we can apply for since we have four high schools in Lincoln County. Each high school is deserving and should be given the opportunity to apply for these grants as well. 

“If I’m re-elected to the school board, I have several areas of concerns I would like to be addressed,” she said. “I’d like the board to fund music and art programs from the elementary through high school level. Both of these programs develop creativity, improve memory, improve concentration, develop critical thinking skills, enhance listening skills, and improve focusing and discipline. Music and art allow another outlet for students to showcase talents other than just in the classroom. I want to continue to support our Exceptional Children’s Program (self-contained, resource, and AIG programs). More teachers, supplies, and support are needed to help these programs continue to be the wonderful programs they are. We need more teachers to serve the county in all areas, along with materials supplemented to each of these classrooms. Our greatest needs at present are science, math, language arts, and English as a Second Language teachers. The teacher shortage in the state is a concern. School resource officers and metal detectors are needed for all schools from elementary through high school. We need our students to feel safe and able to learn without any concerns over their well-being in coming to school. Due to over population in the eastern part of the county, our schools are overflowing. It is clear that we need to build another elementary school in that area. If that can’t happen, we may need more administrative staff (assistant principals) hired to help with an elementary school capacity of 600 or more students.”

Avery added that she wants to continue to show the district’s students, parents, teachers, principals, assistant principals, assistants, and all staff that she is there for them. Each decision she makes should be what is best for each of them not her own personal agenda. 

“I’m elected by you to serve you,” she said. “I’ll continue to listen to your concerns and be a voice for you all. Thank you for all the support you have given me in allowing me to serve you on the Board. I appreciate it more than you know.”

Keith Poston

Also a native of Lincoln County and Lincolnton and a product of Lincoln County Schools, Poston will run against Avery with the winner going against either Wulfhorst or Jenkins in November.

“I’m a native son of Lincolnton,” he said. “I’ve worked in youth development for more than 20 years. I’m qualified as I have a vested interest in the progression and development of our school system for my children and all children.”

Poston and his wife have one child who’ll be entering the Lincoln County School System soon.

“I’m running because I want to work to help provide equitable education to all schools and students,” he said. “I want the opportunities of our students’ education to be at the top of the priority list and not the game of politics in our school system. Once elected I want to find ways for our local funding to better support our school staff workers from teachers and custodian to bus drivers.  I will work closer with our county commissioners to be very specific about funding needs.”

Todd Wulfhorst

A man of few words, Wulfhorst has a BSME from Penn State and a JD from UNC Chapel Hill. He’s a graduate of ELHS.

“My main role of the school board is to set policy and my legal training helps in that regard,” he said. “I have three children, two of whom have graduated from Lincoln County School system K-12 and the third is currently a sophomore.”

Tony Jenkins

Has lived in Lincoln County most of his life and attended Lincolnton City Schools (1960-1973) beginning at South Aspen Elementary, Lincolnton Grammar, Battleground Elementary, and graduated from Lincolnton High Class of 1973. Jenkins has no children.

“At the age of 13 in 1968, I was able to get a workers permit,” he said. “I worked a Hardees Boddie – Noell Enterprise where later, after graduation, I went into management (1973- 1978). From 1978 – 1983 I was in management with the Western Steer Lincolnton and Cherryville stores.  In 1979, I became a volunteer with the Lincolnton Fire Department. I was hired full time in 1984 and retired in 2012. During that time, from (1992 -2012), I served as President of the Lincoln County Firefighters’ Burned Children’s Fund. I also was a Level 3 Fire Safety Educator and taught fire prevention programs though out all elementary school in Lincoln County. After 47 days of retirement, I returned to fire service coming back as a volunteer and part time firefighter with Boger City FD and North 321 in 2012 and have remained a part of the fire service since. I have also worked part time at Crouse FD since 2020. I just wanted to help and filled in where needed.”

Jenkins has served on the board of education from 2000 – 2008, 2012 – 2016, and 2018 – 2022.

During his current term, Jenkins said that he was instrumental in establishing a good working relationship with the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners and local business leaders.

If Jenkins is re-elected, he said that he’d like to 

  • Continue seeking out the much-needed funding from state, federal, local governments in order for our students and employees to get the best education and facilities, so that our students can go on to be successful and productive citizens.
  • To continue to work to with our county leaders and business leaders to offer more to our students that are not college bound that are wanting to go straight into the work force.  
  • Ensure that those who are college bound have all the available courses on hand to achieve their goals as well.
  • Continue to offer the right programs so that those who are willing to serve our country are prepared.
  • Continued to set a capital improvement plan.   
  • Continued to address the current growth across the county, mostly the east end, there will be a need for a new high school to be built. 

His accomplishments during the current term include hiring a new superintendent, surviving COVID-19, got at least a three-year budget agreement with commissioners in order to at least make it easier on both boards to meet the needs both for the schools and county as well.

“In summary, I have always enjoyed working with our students, whether it be fire safety education over several decades or as a board of education member,” he said. “I will continue to strive to represent all students in our schools equally and fairly and I will continue to address the needs of our students and employees.”

The early voting locations include the Board of Elections office on Salem Church Road in Lincolnton, Lentz Gym at Betty Ross Park in Lincolnton, the West Lincoln Library in Vale, and the East Lincoln Community Center on Optimist Club Road. The hours for voting at all four locations is Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. 

Primary Election Day is Tuesday, May 17.

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