State Superintendent Catherine Truitt announces members of controversial Parent Advisory Commission

When State Superintendent Catherine Truitt announced in February that she was creating a new Parent Advisory Commission to lift parents’ voices on state education issues, the idea received lots of criticism because a third of the seats are reserved for parents of home-schooled and private school students.

Truitt announced the members of the 48-member commission on Tuesday. Its composition remains a point of contention for some educators who believe non-public school parents should not have a seat on a commission created by a superintendent of public schools.

The announcement was widely discussed in online teacher forums.

“Makes no sense to have 33% of the board representative of schools that DPI has no jurisdiction over!!” Susan Greene Fowler wrote in a Facebook post for NC Voices for Public Schools.

Another educator in the group accused the superintendent of “appeasing the voters” and “lining up her supporters for the next election.”

Perhaps anticipating pushback from critics, Truitt explained her decision to include parents of home-schooled and private school students in a press release announcing commission members.

Catherine Truitt

“This commission seeks to include all parent voices because every parent has a story to tell,”  Truitt said. “Insight from parents who may not have a student presently enrolled in a traditional public school should be considered as we strive to make improvements to support all public school students’ learning and development.”

Last year, roughly 76% of K-12 students attend traditional public schools. Homeschooling and enrollment in private schools have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, Raleigh’s News & Observer reported in July.

Truitt was also criticized for not taking steps to ensure that Black and Hispanic parents are adequately represented on the commission. A little more than 50% of children attending the state’s traditional public schools are students of color. The racial makeup of the panel was not shared in the press release announcing commission members.

“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 in April.

Truitt responded that the state board panel selecting commission members would begin to discuss “representation and voice” after the applicant pool had been narrowed.

She dodged the question about taking steps to ensure the panel includes a racially diverse group of parents.

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

Truitt, a Republican whose tone has become increasingly partisan since she was elected to the state’s top education post in 2020, shared a Fox News blurb on Facebook Tuesday about the U.S. Department of Education’s new parent council to help build “stronger and effective relationships between schools and parents and families and caregivers.”

The superintendent made this boast:

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. On the day the members of my Parent Advisory Commission are announced, the Biden administration tries to follow suit.”

To Truitt’s point, the Education Department’s National Parents and Families Engagement Council will include groups that represent parents and caregivers whose children attend public schools, charter schools, private schools and homeschools.

“The Council will help foster a collaborative environment where we can work together to serve the best interest of students and ensure they have the academic and mental health support they need to recover from the pandemic and thrive in the future,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said.

Truitt’s 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.

The superintendent’s announcement to create the panel came as school boards and school leaders across the state and nation face unprecedented criticism over face mask mandates and what is taught in schools about the nation’s racial history. Books with LGBTQ+ themes had also become targets of conservative parents and politicians who contend they are inappropriate for young children.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction received about 3,500 applications from parents seeking to serve on the panel. Most of them were thrown out because they were incomplete.

Commission members will serve a two-year term beginning this fall.

Here are the commission members selected to serve on the inaugural panel:

North Central Region

  1. Delon Fletcher – traditional public at-large
  2. Preeti Vidwans – traditional public
  3. Daniel Riley – traditional public
  4. Tamara Adams – public charter
  5. Delicia Hare – private
  6. Natascha Alvarado – homeschool

Northeast Region

  1. Diane Taylor – traditional public at-large
  2. Dawn Price – traditional public
  3. Sonya Askew-Williams – traditional public
  4. Beatriz “Betty” Ward – public charter
  5. April Edwards – private
  6. Mary Syrrist – homeschool

Piedmont-Triad Region

  1. Treena Jackson – traditional public at-large
  2. Dwayne Young – traditional public
  3. Lillian Adams – traditional public
  4. Jessica Hofstetter – public charter
  5. Neely Turlington – private
  6. Dan Stephens – homeschool

Southwest Region 

  1. Yolanda Price – traditional public at-large
  2. Maria Cristina Sanchez – traditional public
  3. Theresa Knight – traditional public
  4. Nazila Alimohammadi – public charter
  5. Rebecca Dies – private
  6. Larina Pierce – homeschool

Southeast Region 

  1. Yvonne Eason – traditional public at-large
  2. Grelynn Bradley – traditional public
  3. Lindsey Lee Miller – traditional public
  4. Jessica Lopez – public charter
  5. Charlonda Brown – private
  6. Meganne?Smith – homeschool

Western Region

  1. Lydia Flanders – traditional public at-large
  2. Dawn Steed – traditional public
  3. Clark Glenn, Jr. – traditional public
  4. Shawn Wright – public charter
  5. Susan Osborne – private
  6. Amber Black – homeschool

Northwest Region? 

  1. Kirsten Maynard – traditional public at-large
  2. Kelley Wilson – traditional public
  3. Kelsey W. Adams – traditional public
  4. Shanna S. Wall – public charter
  5. Maria S. Ballard – private
  6. Jessica Frierson – homeschool

Sandhills Region

  1. Ar-Nita Davis – traditional public, at-large
  2. Samantha L. Oxendine – traditional public
  3. Marie Smith – traditional public
  4. Yvette Bell – public charter
  5. Victor Allen – private
  6. John Miner – homeschool
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