Education advocates seek Sampson County school board seats

By: By Chase Jordan -

Five Sampson County residents are vying for three seats on the Sampson County Schools Board of Education. Incumbent Sonya Powell is seeking another term, but current members Faye Gay and Glenn Tart are not doing so. For the nonpartisan election set for March 15, all of the candidates have goals to improve a school system which serves thousands of students.

Tracey Ivey Dunn

Dunn, a homemaker, enjoys volunteering her time in the community and has been a member of the Plain View community for more than two decades. Her volunteer services included active roles at Plainview Elementary School, Midway Middle School, Midway High School Athletic Booster Club, Dunn Area Chamber of Commerce and the Sampson County Board of Elections – Plainview precinct. She currently serves as board secretary on the South River EMC Community Assistance Corporation. After graduating from Coats High School, she earned a degree in computer operations from Wake Technical College. She later worked for the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles from August 1989 to June 1996.

She is married to Jeffrey Dunn and they’ve been together for more than 25 years. Together, they have two children. Morgan is a 2014 graduate of Midway High School and is currently a sophomore at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Her youngest daughter, Allie, is an eighth-grader at Midway Middle School.

Why did you choose to run to become a member of the Sampson County Board of Education?

I decided to run for the Sampson County Board of Education because I have a vested interest in Sampson County Schools. I’ve been a volunteer in the school system for quite some time, about 12 years are so.

I see a lot of what goes on in the schools and I wanted to give back to the school system that has been so good to my family.

If elected, how will you make a positive impact on the school system?

I’m passionate about the school system, the students and the students’ education. By being a stay-at-home mom that allows me to volunteer, participate and give up my time. I have a vested interest in the school system and I’m interested and eager to serve to the best of my capacity.

Eugene Pearsall

Pearsall currently serves on the Hobbton Advisory Board and is the former chairman of the Head Start of Sampson County Board. In addition to being active in numerous civic and and community projects, Pearsall has also sponsored local students for Sampson CenterStage.

He’s also been actively involved with the Parks and Recreation Department of Sampson County and was rewarded athletic and academic achievement by feeding all of the student athletes in the Hobbton District. Pearsall is the founder and current president of Eugene’s Trucking in Faison, a self-made company from one simple truck to almost 50 vehicles.

Pearsall is the proud father of two children currently in the Sampson County educational system. One of his children, graduated from the school system in 2015

Why did you choose to run to become a member of the Sampson County Board of Education?

I have an interest in the schools. We need more parental support for our teachers and children.

I want only the best for my children and the children of our community. Our children need to be prepared for all of the challenges that the future will present to them. This can only be done if they are given a good educational base at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Without a good foundation they will not be able to succeed in their future world.

If elected, how will you make a positive impact on the school system?

I will make sure that all of our teachers apply for all the grants that they possibly could and try to get more funding in the school to help our children. We need get more parent support and the businesses in the community need to come out and support our school system.

I wish to bring dedicated leadership to the Sampson County Board of Education. Just as I have built my trucking business from the ground up, into a successful enterprise that works at every level towards a common goal of excellence, I wish to bring the same amount of energy and commitment to the school board.

If I am elected as a member of the Sampson County School Board, I promise to work hard to ensure that our school system graduates students that are ready to move on to higher level of education and able to compete in today’s global economy.

E. Sonya McLaurin Powell

Powell, a Sampson County native, currently serves as the vice chairman for the Sampson County Board of Education. After graduating from Roseboro-Salemburg High School, she earned a bachelor’s degree in English education from Winston-Salem State University and a master’s degree from Campbell University. She taught English at Lakewood High School, which was her first and only teaching job.

She’s been married 39 years to William Powell, a former coach in Sampson County School. Together they have three children with ties to Sampson Count schools. Darius Powell, is an assistant football and track coach at Lakewood High School; Brandon Powell coaches recreational football; and her daughter Vreeahn Powell is a social worker in Sampson County. All nine of her grandchildren are products of the school system.

Why did you choose to run to become a member of the Sampson County Board of Education?

I’m already on the Sampson County School Board and I’m in the midst of serving my first time and I’m trying to get re-elected for my second term. The reason that I ran for Sampson County Board of Education — it’s my love for children.

My entire career has been spent on working with young people and trying to help them have a better life. By being on the Sampson County Board of Education, I feel that’s a way for me to continue to serve people all over Sampson County and to help with the educational process.

Our theme is dedicated to continuous improvement and that’s what I live by. I want to see children continuously improving and having better lives in Sampson County.

If elected, how will you make a positive impact on the school system?

First of all, I think that it’s important that school board members be visible in the communities. Sampson County may be divided into four districts, but it is still one school system. So as a school board member, I make sure that I’m visible in all four district. I care about the entire student body of Sampson County. I make myself available to people at the central office and I keep up with the current trends in education, so that Sampson County will be able to keep up with current trends in education.

I’m very proud of our technology efforts and our efforts to secure grants in Sampson County.As far as recruiting teachers and retaining them, we have things in place to do that. Teach for America is a program that helps us to bring teachers in.

Powell said she also supports nurturing students who will return and make contributions to Sampson County.

They’ll have a vested interest in Sampson County because this is their home and they want to continue to see it flourish by teaching children in the classroom.

There’s dozens of teachers in Sampson County, who I taught and they tell me that I influenced them to become teachers.

Timothy (Tim) G. Register

Born and raised in Sampson County, Register currently lives in Garland. The retired educator has three decades of service in education. As a licensed real estate broker focusing on commercial development, he has been involved in the development of more than $100 million in single tenant retail projects in the eastern region of the state.

Register is married to Lynn Hart Register, a retired kindergarten teacher who spent her entire career working in Sampson County Schools. Together, they have one son, Matthew, owner of Southern Smoke BBQ and a commercial real estate broker. Their daughter in law, Jessica Talerico Register is a media specialist with Sampson County Schools. Tim and Lynn also have three grandchildren.

Why did you choose to run to become a member of the Sampson County Board of Education?

Faye Gay has been on the board for several years and when Mrs. Gay decided not to run, several community members contacted me (referring to Gay, someone he referred to as a dear friend). I had a lot of folks who asked me to run. With my background in education, I felt like the time was right for me to run.

I do feel that it’s an important time for our public schools. They’ve been under attack in a lot of ways and I think we need some folks that can be real advocates for them, our teachers, our staff members and our administrators.

It appears to be a perception with a lot of the public about school teachers not doing their jobs and those kind of things. I don’t think that’s true and I want to be an advocate for them and to be able to use the taxpayers funds that they’ve given us to invest in our ability to make sure they’re not wasted and that we’re using them efficiently as we can.

If elected, how will you make a positive impact on the school system?

I have 30 years of experience. I’ve done everything in the school system (he said about serving in multiple roles such teaching, coaching, assistant principal, director of technological services in Sampson County Schools and assistant superintendent over finance, transportation, technology, child nutrition and plant operations).

I think my knowledge and thorough background all of the workings in the school system will be an asset to the board. We do have board members who are not educators and they don’t understand the workings. I’m not saying they’re not good board members, I’m just saying that I believe that having been involved in the system for a long time and understand the ins and outs — I can be an asset to helping us understand the things that the administrative staff brings to us, to have insight from being on the other side of the desk, sort of speak, to try to help the board make more informed decisions so we can have a positive impact on the education of our kids.

I certainly hope that I can build on my experience to be able to provide the kind of education that all the kids in the county deserve. That’s one thing I want everybody to understand as well. A lot of folks looks at this as a district race kind of thing and that’ certainly not my perception. My perception is that when I’m elected to board, I’m elected to try to ensure that every child, regardless of the school they attend, gets a quality education and that we can do whatever we can to support our teachers and staff all over the county.

Patrick (Pat) Usher

The longtime resident of Sampson County currently resides in the Hobbton district and is a alumnus of Hobbton High School. He earned an animal science degree from North Carolina University and served with the United States Army National Guard for nine years Currently, Usher is a sales professional at Hog Slat, where he worked for more than two decades.

He is married to Jill Usher and they have been together for 13 years. They have two children currently attending Hobbton area schools, Jane and Will.

Why did you choose to run to become a member of the Sampson County Board of Education?

I have two kids in the Sampson County school system right now, so I have a vested interested in their well-being. I want to see the safety improved in our schools and I want to make sure our students, rather their college or non-college bound, are prepared to go on to college or pursue a career. I want to see facilities and resources improve for our teachers.

If elected, how will you make a positive impact on the school system?

I think I can bring some fresh ideas to the schools. I’ve not been directly involved with the operations of the schools for many years. So I think I can bring a fresh perspective to the schools. I have over 25 years in business and a good educational and military background.

As a parent of school-aged kids, I think I have the direct experience and vested interest in what’s going on in the schools and the ability to make good decisions about what needs to go on in the school system.

By Chase Jordan