Governor Cooper today announced his appointments to the Governor’s Commission on Access to Sound, Basic Education. The Commission, which Governor Cooper created through Executive Order 10, will focus on the critical importance of North Carolina meeting its duties under the state constitution as underscored by the landmark rulings in Leandro v. North Carolina and Hoke County Board of Education v. North Carolina.
“All North Carolina children have a constitutional right to a quality public education that prepares them for the jobs and opportunities of the future,” Governor Cooper said. “This commission of experts will help identify how to improve our state’s public schools so that all students in this state receive the education they need to thrive.”
The Commission includes experts from a wide range of fields that are relevant to education and student and school success. Today, Gov. Cooper announced that he has appointed the following individuals to serve on the Commission:
- Brad Wilson of Raleigh as the health care representative to the Commission and its Chair. Wilson is CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. He is a past Chair of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors and served as General Counsel to Gov. Jim Hunt.
- Dr. Fouad Abd-El-Khalick of Durham as the university representative to the Commission. Abd-El-Khalick is Professor and Dean of the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is formerly Professor of Education and Associate Dean for Research & Research Education in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he also served as Head of the Department of Curriculum & Instruction.
- Charles Becton of Durham as the judicial representative. Becton served as a judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals for nine years, being named NC Appellate Judge of the Year in 1985. He has also served as President of the NC Bar Association and as Interim Chancellor at both North Carolina Central University and Elizabeth City State University.
- Melody Chalmers of Fayetteville as the principal representative to the Commission. Chalmers is the Principal at E.E. Smith High School in Cumberland County. She has more than 20 years of experience as an English teacher, assistant principal, and principal and was the 2016-17 North Carolina Principal of the Year.
- Jim Deal of Boone as the business community representative to the Commission. Deal is an attorney with Deal, Moseley & Smith, LLP. He is a former Chair of the Watauga County Board of Education, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners, and the Appalachian State University Board of Trustees, and a former member of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.
- Alan Duncan of Greensboro as the school board representative to the Commission. Duncan is Chair of the Guilford County Schools Board of Education, where he has served since 2000 and as Chair since 2002. Duncan, who is an attorney with Mullins Duncan Harrell & Russell PLLC, also serves as Chair of the Board’s Budget Committee.
- Rick Glazier of Fayetteville as the non-profit representative. Glazier is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Justice Center. He is a former state representative from Cumberland County, and served as Chairman of the Cumberland County Schools Board of Education.
- Mark Jewell of Raleigh as an at-large representative to the Commission. Jewell is the President of the NC Association of Educators. He has more than 30 years of experience as a public school teacher, mostly in the elementary grades. More recently, he served as a Lateral Entry Specialist in Guilford County Schools, where he provided support for new teachers entering the profession through alternative licensure.
- Leigh Kokenes of Raleigh as the school psychologist representative. Kokenes is a school psychologist with the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), where she provides comprehensive school psychology services to students in kindergarten through 8th grade. She has more than 22 years of experience in special education and school psychology, and was named the 2016 WCPSS School Psychologist of the Year.
- Dr. Helen F. Ladd of Durham as the education researcher representative to the Commission. Ladd is the Susan B. King Professor Emerita of Public Policy and Economics at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. Her education research focuses on school finance and accountability, teacher labor markets, school choice, and early childhood programs.
- Dr. Patrick Miller of Snow Hill as the superintendent representative to the Commission. Miller is the Superintendent of Greene County Schools, where he has served for the past nine years. He is a former choral music and theater arts teacher and elementary school principal in Greene County. Miller was the 2014-15 NC Central Regional Superintendent of the Year.
- James Moore of Rocky Mount as the public safety representative to the Commission. Moore is the Rocky Mount Chief of Police. He has nearly 30 years of law enforcement experience in Rocky Mount and Wilmington, where he has served in patrol, investigations, special operations, and support services functions.
- Mark Richardson of Stokesdale as the county commissioner representative to the Commission. Richardson is Chairman of the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners. He is a retired colonel with the US Air Force, as well as a former middle and high school teacher and principal. Richardson is a member of the NC Association of County Commissioners and serves on the Association’s Educational Steering Committee.
- Fernando Solano Valverde of Greensboro as the teacher representative to the Commission. Valverde is an English as a Second Language Kindergarten Teacher at South Lexington School in Lexington. He has more than 20 years of teaching experience and was the 2016-17 Lexington City Schools Teacher of the Year.
- Michael Williams of Rocky Mount as the workforce board representative. Williams is Executive Director for the Turning Point Workforce Development Board, which oversees the regional workforce development system serving Edgecombe, Halifax, Nash, Northampton, and Wilson Counties. A native of Halifax County, he has more than 25 years of experience in workforce and economic development.
- Dr. Stelfanie Williams of Henderson as the community college representative to the Commission. Williams is President of Vance-Granville Community College. She has served as faculty and in several administrative roles, including director, dean, and vice president, at other community colleges. She also is an adjunct faculty member for the North Carolina State University College of Education.
- Leslie Winner of Durham as an at-large representative to the Commission. Winner is the former Executive Director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and a former state senator. Winner also served as Vice President and General Counsel to the University of North Carolina and as General Counsel to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education.
- Henrietta Zalkind of Raleigh as the early childhood education representative to the Commission. Zalkind is the founding Executive Director of the Down East Partnership for Children, where she has served in that role since 1994. She has also worked for legal services in Rhode Island and North Carolina, specializing in education law.
Leandro is a landmark ruling in North Carolina courts that requires the state to identify specific resources needed to ensure that all children, including those who are at risk or from rural and underserved communities, have an opportunity to receive a sound basic education. Since the court issued that ruling in 1996 and the subsequent Hoke County Board of Education ruling in 2004, North Carolina has struggled to live up to those requirements.
The Commission will focus on key areas highlighted in the original Leandro ruling including:
- Staffing each classroom with a competent, well-trained teacher,
- Staffing each school with a competent, well-trained principal, and
- Identifying the resources necessary to ensure that all children, including those at risk, have an equal opportunity to obtain a sound basic education.
The Commission will hold its first meeting on November 30.
To learn more about the Commission’s mission, read the Executive Order that created it here.