State railroad funding chugs toward Surry

Editor’s Note: The Mount Airy News posed the same three questions to local school board candidates running in the May 17 primary. On Saturday, we published the responses from the District 3 Surry County Board of Education candidates in print and online. On Sunday, we published the responses from the District 4 online and in print on Tuesday.

T.J. Bledsoe

T.J. Bledsoe is a lifelong Surry County resident who lives in Dobson with his wife Amanda and their 10-year-old daughter, Ceily. As a family they spend most of their time outdoors on the farm or with their daughter showing livestock competitively.

He graduated from Surry Central High in 1999 and after attending Surry Community College started a landscaping business. He then went into the insurance and financial services industry with his father, Tim Bledsoe. Presently he Vice President, Commercial Loan Officer with LifeStore Bank.

He has served on various boards including the United Fund of Surry, Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce, Greater Mt. Airy Habitat for Humanity, Elkin Main Street Advisory Board, Surry Community College Knights Athletic Board, SCA School Board, The Collaborative, and in June will assume a board position with the Yadkin Valley United Fund.

“I have coached multiple little league football and basketball teams, T-Ball, and Upward Sports Basketball. As a family we attend Salem Baptist Church in Dobson. My wife has taught in the Surry County School System her entire career and is currently in her 22nd year at Meadowview Magnet Middle. Being the husband of public-school teacher, along with my business background I believe positions me to be an asset to the children, staff, and citizens of Surry County on our local school board,” he wrote.

Question: What role should parents have in choosing curriculum for their child? What role should the Department of Public Instruction have?

Bledsoe: The system is designed as to allow professionals on a local level to dissect and implement curriculum in which they are educated and trained. Much as I would not allow someone who hasn’t had medical training to give me healthcare advice, I would not want an entire curriculum chosen by someone who isn’t an educational professional.

However, this should always be fully transparent and readily available to discuss with the public upon request and before implementing. The local school board should always have ethical and responsible professionals in place to be the gatekeepers for any negative curriculum in which may make its way down from the DPI. While we can’t stop what may be recommended by either state or federal officials, we should elect school board officials who will assure there are both staff in place to safeguard against negative curriculum, as well as be fully transparent and receptive to parental input.

This is the job of a school board and why it is so imperative we elect strong and ethical school board members who have no agenda, are not focused on one issue, and are unwaveringly ethical in their decision making. We should also never forget as school board members that we work for the citizens of Surry County and are entrusted with our society’s most valuable possession, our children.

Question: Should school board members be partisan elected officials?

Bledsoe: If you would have asked me this question 15 years ago, I would have said no. Partisan politics should not play a part of the school board election process. Fast forward to our current national climate and I am supportive of our current processes. Should politics play a role in the decision making, no. However, if you believe in a party enough to be registered with them and agree with their stances on certain issues I do not see as there should be a reason to not disclose said party.

Your political registration does not define you as a person, but it does tell as to how you may vote on large issues we are going to be faced with soon. This is not to mean that if you are a member of a different party, you are automatically a bad person, and I believe that is a large problem not only in our county but in our nation.

Our political landscape has changed dramatically over the last 15 years, and we have gotten away from civil discussions and realizing we are all human beings no matter our politics. I believe if you look at the current unaffiliated voters in our county you will find their respective parties have gone too far in either direction for their personal beliefs and now, they are “without a party.”

Question: The K-12 plus four years of college plan does not seem to be the path some students want to take anymore. As a potential school board member how does that strike you?

Bledsoe: This has been something I have spoken on many times recently. Not all children either want to or should attend a four-year university. Our educational systems have sold a false narrative to our children for decades and have conditioned society to think you must have a four-year degree to be successful. We have sold the lie that you are looked down on in society and you aren’t as important if you learn a skilled trade versus attending college. This is wrong. Look at the age of the average tradesman or tradeswoman.

I am proud to see a focus back on career and technical programs in our schools but would encourage more as well as agriculture related curriculum. In my opinion it should be normalized and celebrated when a young person graduates high school, obtains training in a trade, and begins working to become a productive member of society in many instances debt free. I do not say this to minimize the importance of an advanced degree in certain fields or career paths. A path that includes college and a degree in a specialized field should be celebrated just as well. To be a successful society we need teachers, doctors, lawyers, etc. In the same regard and just as importantly we need skilled trades people such as mechanics, plumbers, and electricians.

Donna McLamb

Donna McLamb from Dobson is running for the district four school board seat for Surry County. This was her response to the Mount Airy News questions:

“My name is Donna McLamb. First of all, I would like to say I am a child of God and I believe in Jesus Christ. I have served Surry County as a veterinarian since 1993. I reside in Dobson where my husband and I have raised three children. Our children were educated in the Surry County Schools. Our eldest serves as a Mount Airy policeman. Our second child works with his dad in construction. Our third child is also a veterinarian. We have three grandchildren. I feel I was called to serve on Surry County School Board. I have a lot to learn but I am excited to do so if elected.”

Jimmy Yokeley

Jimmy Yokeley describes himself as “a born again Christian man” who resides with his wife Jan in Dobson. They attend Salem Baptist Church. They are the parents of three adult children, two daughters and a son, as well as a son-in-law and soon to be daughter-in-law. “We are equally blessed to have five healthy grandchildren, four granddaughters and one grandson ranging in age from 13 years old to 18 months. Our middle daughter lives in Surry County with her two children/our two granddaughters who attend SCS.”

“Jan and I are native North Carolinians, with both the Yokeley and Rogers families having long, deep rooted origins in Surry County…dating back to the early/mid 1800s,” he said.

He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Belk College of Business with a bachelor’s in business administration.

Work accomplishments consist of a 40-year career, both in the private and public sectors, in the global supply-chain and logistics and economic development industries. A majority of his work has been spent in senior and executive leadership. He is the “Founder/CEO of Logistics Advantage, LLC with headquarters in Wilmington… which is a partner company with a highly successful North Carolina founded and headquartered company in Emerald Isle…TransImpact, LLC.”

“In summary, I am a Christian, constitutional conservative and a businessman who felt God’s calling to pursue a leadership role with our school board, with the goal to vastly improve the educational performance of our school children, re-claim and ensure parental rights, returning our local school board to the rule of law, godly principles and values, and help create and sustain a much needed and strongest collaboration between our parents, students, teachers, administrators and school board members.”

Question: What role should parents have in choosing curriculum for their child? What role should the Department of Public Instruction have?

Yokeley: How can our Surry County Schools, and our NCDPI, help produce top performing, globally competitive students unless we have parents sitting at the same curriculum topic table? I firmly believe that choosing the best performing curriculum for our school children must be a collaborative consortium of authority between parents, students, educators (teachers and administrators) and private sector business leaders.

This process should be carried out jointly and collaboratively between local NC county/municipal and state levels only, that includes the previous named stakeholders. Our U.S. Constitution did not grant authority over education to the federal government, thereby leaving the authority of education to the states, of which our North Carolina county/municipal governments are a critical part.

An excellent example of why I am (a) strong advocate of the above is the widely determined failure of the Common Core Curriculum that was pushed upon our NCDPI and adopted in June 2010. Our state has disastrously held onto up to its current form which began to change in 2017 and federally incentivized with our tax dollars. NC public school student performance in math and reading skills has continued to drop steadily since its introduction. The U.S. as a whole spends more money on education than any other country in the world, yet our failing educational curriculum is producing student performance that is “middle of the road” at best on a global comparison. Let’s stop wasting our citizens hard earned money and tax dollars and invest in a proven, high performing public education curriculum that all NC citizens can be proud of. They do exist today for us to implement.

Question: Should school board members be partisan elected officials?

Yokeley: Yes, our local county/municipal school board members should be partisan elected officials. And, as long as we have a state board of education, those members also should be partisan elected officials. Our constitutional republic form of government insist on “we the people” to elect those who we entrust and hold accountable to represent our God-given rights, values and beliefs, at every level of government. Not to be handpicked by others we have elected to our state legislative, judicial and executive branches.

Question: The K-12 plus four years of college plan does not seem to be the path some students want to take anymore. As a potential school board member how does that strike you?

Yokeley: If blessed to be elected to the school board, I think it is very important to ensure the best educational solutions to our diverse group of students. One size never has fit all, so why should one educational path be the only one leading to a fulfilling career and life?

At the same time, not every SCS high school graduate and their family can afford the cost of a four-year college education. Every child in Surry County and NC minimally deserves a globally competitive K-12 education that affords them an opportunity to earn a legitimate living wage.

From there, I am a firm believer in a strong working partnership with our Surry Community College and NC Community College System, the best in the country in my opinion, for a globally competitive K-12+2 path for our students who want more financial rewards and career opportunities in a specific certified skill/trade or, need more time to better prepare to pursue a four-year college degree.

My wife’s educational path is a great example of all of the above, along with so many of our SCS children past, present, and future.


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