SGA-sponsored debate for county school board draws large crowd

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Robeson County school board candidates who were anticipating softball questions from members of the Student Government Association at UNC Pembroke during a recent debate were in for a surprise. 

Candidates were grilled on everything from the county’s hiring practices, low teacher pay to the shortage of textbooks.

The debate was held on the stage inside the Givens Performing Arts Center on March 2. Candace Locklear, SGA president, said the goal was to give the public a chance to hear from the candidates before they cast their vote in the March 15 primary. Early voting ends March 12.

“We wanted the public to be educated on who the candidates are and where they stand on various issues,” said Locklear, who is set to graduate in May with a degree in chemistry.

The debate attracted 17 of the 20 candidates and more than 200 audience members.

“We were very pleased with the turnout,” Locklear said. “We have received a lot of positive comments from those who attended. I think this is a great event that the Student Governme nt Association should consider continuing next year.”

Locklear said the SGA events, such as the debate, will help foster the relationship between the community and the students.

“It’s not only bridging the gap and educating the community, but it shows that the students care about their community,” she said. 

Dajer Fernandez, a sophomore studying political science, served as moderator. He said he wanted the audience to “understand what is at stake and realize that they can get involved with what goes on in the local school system.”

After the debate, Fernandez said he realized “even more” how important it is for students to get involved with the university “beyond going to classes and passing your tests.”

Fernandez is a member of the SGA Student Senate.

“The debate, itself, highlighted many issues that are not only going on in the schools in our county, but in many education systems in the United States,” he said. “Many topics still have to be discussed, but it is now up to the public to get involved even more and push for answers, actions, and for changes from those that should be held 'accountable'. No matter the quality of the debate, it sent a strong message to those involved with educating the children in the county, and to high officials: improvements must be done, speeches must be followed with action, and words cannot hide what truly is going on behind the scenes and backdoor talks will eventually come to light.” 

Debate participants included 10 at-large candidates; John Campbell (incumbent), Robert Davis, Brian Freeman, Darek Hunt, Randy Lawson (incumbent), Jo Ann Lowery (incumbent), Richard Monroe, Mary Thomas-Locklear and Elton Tyndall.

The District 4 candidates who participated were Charles Bullard, Harold Hunt and Bosco Locklear (incumbent).

The District 5 candidates who participated were Larry Chavis, Craig Lowry and Gary Strickland Jr. (incumbent).

The District 7 candidates who participated were Brenda Allison and Billy Prevatte.

Loistine DeFreece, the incumbent in District 1, attended but didn’t participate since her seat is unopposed.

The candidates who were not in attendance were Severeo Kerns (at-large) and Steve Martin (District 7 incumbent). 

UNC Pembroke is a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina system.  For more information contact Joanna Warner, interim executive director of University Communications and Marketing via email (joanna.warner@uncp.edu) or by phone (910.775.4587). Connect with UNC Pembroke online at uncp.edu or on social media to learn how the university is changing lives through education.