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GARNER — Incumbent school board member Teresa Grant doesn’t brush away the board’s troubles over the past year.
But she thinks the bad press has overshadowed many accomplishments in the Johnston County public schools.
“I think we have done some really good things these past three years,” said Grant, who is in her first term on the board. “We pushed forward on apprenticeships, internships and job shadowing for the children not interested in attending college. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made there.”
Grant also pointed to a joint program with Johnston Community College and N.C. State University that’s training the next generations of Johnston school teachers. And she touted the new aviation curriculum at Cleveland High School.
“Hopefully next year we will have an aviation mechanics program,” she said in an email response to questions from the Johnstonian News.
Grant also noted that entire feeder patterns in some attendance areas now take part in the Advancement Via Individual Determination and International Baccalaureate programs, which are designed to prepare young people for college. “And I believe we will see great things coming out of those schools very soon,” she said.
Finally, Grant touted Share Tables, a program available in several schools, “where children in need can take home certain foods that would have otherwise been discarded.”
“These are some things we have done that I am most proud of and I would like to see us do more,” she said. “These are the things that have sadly been overshadowed by bad publicity.”
And those accomplishments are why she’s running for reelection, Grant said. “I would like to return to the school board for another four years to continue to do more for our students and help ensure they are college ready or job ready,” she said.
Without referring to specific incidents, Grant said she had taken an active role in working to make sure the problems of the past don’t happen again.
For starters, “I have asked our policy committee to come up with a policy to handle complaints from staff against the superintendent, cabinet members, principals, board members or the board attorney — complaints where retaliation is a concern,” Grant said. “With something in place, hopefully we can handle the complaints more expeditiously.”
Separately, Grant has asked the policy committee to require that any change in a student’s grades be accompanied by a reason for the change.
“In the event of a concern about grades, this would protect the staff / principals, as well as the students, and would reduce the hours needed to investigate,” she said.
“In my line of work, we have been required to add reasons into an audit trail for the last 20 years whenever we changed lab results,” said Grant, a chemist and safety officer with the N.C. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Drug Protection Division. “It protects everyone.”
Later this year, Grant and her fellow board members will choose Johnston County’s next superintendent of schools.
“As we search for a new superintendent, I want to find someone who has a proven track record of improving grades,” Grant said. “Our grades have suffered the last couple of years, and we owe it to our students to make improvements.”
Grant has many other requisites for the next school leader.
“I want a superintendent who knows how to mentor and grow our principals, not move them around or out of the schools into central office,” she said. “Principal stability is very important in regards to improving grades and morale in the schools.”
Grant also wants a superintendent who’s “well versed in budgets and willing to work hard to accomplish what is needed within the budget we have.”
“He or she also needs to be able to work with community leaders to help our school system, especially when needs are high and the budget can’t meet all of the needs,” Grant added.
“Lastly, when budget cuts are needed, the superintendent has to be ready to make the cuts that have the least impact on the classrooms,” she said. In other words, “do not cut teachers or teacher assistants.”
Grant blamed state law for the school system’s pension obligations to former superintendents. “One unfortunate thing that people need to realize is there is probably not a superintendent out there that we can hire that won’t leave us in a pension-spiking scenario when they retire, with the way the state laws are currently written,” she said. “This is nothing the board has control over, and it plagues every school district and university system.”
If reelected, Grant said her second term on the board would be her last. “While serving on the school board has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, I will only run for one more term,” she said. “Stability on the school board has many benefits, but eventually you need new faces with fresh ideas.”
About Teresa Grant
Born in 1959 in Montgomery, Ala., Grant moved to Johnston County more than two decades. She holds bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Huntington College.
Grant is a chemist and safety officer with the N.C. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Drug Protection Division. Before that, she was an environmental chemist in the private sector for more than years.
Grant has a daughter, two granddaughters and a grandson. All live in Johnston County.
“My parents moved from Alabama to Wake county 11 years ago so they could be near the grandkids and me, and I could provide them with assistance when needed,” Grant said.