Name as it appears on the ballot: Sam Hershey 

Sam Hershey

Age: 45

Party affiliation: Democrat

Campaign website:

Occupation & employer: self-employed

Years lived in the area: 23 Years

1. In 300 words or less, please give us—and our readers—your elevator pitch: Why are you running? Why should voters entrust you with this position? What are your priorities, and what would you want to see the school board do differently or better over the course of your term?

I’m running for Wake County School Board because I believe in the importance of public schools for all of our kids, our families and for our communities, and I believe we need board representatives who will be champions of our public schools while being responsive to our students, families, and educators to address the challenges we face.

I believe voters should entrust me with this position based on my service to our public schools and our community, based on my knowledge of our school system and based on my positions on the issues.

Over the last two decades I’ve shown my commitment to our public schools as a WCPSS parent, coach, official, PTA board member and by serving on a board advisory council. I’ve shown my commitment to our community as a volunteer at the Food Bank, an assistant cub scout master, an i9 coach and last year I was proud to be honored by the city of Raleigh when I was awarded the 2021 Fred Fletcher volunteer award as Outstanding Project Volunteer for work I led at the Annie Wilkerson Nature Preserve.

My experience in the WCPSS has given me a good understanding of the issues faced by our students, our families and our staff. As a school board member, I will focus on a wide range of issues including school safety, bullying, learning loss, equity issues and improving communications between WCPSS and families.

2. Given the direction of the school district, would you say things are on the right course? If not, for what specific changes will you advocate if elected?

Yes, generally speaking we are on the right course. When it comes to educational opportunities we have a nationally-recognized magnet school program, a career and technical education (vocational) program, the ability to earn college credits through dual enrollment at Wake Tech and more. The school district has done things like proactively having a safety audit done, reworking SRO training and is working on a new equity policy.

3. What are the three main issues that you believe the Wake County Board of Education needs to address in the upcoming year?

There are more than three main issues. Learning Loss, School Safety, Communications, Equity, and Facility Upgrades, to name a few. We have a wide range of issues to work on and we need to continue to address them all.

4. Describe something you think the school board should have prioritized differently in the current budget. Do you think the budget supports students from lower income families as well as from affluent families? Does the budget meet the district’s infrastructure needs?

The Board is doing a good job with the budget, despite the challenges of being underfunded and the state keeping teacher salaries low. I want to thank the Wake County Commissioners for stepping up and supporting our public schools as much as they have. Our Wake County Commissioners have done a great job for our schools.

The County has a good plan to meet the district’s infrastructure needs, but it’s important that we pass both the WCPSS bonds and the Wake Tech bonds on the ballot this fall. These are crucial to funding our infrastructure needs.

Going forward, I would like to see more COVID funds used for academic support, facility HVAC improvements and mental health support for both our students and staff.

5) What is your understanding of what Critical Race Theory is? Is CRT currently taught in K-12 public schools? What are your thoughts on House Bill 324, the bill Gov. Cooper vetoed because he said it “pushes calculated, conspiracy-laden politics into public education?” Would you support such a bill?

Critical Race Theory is the examination of systemic racism woven into our laws. This is graduate level studies. CRT is not taught in K-12. House Bill 324 was a garbage bill designed to scare people and to whitewash what is taught about American history. I’m happy Gov. Cooper vetoed the bill.

6) Does the General Assembly have a constitutional obligation to comply with the state Supreme Court order in the Leandro case to fully fund public schools and give every child in North Carolina a sound basic education?

Yes! The NCGA should immediately comply with the state Supreme Court decision to meet its constitutional obligation to our kids.

What amazes me is that there are candidates running for school board, including at least one in district 6, who refuse to support the Leandro ruling. If you don’t support Leandro as a candidate, you don’t support our public schools.

7) Orange County’s Board of Education has passed some of the most progressive policies in the state around strengthening racial equity and providing a safe, inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ students to learn. Should Wake follow Orange’s lead and implement Gender Support guidelines that create a protocol for students who are transitioning or want to?

It’s important that all students feel safe and welcomed in our schools. If that means strengthening our equity policies and providing gender support guidelines, I would be for that.

In looking at examples, I think Durham County Schools have taken a great approach to gender support guidelines. Their approach on student support teams which includes parents and an age-appropriate plan is the right way to go. I also agree with their plan for when family may not be as supportive at home.

8) How do you think the current school board handled the COVID-19 pandemic? Please explain your answer.

Handling the COVID pandemic was no easy task for anyone. While I know there are those who will endlessly criticize the board even 10 years from now, I’m not interested in going down that path. Wake County could’ve gone back to in-person school sooner but we didn’t, so here we are. We’ve been back in school for a long time now and my interest and my focus will remain on moving forward.

9) Recently, groups of parents with students in WCPSS have mounted efforts to ban certain books from school classrooms and libraries. The school board and school administrators pushed back on these efforts. Did the board and school system handle this controversy appropriately? What more, if anything, should be done to address efforts to ban books in schools?

The school board handled this issue appropriately. We need to continue to trust our teachers and librarians when it comes to selecting books and continue to push back against calls to ban books. We have good processes in place for parents to ask for reviews and opt out of assignments.

10) Do police officers (School Resource Officers) have a role in schools? Do you agree with the way the current board is trying to address the role of SROs in Wake County Schools?

SROs should have a limited role in schools. Principals are the leaders of their schools and school buildings. School staff should take the lead in addressing incidents in schools. The long term goals should be to reduce the need for SROs with more investment in support services including school psychologists and social workers in every school. I agree with what the school board is doing through the new memorandum of understanding and required training for SROs.

11) Research has shown an achievement gap for Wake County Schools students based on race and socioeconomic status. What specific policies would you support or what actions would you take to help close the gap so that race and socioeconomic status don’t persist as predictive factors?

This is precisely why the Leandro funding is so important. The Leandro plan focuses on reducing inequities in our schools. Leandro increases early education Pre-K opportunities, increases the number of mental health support staff at schools, provides free school lunch, and helps get a well-trained teacher in every classroom.

12) How should WCPSS address its ongoing shortage of educators, support staff, bus drivers, school nurses, mental health professionals, and other key staff?

– Increase teacher/staff pay: We need the general assembly to step up before the shortages get worse. They set salaries and we need the NCGA to significantly increase them.

– Working Conditions: We should listen to staff on how we can improve their working conditions. Whether it’s in the classroom or on a bus, we need to make sure all staff feel safe and respected where they work.

– Focus on support: Provide mentoring to new teachers. Provide mental health support to all staff. Provide professional development opportunities for all staff. Reduce the paperwork burden on teachers.

– Community Respect: Teachers (school staff) deserve the respect of our communities. These people play such an important role in our kids’ lives and yet, at times, they are treated with such disdain and mistrust. They are criticized by a vocal minority beyond what many others would tolerate at their own workplace. These people spread lies and innuendos about what is being taught to our kids. It’s dangerous and undeserved. School board candidates and members should push back against the disrespect and be the positive, encouraging voices all our school staff deserve.

13) Is the district currently doing enough to assist disabled students? What more could it do?

No, the district isn’t doing enough, but a lot of that is related to being underfunded and understaffed. We need funding to be able to provide our students and teachers with proper support to ensure a safe and equitable education. Regardless of funding, I want to make sure the right people are hearing about the issues from our parents. In conversations with parents, it certainly seems like we have communication issues we need to resolve.

14) If there is anything else you would like to address, please do so here.

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