Candidates square off in solitary competitive school board race

by Eric Ginsburg

There may be several people running for Guilford County School Board, but only two of them aren’t positive they’ll win the election. The at-large race between incumbent Sandra Alexander and challenger Pat Tillman is the only contest with two candidates, with uncompetitive races returning Amos Quick, J. Carlvena Foster and Darlene Garrett and delivering newcomers Linda Welborn and Rebecca Buffington to the board.

Tillman, who was vice chair of the Guilford County Republican Party from 2007-2011, grew up in Archdale and comes from a family of educators. With two kids at Sternberger Elementary and 4-year-old at home, Tillman and his wife have been active in the school and PTA. He said nothing is more important than kids.

Several things stand out as recent successes in the school system, Tillman said, such as the superintendent’s service-learning project and closing the performance gap between schools, but Tillman hopes to bring new ideas that can improve the quality of education in the county. His ideas range from using biodiesel in school buses to save money, to emulating a program in Mooresville to supply students with laptops or tablets. Education should be more collaborative and engaged, he said, proposing a schoolboard trip to tour the Mooresville program that could help the county move away from “lower-level learning.”

Tillman suggested partnering with nonprofits and other groups to use volunteers to improve literacy rates, following a model at High Point Central High School that when possible uses a restorative approach to discipline, adaptive land reuse similar to Wake County and possibly giving teachers merit-based raises.

Tillman, a former Marine and account director for a marketing advertising agency, said he is very concerned about the muchdiscussed achievement gap and a low number of kids reading at grade level.

“If we could raise our literacy rate to 80 percent on grade level… we could solve a lot of society’s problems,” said Tillman, adding that only 67 percent of students currently read at grade level.

While he said the increased graduation rate is commendable, Tillman said he worried graduating students were ill prepared for community college and available jobs.

Tillman is challenging Sandra Alexander, a former educator serving her first term on the board. After receiving her undergraduate degree from NC A&T University, Alexander went on to Harvard and then the University of Pittsburgh. After receiving her doctorate, Alexander taught English at several colleges, most recently working as a university administrator and in the English department at A&T until 2003.

Alexander, who is the business owner and CEO of Greensboro Scenic Tours, could not be reached for comment. Her website lists an array of accomplishments as well as primary endorsements from the Guilford County Association of Educators, Greensboro Regional Realtors Association, the LGBT-rights Replacements Ltd. PAC, Triad Central Labor Council, the Carolina Peacemaker and the Simkins PAC.

Her first-term accomplishments, according to Alexander’s website, include pushing for youth bowling as a sports option, the middle college at UNCG, helping raise $850,000 with “corporate contacts” for the STEM early college at A&T and advocating for a “science and technology theme” for McNair Elementary.

Alexander’s website also highlights her community service, including current service on the United Arts Council board of directors, and other accomplishments like being named Outstanding Teacher of the Year by the NC Board of Governors in 2003 and winning first prize in the NC Writer’s Network Fiction Competition in 1990. Whoever wins the at-large race will be joined by a handful of newcomers on the board as incumbents chose not to seek re-election. Welborn, who is running for District 5, will walk into her seat on the board after incumbent Paul Daniels dropped out of the race. She is focused on some of the same issues as Tillman, particularly on making sure every child is reading proficiently and emphasizing writing skills.

Welborn also emphasized safety and discipline issues, saying there were proper escalation procedures in place but that they should be better implemented and utilized. She also said it was important to instill high moral standards in children, such as honesty, caring for the less fortunate, and respecting and honoring differences.

To learn more about the candidates, visit Check out YES! Weekly’s complete elections guide in next week’s paper!