Karen Simon and Jerry Ballan are the latest candidates making a bid to represent northwest Raleigh on the Wake County school board.
Both Simon and Ballan filed last week to run for the District 7 board seat that covers northwest Raleigh, part of Cary and Morrisville. They join Deborah Prickett, who had announced her candidacy in May before filing last week.
More candidates could step forward before the end of the filing period at noon Friday. They're all hoping to replace Patti Head, who has said she won't run for re-election.
Even at this early stage before the Oct. 6 elections, distinctions are emerging among the three District 7 candidates, who all live in North Raleigh.
Prickett has been a vocal critic of the school district's diversity policy, mandatory year-round schools and reassignment. She has been endorsed by the Wake Schools Community Alliance, a group critical of the school board.
Ballan also says he's a critic of the diversity policy and backs community schools. But he says he wants to try to work with the school board to change policies. He said too many groups just want to argue without actually producing any changes.
"I'm not pro [school diversity policy] but we have to find a way to work around it to find something better," Ballan said. "You can't throw the baby out with the bath water on the first day."
Ballan, 62, is raising twin grandsons who go to East Cary Middle School.
Ballan said it's important to have a person like him with business experience on the school board. He's a securities principal and certified financial planner. Prickett is the character-education consultant for the state Department of Public Instruction, and Simon is a grants manager with the N.C. Governor's Crime Commission.
Simon is more supportive of current school policies, believing that Wake has some of the best public schools in the country. She said she supports the diversity policy, which involves trying to balance the percentages of low-income students at schools, but that's just one of her concerns.
As an example, Simon said she'd like to hold school board meetings later in the day so that parents like her could attend without having to miss work. Simon, 46, has two children attending Sanderson High School.
"I'm very interested in trying to get more community input and more inclusion of parents, teachers and students," Simon said. "I'm hoping we can focus more on what we have in common that what's different."
Simon is backed by the Wake County Democratic Party, where she is a secretary/treasurer for her election precinct.
The issue of mandatory year-round schools is expected to be a contentious one in District 7. There's been a lot of debate among parents about the conversion of Leesville Road elementary and middle schools to year-round calendars.
Simon said she needed to talk with more parents before taking a position on that change. But she mentioned that voters should keep in mind the savings in tax dollars in year-round schools, which can reduce the need to build additional schools.
Ballan said it appears that the enrollment projections used to justify the year-round conversions were wrong. But he said the issue now is whether switching back would cause more harm.
"I'm a realist," Ballan said. "There's what you want to do, and there's reality."