A budget scandal which led to Superintendent Michael Dunsmore’s resignation and ongoing issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has left the Wayne County Board of Education in disarray this year.
Tommy Sanders wants an explanation on why the Board hasn’t been a better steward with the taxpayers’ dollars. A former Parent-Teachers Association president, the Mount Olive resident is concerned about short- and long-term effects from decisions made the by the BOE.
He is challenging incumbent Ven Faulk for the Board’s at-large chair.
“One of our core values is supposedly us taking care of taxpayer dollars, and it just hasn’t happened,” said Sanders, who referred to a $5 million shortfall in this year’s fiscal budget.
“The first thing you have to do is get your financial house in order or nothing else will work. There’s been no apologies, there’s been no explanations, there’s been no resignations. Nothing.”
Before his departure, Dunsmore cut several Career and Technical Education (CTE) program positions. To further alleviate budget expenditures, the Board imposed a hiring freeze and eliminated supplements.
Sanders contends that vocational classes need to be a part of the core curriculum.
“That’s the most important thing we can offer to high school students because not everybody goes to college,” said Sanders, who is endorsed by the Wayne County Association of Educators. “Carpentry, brick masonry, mechanics…those very good, high-paying jobs that provide what I call a living wage.”
A veteran teacher and father of five, Faulk said he believes that educating WCPS students provides a solid foundation for Wayne County’s future.
Faulk says he is a proponent of CTEs, but was on the Board when Dunsmore made the cuts.
“I am working to expand our CTEs to make it easier for all students to attend all our programs, and not just the classes in the high school they attend,” Faulk said. “Along with Wayne Community College, I am currently in talks to allow our students access to programs being offered at the college with transportation available to those students unable to provide their own.”
Faulk said despite the negative vibes that currently surround WCPS, good things are happening on campuses throughout the county.
Schools are exceeding growth despite the strain COVID-19 has put on the county, particularly the lack of Chromebooks and WiFi access students need to complete their assignments.
A proponent of athletics, Sanders wants the growth Faulk mentioned to include improvements in facilities and an increase in coaching supplements. Adjoining counties are able to lure quality coaches due to higher supplement incentives.
Wayne County has one of the lowest coaching supplement payment plans in the east region.
“I have proposed a Budget Advisory Committee be formed consisting of community leaders that will allow the broader community to be involved in the process and help to spread the word of how finance in our schools work,” Faulk said.