A total of four seats on the Mount Airy City Schools Board of Education are up for grabs in the upcoming election. Seats in districts A,B,C and D are up for election with candidates for each seat running unopposed.
Phillip W. Thacker is the incumbent for District A. Kate Appler is the district C incumbent and Wendy J. Carriker is the incumbent for District D.
Amy Bledsoe is campaigning for the District B seat, previously held by David Rowe. She is a graduate of the Mount Airy City School System. She teaches part-time at Surry Community College and is also involved with real estate and construction. Bledsoe has two children, Abby and Elly, who are also graduates of the Mount Airy School System.
Bledsoe said she became interested in serving on the board after seeing how much that her children had learned in the Mount Airy system had helped them with their lives.
“Having seen how well prepared they were and being acquainted with what businesses need from graduates I know how key good education is to children,” said Bledsoe. “Preparation given to my children and other children by Mount Airy City Schools was very important.”
Regarding improvements needed for the system, Bledsoe made one promise,
“If elected, I promise to put what is best for children first and be supportive of our school teachers and administrators. They are the ones who do all the work. Education is one way we can prepare for the growth that hopefully will be happening in the future. The board has good people serving. They put what is in the children’s best interests first and I look forward, hopefully to being able to serve with them.”
She continued, with praise for her predecessor, board member David Rowe.
“I have such respect for David, his accomplishments have been outstanding,” added Bledsoe. “I hope to bring a fresh perspective to the board for students pre-K through graduates to prepare themselves for the future If I am elected. I know we all are facing budget issues so we need to focus things where it will have the most impact.”
Wendy Carriker, the current board chairman also is running for re-election. She has served on the board for 16 years and was first elected in 1996. Carriker and her family moved to Mount Airy in 1984 from Gibsonville. She and her husband, Chip, have been married for 35 years. Their daughters are Melanie and Megan.
She cited her history of volunteerism with woman’s and junior woman’s clubs as one reason she was interested in serving on the board.
“There was a list of things in the mid 1990s that caught my interest when David (Rowe) and I were asked to fill vacant seats on the board by the city council,” explained Carriker. “One of the most important changes was to champion the board becoming an elected school board instead of serving by appointment.”
Carriker said that serving for her was just the right thing to do and was also important because the couple had children in the school system at the time. She stressed that Mount Airy school board members are not compensated for their time.
Carriker said she felt it was important to support the school system’s history of success in spite of economic pressures or outside issues the board was dealing with.
“We seem to stay on top in spite of this and that is something I am proud of,” said Carriker. “We are a non-partisan board. We strive to keep politics out of it. That has no business in our schools.”
School Board Member Phillip Thacker’s announcement of running for re-election for the district A seat follows 15 years of service on the board, spanning three complete terms and part of a three-year term.
Thacker is a Mount Airy native and a graduate of Mount Airy High School. He and his wife, Nancy, have a son, Jason, who is also a Mount Airy High School graduate. The couple’s daughter, Tara Thacker Hill, is a teacher in Guilford County.
Thacker said he felt serving on the board was a very big honor and had been a rewarding experience.
“I think I’ve always been interested in community service,” recalled Thacker. “This (serving on the board of education) is an excellent way to give back. It is rewarding and challenging and even though it is time consuming it is worth the time spent. I enjoy working with the school system.”
Thacker’s focus is on the board not resting on its accolades. He said he has enjoyed working with other board members and the positive working relationship among the group and with the county board of commissioners, school staff and superintendent. He said he is proud of the renovations and upkeep of the city schools and this was helped by the commissioners and state lottery revenue.
“ I am proud of the Mount Airy School system. We are in the category of being one of the top system in North Carolina,” said Thacker. “Being satisfied means you’re standing still. You must keep moving to keep being the best. I hope to help us to continue to improve to be the best. We have our major school renovations behind us now and I think we’ve been doing a good job spending tax payers’ dollars wisely. Business and industry’s support is so important to our progress. The support our parents also makes such a big difference and with their help we will continue to improve.”
The District C seat’s incumbent, Kate Appler, has served two terms on the board prior to this year’s bid for re-election. She and her husband, Dr. Mark Appler, moved to Mount Airy 27 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pa., but are originally from the suburbs of Baltimore, Md. The couple’s sons are Hunter, Holden and Harrison.
Appler said she became interested in serving on the board after becoming active in Parent Teacher Organizations at Mount Airy Middle and High schools, later serving as president for both groups.
“Once you get involved, you become more aware of what it takes to be involved,” said Appler. “I wanted to give back to the Mount Airy School system. Being part of the Mount Airy School Board is so gratifying.”
Appler said the board has many initiatives to improve the system but two uppermost in her mind are trying to bring in foreign languages in earlier grades and looking at options for returning band or an alternative music program to the high school.
“These initiatives are not going away because we don’t care. It’s funding levels,” said Appler. “The arts also have job opportunities even though people don’t typically think so. I’d like to see these programs strengthened and improved throughout the system.”
She said one advantage a small school system has is its ability to quickly see the interrelationships of lower and higher grades.
“It’s not just a high school issue. You build on it from the lower levels up,” said Appler. “We are constantly looking at improving things. That’s what we do.”
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.