With the 2024 Primary Election quickly approaching, candidates for office are campaigning hard to get your vote on March 5.
Running for Craven County Board of Education District 7 are Republicans Courtney Hensley and Darlene Gibbs.
Courtney Hensley, 36, works at Chad Sittig State Farm. Hensley graduated from Havelock High School and earned her NC State Insurance Licensing.
Darlene Gibbs, 64, is retired from Civil Service, where she achieved the equivalent of a four-year degree. Gibbs has two daughters, two sons-in-law, and six grandchildren.
The New Bern Sun Journal sent candidate questionnaires to all Craven County candidates with contested races.
What is the best way for voters to contact you?
Hensley: Voters can contact me at Courtney.firstname.lastname@example.org or (252) 665-2669.
Gibbs: Voters can contact me at Darlenegibbs11@protonmail.com.
What experience do you have that makes you a good candidate?
Hensley: My background as a parent, community advocate, and assisting families with their insurance needs has equipped me for this position. I’ve volunteered in different roles within my children’s schools, gaining valuable experience in diverse community engagement. Recognizing the significance of collaboration and teamwork, I understand the importance of strong partnerships between schools, families, and local businesses. I am committed to fostering strong relationships between our schools and the broader community. I aim to create opportunities for students to thrive, excel, and prepare for their future. With a focus on building these connections, I aim to contribute to our educational system’s overall success and growth.
Gibbs: I have been a resident of Havelock/Harlowe for over 40 years. I have been involved with Craven County schools as a parent, grandparent, and educator. Both of my daughters attended and graduated from Havelock. As a grandparent, I have five grandchildren currently attending schools in Craven County. I have a heart for military families. I, too, am part of a military family. My father was a Green Beret with the 101st Airborne Division. Previously, as an educator, I worked in the school system for over 11 years. I served as a substitute teacher at Graham A. Barden Elementary and Roger Bell Elementary (now Roger Bell New Tech Academy) and then as an assistant teacher at Roger Bell Elementary. Finally, I was the Technology Specialist at Tucker Creek Middle School for the first six years it was open. Through these experiences, I understand firsthand the struggles of students, staff, and parents in this district. I have recently retired from Fleet Readiness Center EAST, Cherry Point. I was tasked with supporting the fleet by managing and publishing technical manuals for various aircraft platforms. I would like to apply my experiences and abilities to help bring positive changes to Craven County Schools.
What do you read to stay informed on issues?
Hensley: To stay informed of matters related to the school, I regularly read updates on the school board’s official page and engage with information on the school board’s Facebook pages. Additionally, I actively participate in discussions with my children’s teachers to ensure a comprehensive understanding of relevant issues and developments within the school community
Gibbs: Most recently, I have been reading North Carolina Education and Craven County Schools policies.
If elected, what would you do to stay transparent as an elected official?
Hensley: If elected, I’ll prioritize transparency by regularly communicating through official channels and hosting open meetings. Information will be easily accessible on the school board’s website, and I’ll actively engage with the community through board meetings and social media for feedback. Collaborating with stakeholders and providing transparent reports on key decisions and budgets will ensure accountability. Upholding ethical standards, avoiding conflicts of interest, and always prioritizing the community’s best interests will guide my decision-making. This commitment aims to build trust and actively involve the public in shaping the educational environment.
Gibbs: I would be available through email or phone for any questions or concerns that anyone might have. Transparency is sadly lacking in the current board of education. There should not be a need for closed-door meetings unless it pertains to personal or private information on students.
What do you think is the most important issue for the seat you are running for, how do you want to resolve it? How has current leadership addressed this issue?
Hensley: One of the primary concerns affecting not only District 7 but all Craven County schools is the issue of performance reviews. Over the years, overall school ratings have either plateaued or declined. We must shift our focus towards the students and understand their perspectives on the challenges impacting their learning experience. I aim to initiate a comprehensive conversation with students to identify and address the root causes of learning issues within our schools. Presently, there is a need for an inclusive approach to enhance educational outcomes. Assessing the strategies employed by current leadership in dealing with this issue is crucial to inform and refine our approach for more effective and positive results.
Gibbs: To advocate for the students and staff so that decisions the board makes are good and fair for all students in Craven County, not just the more affluent areas of the county. The BOE should release information to the public on a weekly/monthly basis via newspaper and social media on current topics and the board’s decisions on those topics. Current leadership does not respond to all the concerns that the public raises.