Primary 2020: Overcrowding, Teacher Pay Are Concerns for Brunswick Board of Education Candidates

Feb 20, 2020

Three Republicans are competing for one open spot in the Brunswick County District 4 Board of Education Primary. The candidates vary -- in their experience and their top priorities. But they all have two concerns in common: overcrowded schools and teacher pay.

It’s no secret that Brunswick’s population is booming.

“The northern end of the county is growing by leaps and bounds. And, with that being said, if growth continues at the same rate it has been in the northern end, there may be the need for a new school.”

That’s Ellen Milligan. She’s the only incumbent in the race, and says overcrowding is already an issue in the school system. She wants to address that by taking what she says is a proactive approach:

“We definitely have to work on getting additional classrooms or a new facility up in that area.”

Shirley Babson -- a former board member who lost to Milligan in 2016 -- agrees.

“We're going to have to have more schools built. I think particularly our high school that's in the Leland area.”


Steven Barger is a newcomer to the race. He says Brunswick’s growth makes teacher retention especially vital. 

“We're dealing with the fast paced growth and having to add additional teachers, while also battling being able to retain our teachers. So I would love to see the school board, once I get on there, take a posture of supporting our teachers.”

One way Barger wants to achieve that is by supporting teachers who want to further their skills and career goals. He also says  the board should work with the state legislator to resolve teacher pay -- an issue that’s been on halt due to a state budget stalemate. Also wanting to address that concern, is Shirley Babson:

“I think we need to even go further. I would make sure the teachers that we expect are excellent teachers, but then we protect the teachers too. I'd like to see the governor sign the budget so the teachers could get their raise in salary.”

Ellen Milligan says the board can support educators at a more local level, by restoring advanced degree pay and possibly adding new teacher pay supplements -- an idea Barger also agrees with. 

Other priorities the candidates mention are varied. Milligan and Barger both say they like the idea of adding more technical and vocational programs:

“People are bringing their companies or businesses to Brunswick County -- they're looking at our schools and our ability to produce not only students who are college bound, but being able to fill those skilled labor positions.”

“When students leave us, whatever their plans may be, if they choose to continue on in school or if they choose to go in the military or if they choose to go directly into the workforce -- we want to have adequate or better than adequate programs that will give them the credentials to go out and provide for themselves.”

Babson says she wants to reinstate The Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms, and reform how American history is taught -- although she did not specify how.

“I had a superintendent tell me one time, ‘Well, history changes.’ Well, I don't believe history changes. I believe history is history.”

One issue the candidates didn’t mention while speaking to WHQR was water quality. Last month, a nationwide study by the Environmental Working Group found that Belville Elementary School’s drinking water contained the highest concentration of PFAS out of all tested locations. The school system has since begun the process of installing Reverse Osmosis water filtration systems.