Board of Education candidates Q & A – District 2

Sandhills Sentinel spoke with those pursuing Moore County Board of Education seats in November.

All candidates were provided a list of questions that they responded to in written form. Questions for each candidate are identical, and the candidates’ submitted answers have not been altered in any way. The order of candidates reflects the order they will appear on the ballot.

Helena Wallin-Miller

How long have you lived in Moore County?

My husband and I made Moore County our home in 2005. Our children were both born at Moore Regional Hospital and entered Moore County Schools in kindergarten. 

What is your educational background?

I have a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Claremont McKenna College and a Master’s in Public Policy from Georgetown University. 

Have you ever served in an elected office?

I was appointed to the Moore County Board of Education in 2015 and elected for a full 4-year term in 2016. While on the Board, I served as Vice Chair in 2017 and as Chair for two terms in 2018 and 2019. 

For incumbents- What would you have done differently if you had the chance?

I would have spent more time in Raleigh aggressively advocating for more funding to support our students and staff. Moore County ranks 108 in state funding for K-12 out of 115 districts. The legislature did give teachers raises over the past few years but did so by cutting other funding. They cut teachers in grades 4-12; cut lottery funding for facilities; cut textbook funding; and did not raise salaries for mechanics, bus drivers, nutrition staff, and other non-teaching personnel. Moore County’s Tier 3 status as a “wealthy county” means less state funding – necessitating reliance on county funds. 

What unique qualities will you bring to the office?

My 30-year career in non-profit and for-profit businesses taught me the importance of setting goals, making action plans, delivering on results, and facing challenging situations head on. This experience uniquely qualifies me to set goals for the Board and Superintendent to tackle. Examples of some of the tough issues Moore County Schools faced over the last five years include:  

Aging and Overcrowded Facilities – after adopting a 10-project Master Facility Plan in 2015, I led the Board through  successful Bond and ¼ cent sales tax campaigns, both overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2018 to finance the plan. Merely five years after adopting the plan, McDeeds Creek and Aberdeen Elementary are open to students, Southern Pines Elementary and North Moore’s expansion open in January, and Pinehurst Elementary opens in August. Any allegation that the new Aberdeen Elementary is not safe for students, is not based on scientific facts. 

Student Achievement – despite rhetoric by my opponent, our schools and our students are not defined by one test score. By many other measures, our students and our schools have shown incredible improvement since 2015 – all based on policies and plans I enacted. Here are just three examples.

(1) Five years ago, only 60% of our schools met or exceeded NC accountability measures for growth; now 75% meet or exceed growth. 

(2) Since 2015, MCS’ graduation rate improved to 93.5% – which is now the highest graduation rate in the state for larger school systems. Additionally, our students also surpassed the state in standardized test scores for the ACT, ACT WorkKeys, and 3rd grade Read to Achieve measures. 

(3) In partnership with Sandhills Community College, MCS students earned 3,900 technical certifications in 2019, a 630% increase since 2015. Our students also earned 42% more in college scholarships than five years ago.

Opening during COVID – while two-thirds of NC public school systems did not open for in-person instruction, I am proud of my and the Board’s decision to successfully open schools for ALL K-12 students in a hybrid in person/virtual model in August. 

Budget – when I started on the Board we were close to $2M in the hole annually. In addition to seeking replacement revenue from state shortfalls, I made difficult financial decisions to cut programs and positions – ensuring a balanced budget in 2018. 

Student Reassignment – I led our system through difficult discussions around student reassignment planning. The year-long process involved parents, staff, and the community to find ways to lessen crowding at schools and make more efficient use of space and taxpayer dollars. A full-county look at student assignment had never been done – and we did it. 

Teacher Satisfaction – in 2014, teacher satisfaction was the lowest in the Sandhills region and lower than the state average. Through intentional work supporting our teachers as leaders in their classrooms and schools, MCS now ranks 2nd in the region and four points above the state average.

Why are you the best candidate for the office?

I am the best candidate because I am focused and determined. I have laid the groundwork for continued success for our students and for our county. I have collaborated with parents, community members, businesses and the community college to achieve common goals and tackle difficult problems. 

In the next four years my vision is to make Moore County Schools the leader in the state for student achievement and career readiness, excellence and diversity in teaching staff and educational practices, and innovative learning environments to support ALL learners. We will graduate students ready for success in career, college, or further technical education. 

To achieve this vision, I will remain laser focused on: 

Providing intensive remediation to support learning loss from the COVID 19 pandemic,

Improving student achievement and access to quality teachers,

Adding more teachers in grades 4-12 to lower class sizes,

Ensuring a stable funding stream for regular maintenance, renovation, expansion and safety improvements at our older schools, and

Equalizing non-teaching staff pay commensurate to similar positions in other government agencies.

Robert M. Levy  

How long have you lived in Moore County?

I began living in Moore County (Southern Pines) when I was two months old. After graduating Pinecrest High School and UNC Chapel Hill, I spent the next 40 years involved in law school and a subsequent legal career in Los Angeles, California. However, I maintained a business and real estate holdings  in Moore County (both Pinehurst and Southern Pines). Beginning 10 years ago, I gradually  transitioned back to living full time in Moore County and managing my business here.

What is your educational background? 

After graduating Pinecrest High School, I was awarded a BA degree with Honors in History and a  second major in Sociology from UNC Chapel Hill. I obtained my Juris Doctor from the University of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. My graduate teaching degree was awarded from UNC Charlotte with a 4.0 GPA. My student teaching was completed at Union Pines High School. 

My published works include a law review article entitled Bakke and Affirmative Action,  an exploration of the legal issues surrounding race in college admissions and the book “ Divorce, A Cynical Experience,” exploring the complications of child custody and property settlements during episodes of divorce and domestic violence.

Have you ever served in an elected office?


For challenger of an incumbent- What is one thing your opponent did while in office that you would have done differently?

My opponent and I disagree on many issues. They include holding the superintendent responsible for multiple D rated schools, her position against school choice, her support of experimentation with social justice supported by critical race theory and her defense of placing our newest elementary school near a Superfund toxic waste dump. Most recently she approved the use of psychological surveys questioning children’s sexual practices and sexual preferences without first obtaining the permission of their parents and guardians.

In short, my opponent and I differ on our approach to education. She is a member of the “progressive” educational establishment and supports the redistricting of our students by using race and class as one way to change the performance poorly rated schools. By placing more affluent students in troubled schools, she and the current Board of Education hope to artificially raise the test scores of these poorly rated schools. Unfortunately, this will not help children whose challenges created the poor school rating in the first place.

I want to see lower class size, fewer administrators and intense, remedial education programs to raise reading and math proficiency. I would abandon social experimentation in favor of basic education and better vocational education for older students. I would also hold our superintendent personally accountable when any school is rated poorly.

The attitude of my opponent is that Moore is doing well. My belief is “Moore Can Do Better”

What unique qualities will you bring to the office?

As a licensed teacher, I have taught in almost every high school and middle school in Moore County. Therefore, I understand the day to day problems that plague both our students and teachers as they strive to create and enjoy an important learning experience As a practicing attorney experienced in both family and juvenile law, I realize the challenges with which many parents and students are burdened. From a single parent raising several children, often attending different schools, to students who are homeless and rely on  our school food programs, I am familiar with the problems they face. And as a businessman who has had to finance a difficult payroll while showing respect for workers and their family responsibilities, I am well suited to innovate and “think outside the box” to create success.

Most importantly, I am a lifelong conservative. Even as the former chairman of the Moore County Republican Party and the President of the 2012 North Carolina Electoral College, I am motivated to represent all citizens, Democrat, Republican Independents and members of minor parties. Regardless of their parents’ politics, I want to give our children the best education possible. 

Why are you the best candidate for the office?

My opponent is very well meaning and tries hard to fulfill her school board position. But she fails to challenge the social experimentation being practiced on our children. Recently, she approved a survey inquiring into the sexual preference of very young students without first obtaining parental permission. She advocated selling old schools at “ fire sale prices” rather than keeping the schools in reserve for inevitable future expansion. She presided over the placement of one school near a toxic waste dump and approved building that  D-rated school for about $33 million dollars. A similar charter  school nearby was privately built for less than $3 million. 

I am a person who is not afraid to challenge our superintendent and our administrators when, in the midst of a pandemic, they spend time and money on psychological surveys. I understand that every amount of energy needs to be directed toward traditional education. 

I will not tolerate such philosophies as “critical race theory” and “ social justice.” I will recognize the prerogative of our parents and their churches to teach our children morality while I will work with our parents and teachers to bring excellent traditional education to all our students regardless of their race, religion or station in life.

I am the better candidate because I want to take politics out of our schools and replace it with meaningful educational opportunity.

Early voting is from Oct. 15- 31. The election is November 3.

You can find more information on the Moore County Board of Elections website.

Contributed photos: L, R; Helena Wallin-Miller and Robert Levy.

Article by Sandhills Sentinel Journalism Intern Stephanie M. Sellers.

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