Po­lit­i­cal new­comer scores up­set in school board race

The News & Observer - - Triangle & N.c. - BY T. KE­UNG HUI khui@new­sob­server.com

Heather Scott didn’t come into Elec­tion Day think­ing she would win. But her un­der­funded, shoe­string cam­paign pulled off an up­set on Tues­day to make her the new­est mem­ber of the Wake County school board.

Scott, 43, a mu­sic teacher from Raleigh, won the three-way race for the school board’s Dis­trict 1 seat with 39 per­cent of the vote, based on com­plete but un­of­fi­cial elec­tion re­turns. Scott won de­spite spend­ing less than $1,000 and re­ly­ing on a word-of-mouth cam­paign against bet­ter-funded op­po­nents who were en­dorsed by the ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

“It was a big sur­prise be­cause the only real vol­un­teers for my cam­paign were me and my hus­band, who works full- time,” Scott said in an in­ter­view Thurs­day. “But I felt ev­ery time I had a chance to talk about my plat­form and what I had to bring, it went re­ally pos­i­tively.”

Also on Tues­day, three in­cum­bent school board mem­bers were re-elected in con­tested races. Five in­cum­bent board mem­bers ran un­op­posed — in­clud­ing the late Kathy Harten­s­tine, whose suc­ces­sor will be cho­sen by the rest of the board.

Dis­trict 1 cov­ers Wen­dell, Ze­bu­lon, Rolesville, Wake For­est and part of Knight­dale and Raleigh. The seat is now held by Don Agee, who didn’t seek re-elec­tion for an­other two-year term.

Scott ran against Don Mial, who spent his ca­reer work­ing in the state’s ju­ve­nile jus­tice sys­tem, and Jim Thomp­son, a for­mer Wake For­est com­mis­sioner.

Al­though Scott is a Demo­crat and an ed­u­ca­tor, Mial was en­dorsed by both the Wake County Demo­cratic Party and Wake NCAE, the lo­cal chap­ter of the N.C. As­so­ci­a­tion of Ed­u­ca­tors. Mial also raised $18,657, ac­cord­ing to cam­paign fi­nance re­ports.

Thomp­son was en­dorsed by the Wake County Re­pub­li­can Party. His lat­est cam­paign fi­nance re­port was not im­me­di­ately avail­able.

School board races in Wake are of­fi­cially non­par­ti­san con­tests.

Scott said she had to run a fru­gal cam­paign that re­lied on spread­ing her

‘‘ I WAS JUST IN SHOCK. Heather Scott, on find­ing out she had won the elec­tion

mes­sage on so­cial me­dia, meet­ing peo­ple daily, speak­ing at can­di­date fo­rums and show­ing up ev­ery day at early vot­ing sites. She bought only 50 small cam­paign signs.

Scott cam­paigned on how she’d bring the per­spec­tive of be­ing both a teacher and a par­ent of two stu­dents, who both at­tend Hunter El­e­men­tary School in Raleigh. She’s taught mu­sic for 20 years, in­clud­ing pre­vi­ously at En­deavor Char­ter School in Raleigh and more re­cently as a sub­sti­tute teacher and pri­vate mu­sic teacher.

Scott said she wanted to pro­mote eq­uity in schools, an is­sue in Dis­trict 1, which has af­flu­ent schools in Wake For­est and high­poverty schools in east­ern Wake. She also talked about in­creas­ing ac­cess to pre-K and ad­dress­ing how mi­nor­ity stu­dents are both dis­pro­por­tion­ately sus­pended and are un­der­rep­re­sented in aca­dem­i­cally gifted pro­grams.

“I want to make sure that all of the schools are get­ting the at­ten­tion they need,” Scott said.

After a long and ex­haust­ing day of cam­paign­ing Tues­day, Scott said she went to bed with the out­come still in doubt. She was wo­ken up later that evening by her hus­band, Derek, with the news that she had won.

“I was just in shock,” she said.

Scott will take of­fice Dec. 4 and will be charged with help­ing to lead North Carolina’s largest school dis­trict, which has more than 160,000 stu­dents and an an­nual op­er­at­ing bud­get of $1.6 bil­lion.

“I’m re­ally hon­ored and ex­cited to serve on the board,” Scott said. “Ed­u­ca­tion has al­ways been so much of my heart. To be able to serve the teach­ers and the com­mu­nity in this way is re­ally in­cred­i­ble.”

Heather Scott

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