Most applications to serve on state Parent Advisory Commission tossed because they were incomplete

Parents rally at a Johnston County school board meeting last summer to protest mask mandate.

Nearly 80% of applications submitted by parents hoping to serve on a new state K-12 Parent Advisory Commission have been rejected because they were incomplete, State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said this week.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) received about 3,500 applications but only 693 will be considered, Truitt said. An NCDPI committee before will trim the list to 150 candidates before the final 48 are chosen, she said.

“If an application was incomplete, they were thrown out,” Truitt told members of the State Board of Education during its monthly meeting. “Incomplete could range from anything from they didn’t complete all of the fields to they did not provide a reference.”

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt

Truitt noted that a letter of reference was not required. Candidates were only asked to provide the name and phone number of the person serving as a reference.

Once the list is narrowed to 150, Truitt said she will join the selection committee to help choose the final 48.

Truitt has said the committee will help to “elevate the voice of parents in students’ education.”

The commission comes as school boards and school leaders across the state and nation face unprecedented criticism over facemask mandates and what is taught in schools about the nation’s racial history. Books with LGBTQ+ themes have also become targets of conservative parents and politicians who contend they are inappropriate for young children.

Truitt’s parent group has sparked controversy. Critics contend parents of home-schooled and private school children will be overrepresented on the panel, receiving one-third of seats even though children who are home-schooled or attend private school make up a small portion of school children. Only 33% of seats are guaranteed to parents of traditional public school students even though those students are 78% of North Carolina’s schoolchildren.

The 48-member advisory board will include six parents or guardians from each of the state’s eight educational regions. The regional representation will include parents from two traditional public schools, one charter public school, one home school, one private school and one at-large public-school member from the largest county in each region, including Buncombe, Catawba, Cumberland, Guilford, Mecklenburg, New Hanover, Pitt, Wake.

Critics have also complained that the selection process doesn’t ensure that the commission will be racially balanced. A little more than 50% of children attending the state’s traditional public schools are students of color.

“My concern is about the inclusion of all parents, particularly those who are least likely to have a voice in the system,” State Board member James Ford said last month.

Responding to Ford’s questions about the commission this week, Truitt said the selection committee will begin to discuss “representation and voice” after the applicant pool has been narrowed to 150.

“Do we have a qualified candidate from this region who is a parent of someone with special needs, for example,” Truitt said.

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