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Orange Schools Slate Lines Up

BY Kayce T. Ataiyero
by Kayce T. Ataiyero on 8/31/02.

Hillsborough -- One of the first votes to be cast by new
members of the Orange County School Board after the Sept. 10
election will be to hire a new superintendent.
The six candidates running for the four open seats face a
January 2003 deadline -- which coincides with the month they
would take office -- set by the current board to select a
replacement for Randy Bridges, who resigned in July to head the
Rock Hill, S.C., school district. The current board will work
with the new members in the selection process, with the final
vote being made by the new board.
The candidates -- incumbent Brenda Stephens and political
newcomers Randy Copeland, Betty Tom Phelps Davidson, Al Hartkopf,
Libbie Hough, and Patrick Mulkey -- have two other immediate
issues to contend with: the construction of a new middle school
and school funding. The school funding issue could prove to be a
particularly hot topic as the district explores its financial
options on the heels of the defeat earlier this month of a
proposal to establish a district tax.
Stephens, 49, is seeking her second term. She wants the board
to make a decision on an alternative school and work through the
system's fiscal crunch. She said she sees her re-election bid as
a "sign of stability."
"I am excited about the progress that Orange County Schools
has made over the years. The overall trends across the district
are positive. I hope to use the accomplishments of yesterday to
line our path into tomorrow," she said. "My goal has always been
to maintain an open, ethical and fair relationship among the
members of the school board. In doing so, I can trust the
collective strength of our experience to aid in sound
Copeland, 46, a lineman with Piedmont Electric Management
Corp., initially entered the race to campaign against the
district tax. When the proposal was voted down, he said he
decided to stay in the race because he wants to help children.
"I talked to my teenagers at church and heard about their
problems with drug and gang activity and violence in the schools,
and I felt like it was time for a Christian conservative that
wants to make a difference for my grandchildren and other young
people," he said. "I am an average citizen, born and raised here.
I guess what makes me different is that a lot of times we sit
around and complain about problems, and I took it one step
further and decided to run for office."
Davidson, 43, owns Olive Branch Inn and is an adjunct
professor at Elon University. She said she is running as a
teacher and staff advocate.
"I spent time as a science teacher at Stanford Middle a few
years ago, and that experience solidified my goal of supporting
those teachers. If we keep our teachers happy, our children will
soar," she said. "I think the staff have been neglected. They
haven't seen pay raises that in my mind warrant what they
deserve. But, it's not always about money. It's also about their
morale and restoring dignity to the profession of teaching."
Hartkopf, 45, a program manager with Nortel Networks, said his
goal is to increase the board's accountability to voters by
improving communication with the community.
"The current board does not reflect the values of the people
of Orange. I've only lived here for three years but I come from a
small town in North Carolina and the needs of Orange County
resonate with me. 'Children first' goes without saying, but I
think the board does not express an accountability to the
voters," he said. "I want to use what I know to keep us growing
and do it efficiently."
Hough, 40, is a public relations and marketing consultant. She
said her aim is to be an advocate for the district's schools.
"I am passionate about providing an excellent education for
every child, no matter their grade, ability, race, or income
level. I think my background in social work makes me aware and
attuned to a wide variety of needs that you deal with whenever
you deal with the public and children and families," she said. "I
think my professional life will benefit the board as it looks to
better communicate the system's successes and needs externally
with parents and internally with staff and faculty."
Mulkey, 47, a senior electronics technician at Duke
University, said he sees the race as an opportunity to bring a
fresh perspective to the board.
"I really think it's become time to inject some new blood into
the board of education, fresh faces with new ideas. I think that
the things that make me qualified are the number of community
activities I have been involved with. I've been able to obtain
leadership roles in those organizations through my willingness to
be open and to be fair," he said. "I want to make the best
possible decision for our students, and I want to create an
environment on the board where the public perception is that we
are approachable."
Randy Copeland
HOME: 3303 Mount Willing Road, Efland
born: April 10,1956
FAMILY: Wife, Deborah, two daughters, one son
EDUCATION: Attended Alamance Christian High School
OCCUPATION: Lineman, Piedmont Electric Membership Corp.
CIVIC ACTIVITIES: Youth athletic coach, soccer, baseball,
Citizens for a Sound Economy
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Eastside Baptist Church, Mebane
HOBBIES: fishing, yard work
POLITICAL HERO: President Reagan
WHAT MAKES me BEST QUALIFIED: "I guess what makes me different
is that a lot of times we sit around and complain about problems,
and I took it one step further and decided to run for office. I
want to see what is best for our children and also look at the
needs of the people who are paying their taxes and funding the
TOP PRIORITY IF ELECTED: "Getting a new superintendent is the
biggest thing in front of us now. I will work to get a
superintendent like the one we had, a person who works well with
the teachers, is very accessible to the public and mindful of the
needs of the schools."
HOW TO CONTACT: Phone, 563-4389; e-mail,
Betty Tom Phelps Davidson
HOME: 7015 N.C. 57 Rougemont
born: May 21, 1959
FAMILY: Divorced, two sons
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in science education, Duke
University, 1981; bachelor's degree in biology, Old Dominion
University, 1987; master's degree in biotechnology, Old Dominion
University, 1989
OCCUPATION: Owner, Olive Branch Inn; adjunct biology
professor, Elon University
CIVIC ACTIVITIES: Soccer coach, Orange County Parks and
Recreation Department; Stanford Middle School PTSA, Orange County
Schools Homework Policy Committee; Cameron Park Elementary School
Governance Committee
HOBBIES: farming, soccer
POLITICAL HERO: Winston Churchill
LAST BOOK READ: A book from the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
series by Stephen R. Donaldson
WHAT MAKES me BEST QUALIFIED: "I believe I have the most
unique perspective of all the candidates running because I was
born and raised here. I've been a student, teacher and parent in
the schools. My experiences as a teacher have made me aware of
what is required of our exceptional teachers."
TOP PRIORITY IF ELECTED: "The most immediate issue is
selecting a new superintendent who will move the district
forward. Also, I want to find solutions to the fiscal crunch,
including scrutinizing all personnel salaries. I will also look
at ways to improve job satisfaction for all district staff."
HOW TO CONTACT: Phone, 644-1685; e-mail,
Al Hartkopf
HOME: 2405 Uphill Court, Hillsborough
born: June 28, 1957
FAMILY: wife, Kathy, two daughters
EDUCATION: attended East Carolina University
OCCUPATION: Program manager, Nortel Networks
CIVIC ACTIVITIES: Citizens for a Better Way, Citizens for a
Sound Economy, Cornwallis Hills Property Owners Association,
Project Management Institute
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Duke Memorial United Methodist Church
HOBBIES: woodworking, scuba diving
POLITICAL HERO: none listed
LAST BOOK READ: A book by Jesse Helms
WHAT MAKES me BEST QUALIFIED: "The needs of Orange County
resonate with me. I like to think that I am pretty fair-minded,
that I listen to someone no matter what their perspective is."
TOP PRIORITY IF ELECTED: "I want to improve the communication
between the [school] board and the community. I want to create a
forum and a process for teachers to have open and honest
conversations with the board, and work on teacher retention. I
want to drive down class size, improve the way the system
contracts for building and other services, and have greater
accountability for the money the district spends."
Libbie Hough
HOME: 5401 Hough Road, Hillsborough
born: Sept. 28, 1961
FAMILY: Husband, H.B., two daughters
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in religious studies, UNC-Chapel
Hill, 1984; master's degree in social work, UNC-CH, 1988.
OCCUPATION: Public relations and marketing consultant
CIVIC ACTIVITIES: Volunteer, Grady Brown Elementary School,
PTA cultural arts committee, alternative school funding task
force, North Carolina chapter of the Public Relations Society of
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: United Church of Chapel Hill
HOBBIES: gardening, reading, swimming
POLITICAL HERO: George Washington, Martin Luther King, Barbara
LAST BOOK READ: "All Over But the Shoutin'," by Rick Bragg
WHAT MAKES me BEST QUALIFIED: "I am passionate about providing
an excellent education for every child, no matter their ability,
race or income level. I think my volunteer activities in our
schools and the fact that I have been an advocate for the schools
for the last three years proves my commitment."
TOP PRIORITY IF ELECTED: "One is hiring a new superintendent.
I want to work on the third middle school, address the funding
disparities between the two school districts, and work to
incorporate state and federal mandates into the system. I want to
support our faculty and staff by providing a healthy environment
in which to learn and work."
HOW TO CONTACT: Phone, 967-0469; e-mail,
Patrick H. Mulkey
HOME: 8702 Stanford Road, Chapel Hill
born: Dec. 10, 1954
FAMILY: Wife, Robin; one son, twin daughters
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in recreation and parks
administration, N.C. State University, 1980
OCCUPATION: Senior electronics technician, Duke University
CIVIC ACTIVITIES: President, A.L. Stanback Middle School
Athletic Booster Club, Grady Brown Elementary School PTA,
Carrboro Farmers Market board of directors, Orange County Parks
and Recreation Advisory Council
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Cane Creek Baptist Church
HOBBIES: Farming, watching sporting events
POLITICAL HERO: Abraham Lincoln
LAST BOOK READ: "Coach: The Life of Paul 'Bear' Bryant," by
Keith Dunnavant
WHAT MAKES me BEST QUALIFIED: "I think that the things that
make me qualified are the number of community activities I have
been involved with that have allowed me to grow in that aspect.
I've been able to obtain leadership roles in those organizations
through my willingness to be open and to be fair."
TOP PRIORITY IF ELECTED: "I think that we need to work on the
selection of a new superintendent. The funding is another area of
great concern to me. Another concern of importance is how the
board interacts with public. I want to improve that interaction."
HOW TO CONTACT: Phone, 942-3814; e-mail,
Brenda Wilson Stephens
HOME: 5807 Craig Road, Durham
born: Oct. 22, 1952
FAMILY: Husband, Gregory; two sons, one daughter
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in sociology, Winston-Salem State
University, 1974; master's degree in library information science,
N.C. Central University, 1980
OCCUPATION: Director, legal secretary, Hyconeechee Regional
POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Orange County Board of Education, 1998
to present, chairwoman, 2001-02
CIVIC ACTIVITIES: Orange County Partnership for Young
Children, Kiwanis Club of Hillsborough, Orange County READS, N.C.
Public Library Director's Association, Status of Women in
Librarianship, A.L. Stanback PTO, Orange County School Education
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Lipscomb Grove Missionary Baptist
HOBBIES: Baking, family
POLITICAL HERO: Former U.S. Rep. Barbara Jordan
LAST BOOK READ: "Open House," by Elizabeth Berg
WHAT MAKES ME BEST QUALIFIED: "During my tenure on the board,
we have experienced many challenges. We have shouldered
unexpected issues. My bid for another term is a clear promise
that I will maintain priorities established for our school
system. My strength as a member of the board comes from my
commitment to the children of Orange County."
TOP PRIORITY IF ELECTED: "The first business is to address the
selection of the new superintendent. Once a strong candidate for
the position has been identified; the board will begin the
strategic planning process for siting our third middle school. As
always, the strength and safety of our schools and high
achievement are always my action items. Equally as important to
the success of our children is the recruitment and retention of
the country's best and brightest educators."