Carroll County voters in the Fancy Gap District will have quite a chore Nov. 7 in deciding the best candidate to represent them on the Carroll County School Board.
In total, four candidates are vying for the position, three of whom have previously served as school board members and another who has more than 20 years of experience in area school systems. Incumbent Joey Haynes faces challenges from Phillip Berrier, Gina Hall, and Patricia Sebens in this year’s election.
Berrier grew up in the Flower Gap section of Carroll County, where his parents were orchardists and his family has been growing apples for more than a century. Berrier attended Carroll County Schools, graduating from Hillsville High. He received his bachelor’s degree from Catawba College and took his first teaching position at Lambsburg Elementary School. Later, he became principal of Lambsburg and Mt. Bethel schools and earned his master’s degree from Radford University.
Berrier and his wife, Joyce Marshall Edwards, have three children and operated Berrier”s General store for many years before later working at Cana Tax Service and Berrier’s Insurance Agency. Berrier said he feels like his experience in education and business has prepared him to uniquely serve on the school board, a position he held as Fancy Gap’s representative from 2004-2011. He is currently chairman of the Lambsburg Community Center and he attends Lambsburg Baptist Church, where he teaches Sunday School.
“If elected to the school board, I will work diligently to improve the school system to meet the challenges of the twenty-first-century economy. I want our graduates to either be ready for college courses or certified for entry-level job requirements,” Berrier said. “I feel that the dual college courses need to be enhanced, and all courses should be free. This enables capable students to complete the first two years of college; thus, our parents will save immensely on tuition. Also, the courses need to be enhanced to the degree that all courses will transfer to any college or university.”
Berrier said he also hopes to see an advanced curriculum implemented that will include the nucleus of the STEM program across all grade levels. As always, he said Carroll needs master teachers to accomplish this goal.
“My final goal will be to see the emphasis on testing decreased, and a greater emphasis placed on the total child’s learning with more art, music, debates, etc.; the development of the mind beyond rote memory,” Berrier said. “To summarize my goals, I want great schools, great teachers, and a great curriculum!”
The wife of Carroll County High School Assistant Principal Roland Hall, Gina Hall has worked for a total of 22 years in the Carroll County school system as well as with Patrick County and Surry County (N.C.) schools. She has two children, Chad Williams and Collin Williams, and Collin is a graduate of Carroll County schools.
If elected, Hall said she will be accessible to the people of the Fancy Gap District and will hear all concerns and serve as the voice of the citizens of the district.
“I will be an advocate for the students, parents, employees, and citizens of the Fancy Gap District. I will always be voting for the ‘Best Interest’ of our community,” Hall said. “Construction projects will not be for show. If building projects are needed they will be planned in the most useful and economical way.”
Hall said if elected she will make sure students receive a high-quality and well-rounded education that will provide them with career readiness and life skills needed for successful futures. She said student safety will be a priority and schools will be provided with tools needed to maintain accreditation.
“The school budget will be discussed with the Board of Supervisors on a regular basis to ensure there are no tax increases due to lack of communication,” Hall said. “Aging transportation equipment will be addressed and I will continue to work close and strengthen ties with local law enforcement. I will also see to employee benefits and compensation to those holding valuable certifications.”
Sebens said she is fortunate to have grown up in an education family. Her father was a teacher, principal, superintendent, and college professor, while her mother was a lifelong teacher. That background propelled Sebens to a career that saw her serve as an elementary school teacher, an elementary school counselor at Mount Bethel, Lambsburg, Oakland and St. Paul Schools (1989-1995), a high school counselor at Galax High School (2004-2016), and a member of the Carroll County School Board from 1996-2003, where she also served five years as chairman.
“I had experience with personnel issues, building a budget, supervising school building projects from beginning to end, conflict resolution, and lobbying local, state, and national officials sharing the needs and good work of Carroll County Public Schools,” said Sebens, who has four children with her husband of 42 years, Jeff Sebens.
Since 1995, Sebens has been a Recorded Minister in North Carolina Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). To prepare for this work, she graduated from Watauga High School in 1968, continued at Guilford College receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, studied at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro achieving a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education, secured her counseling certification from Radford University, and earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Virginia Tech.
If elected, Sebens said she hopes to be a voice for the Cana, Fancy Gap, Lambsburg and Mt. Bethel communities.
“Throughout Carroll County, each community has different assets and needs. As a school board member, the charge is clear that we listen to our communities and bring that knowledge to our work as a school board,” Sebens said. “We must listen to each other’s concerns and together take that information and seek actions that are best for the students in all of Carroll County Public Schools. There is no ‘I’ in school board. Our job is not to trade favors but rather seek to understand the needs and perspectives of the communities that nurture our children across Carroll County. Each one is unique. Let us move beyond politics, working together to build our community by seeking input from all stakeholders- students, parents, staff, community members, pursuing additional funding and support at the state and national levels, maintaining high academic standards, sustaining our future through quality education for all of us, and offering each and every student the opportunity for success. I have recently retired so I can give 100% to this most important work. I believe I can be that voice for the Fancy Gap District.”
All three will be challenging the incumbent, Haynes, a lifelong resident of the Fancy Gap District. Haynes and his wife Peggy, have a son, Landon, who attends Carroll County High School. A member of Oak Grove Baptist Church, Haynes leads choir and has taught children’s Sunday School. He also studied at both Mount Bethel and St. Paul schools, and is a graduate of CCHS, Bridgewater College and Cooley Law School.
Haynes has practiced law in Carroll County for more than 18 years and is a child guardian – one-third of his work is with children abused and/or neglected or in domestic situations. Haynes is also a Lions Club member and Everhart Clinic Board Member. He said he has been honored to serve as the Fancy Gap District school board representative the past six years and he wants to maintain the best learning environment for children’s success in their educational growth and personal development based upon affordable resources and conservative management of taxpayer dollars.
“We are succeeding. Over the last six years Carroll County has all schools fully accredited, is graduating students on time at a higher percentage than the state average, has attendance outpacing state averages, has expanded dual credit class access in partnership with Wytheville Community College and saved families several million dollars in college costs,” Haynes said. “Also, schools and teachers are collaborating and becoming self-innovating, our schools have been recognized across the state and nation for their quality educational programs and educators, we have STEM programs in all schools, we have introduced Robotics, we introduced ‘Intercession,’ which allows remediation and hands-on problem-based learning, and we have improved student safety at buildings, grounds, and on buses.”
Still, Haynes said Carroll’s school system still faces challenges, most notably overcoming debt and funding barriers to continued progress and innovation.
“I will continue to be against unfunded mandates from the state. I will be against introduction of “Common Core.” I will use my vote to resolve problems with student/teacher ratio problems. I will vote against inadequate construction our county taxpayers can’t afford. I will maintain and utilize existing facilities. I will vote for innovation that saves money and I will seek funding for buses,” Haynes said. “I humbly ask for your vote.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN