New GOP candidate for school board

Apr. 26, 2014 @ 05:03 AM

One Lee County Republican has withdrawn from the Lee County Board of Education race, officials confirmed Friday, and another candidate has filed for election in her place.

Christine Curkendall, who announced her candidacy in February and is a new Lee County resident, said she had made the decision to withdraw “for personal reasons” and declined further comment. C. Phillip Helms, a full-time history instructor at Wake Tech Community College and an adjunct instructor at Central Carolina Community College and Vance-Granville Community College, made his candidacy official Wednesday, according to Lee County Board of Elections Director Nancy Kimble.

Helms, a Morganton native who has lived in Sanford for 17 years, is married to Donita Helms and has four children, Elisabeth, Jacob, Noah, and Gracie — all of whom have attended or are attending local public schools. In deciding to run, he said, “I thought it might be time to add another voice to the conversation.”

“I have taught in public and private schools, and getting a teacher’s perspective could add to the discussion, especially in regard to education reforms,” Helms said. 

Lee GOP Chairman Charles Staley said Helms was the unanimous choice of the party’s executive board.

“We all felt he was the most qualified person,” Staley said, noting that Helms is working on a doctorate in education from Liberty University and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from Fayetteville State University. “He’s a professional educator, and we felt like he was the best choice because of his background and because of his education; you can’t ask for a better candidate than that.” 

In a news release about his candidacy, Helms pledges “to bring a more common-sense approach to solving the problems in our school system” and to “work tirelessly with those in our classrooms to improve our public school quality of education.” He said some of his greatest concerns are improving test scores and ensuring school safety.

Among Helms’s goals if elected is to “put some empowerment measures back in place for our teachers, and let them do what they’re qualified and educated to do.” He also aspires to foster better communication and engagement among the school board, administrators, teachers, parents and other community stakeholders. 

“Being in education for over a decade, sometimes the biggest obstacle is just getting people to sit down and have a conversation,” Helms said. “I want to be that facilitator.”

Helms is a volunteer at the Sanford Correctional Center, where has taught on Monday evenings since May of 2007, according to the news release. He also is a minister at First Apostolic Church in Sanford.

In the May 6 primary election, voters will choose which three candidates from among four Democratic hopefuls — Mark Akinosho, Richard Hayes, Ophelia Livingston, Shawn Williams — will advance. Those candidates will face Helms and two other GOP opponents, Sandra Bowen and David Schau, in the November general election.