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A longtime school volunteer wants to continue to serve

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CLEVELAND — Melynda Slay has long been a volunteer in her children’s schools.

“I have been a room mom, team mom, volunteer coordinator, PTA vice president, website maintenance volunteer, concession operator, EOG proctor and field trip chaperone, among other things,” she said. “I have been privileged to sit on the advisory committees of three different schools.”

A seat on the school board is simply another way to serve, Slay said in response to email questions from the Johnstonian News. “I am running for a seat on the Johnston County Board of Education because I care about the amazing teachers and students in our county and would love to help in any way I can,” she said.

One way to help is to champion the right spending priorities for Johnston County schools, Slay said. “We should be paying good teachers to stay rather than paying superintendents to leave,” she said. “Although our priorities should be our students, teachers and schools, somehow it seems central office is getting the raises. It seems central office has surplus supply funds while individuals at our local schools are having nightmares about running out of money for copies.”

Tax dollars for education belong in the schools, Slay said. “No teacher should have to purchase classroom supplies with money from their own pockets,” she said. “No teacher (or student) should have to go to class in a hazardous, moldy mobile unit. Kids should feel safe and welcome at school.”

Slay said she wants to be a school board member who keeps the public informed and involved. “Transparency is a must,” she said. “If we want to encourage open communications and collaborative decisions, the Board of Education has to do a better job of keeping the public informed and involved in decisions.”

Slay also wants to make sure all children have a chance to succeed regardless of ability or interest. “I would love to see every child have the opportunity, encouragement and ability to gain an education and skills to be successful in life, whether that is via a four-year degree, two-year degree or an apprenticeship program,” she said.

Schools need more than the support of tax dollars, Slay added. “I would love to see more parent and corporate involvement in our schools,” she said. “My kids have been taught by some of the best individuals who ever walked into a classroom. However, I worry that if Johnston County doesn’t do a better job of making these teachers feel supported, we may lose them to higher-paying, neighboring counties. It’s happening too often already.”

Current school board member Ronald Johnson has caused a stir with his allegations of criminal wrongdoing in the schools.

Slay said she’s been impressed by Johnson’s courage. “Ron Johnson has been the voice of reason when it came to voting against central office raises,” she said. “He stood against spending large amounts of money changing the mascot of an academically struggling school, and he stood up for Clayton High when (its) principal was temporarily removed.”

The board handled the Clayton matter secretively — and poorly, Slay said. “Unfortunately, transparency hasn’t played a part in the (board’s) decisions concerning Clayton, so the handling of this situation has led to distrust for all involved,” she said.

“What I did find refreshing about the Clayton situation is how many students, parents and community members were willing to speak out to save their principal,” Slay said. “I see teachers and administrators fight for students on a regular basis, but it is rare to see a community come together like this to support an educator. Clayton High was truly inspirational during this dark spot in (its) history.”

Like other parents and taxpayers in Johnston County, Slay doesn’t know how the schools’ current budget shortfall came about. “It is my understanding that we had almost a $10 million surplus just a couple of years ago and now we have an $8 million-plus shortfall,” she said. “I don’t know that any of us have been totally informed as to where the money has been spent. Once again, transparency is key and we all deserve more information.”

“I pray this budget crises does not lead to layoffs,” Slay added. “However, if it does, the layoffs will need to start at the central office.”

“Our schools need all of the help they can get,” she said. “Some schools are overcrowded, and the last thing we need to do is reduce the number of teachers. Students should be our top priority. Any layoffs would need to be from positions that do not directly impact students.”

Slay said the county’s next superintendent of schools needs to be many things. “A good superintendent needs to be a great leader,” she said. “A good superintendent needs to make sure his or her priorities are in order; our students, teachers and schools need to come first. A good superintendent needs to be an attentive listener and an exceptional communicator. A good superintendent must have integrity and courage to stand up for what is in the best interests of our students. A good superintendent needs to have an understanding of finances and education. Most of all, a good superintendent has to care.”

In a field of 16 candidates, Slay doesn’t know what her election prospects are. “I don’t know if voters will allow me to sit on the Johnston County Board of Education,” she said, “but my heart is in the right place.”

“If I lose, hopefully those chosen to serve care about our schools more than I do,” Slay added. “If that is the case, then we all win.”

About Melynda Slay

Slay was born July 18, 1970. “My 50th birthday is approaching quickly,” she said.

Slay and her husband, Sam, have been married for more than 22 years. They met in fourth grade and graduated from high school together in 1988. They have a son, Harrison, 20, and a daughter, Savannah, 12.

Slay holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in business administration. She and her husband own HRC Dental Inc., a Cleveland community business that services and sells new and used dental equipment to dentists and veterinarians in the Triangle.

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