Leonard Harrison, one of six candidates running for a seat on the Alamance-Burlington School System Board of Education, dropped out of the race during the Oct. 11 ABSS Board of Education candidate forum. The forum, cosponsored by Elon University, was moderated by Ann Bullock, dean of the Jo Watts William School of Education.

Harrison said he dropped out because he didn’t want to split the vote for the three available seats. 

“Kids today have got to know that they have a quality school board, and they have a school board that's going to do reading, writing, arithmetic and employability,” Harrison said. “The other nonsense that's going out there and the craziness going on in the world and what's being taught and what's being done to divide America — I’m against it wholeheartedly.  And if I do something that I think it's a detriment to my county, then I really don't deserve the votes anyways.”

Harrison instead endorsed three of the other candidates running – Dan Ingle, Charles Parker and Chuck Marsh. 

“There's three conservatives that we need to stand behind. If we don't, we're going to end up with a split board,” Harrison said. “And because my end goal is to make sure that we have a quality school board, top to bottom, I had to make sure that I didn't separate the votes out and dilute the amount of votes that we can get for the candidates that I think are going to speak the message, that’re going to support the most kids and do right by the kids.”

The other two candidates running, Seneca Rogers and Avery Wagoner, are still campaigning as planned. Rogers emphasized during the forum that as this is a nonpartisan race, he is running for the county community. He ran previously for the position in 2020. 

“I truly take into heart all for the fact that we have to work for our kids and do our absolute best,” Rogers said. “We can't look at what a person's party affiliation is to make sure that we're doing what needs to be done for our kids. We have to take the political agendas and platforms out of it and truly work with everyone so we can do this as a whole community.”

Wagoner also said he feels that this should be a nonpartisan election, and it is important to be an important and passionate leader.

When asked about how to reach excellence within the school system through Alamance County’s recent growth and demographic changes, Wagoner said that the board needs to be intentional and plan for the future. He said Alamance County has grown by 6.5% since 2017, and schools need to be prepared for that change. 

“We're the 16th largest school system in the state right now,” Wagoner said. “But if you compare ourselves to the counties that touch us and our competition around us rather, we’re underperforming in that part, we can step up the plate a little bit because the teacher attrition rate and the competition for teachers is paramount to our future success.”

Ingle, when asked about his leadership style, said that he will work well not just with his fellow board members, but also with the superintendent and county commissioners. He said as a former police chief, he understands what it is like to be overly managed and feels it’s important to let everyone do their own jobs.

“I do not believe in micromanaging,” Ingle said. “In other words, the superintendent, he has a job to do. I will be there to support him.”

Ingle said after looking at test scores of students in Alamance County, he believes schools are falling behind because of COVID-19.

Parker said that if elected, he would also work closely with both the superintendent and county commissioners. He said he is most interested in putting the needs of the students first and communicating with that in mind. 

“We need to go back and forth … with superintendents to make sure that there's a two way communication, frequent communication and really listening to understand and doing what's right for the students,” Parker said.

Marsh said that it is important to him to work with other elected officials, and his background as a small business owner helps him with forming these relationships. Marsh is a radio station owner and said it is important for these relationships to not be one sided, between elected officials and also between the board and parents. Marsh said something that he noticed when attending board meetings, members didn’t always try to engage parents attending who made a public comment. 

“When they would have a public comment. I noticed that the school board members would just unplug,” Marsh said. “I want to be the voice for parents, give you your voice back and also be an advocate for the children and focus on the children, as opposed to all of the politics that have creeped into our classrooms.”