Board of Education candidate: Marie Helms
Published 3:17 pm Tuesday, May 3, 2022
Sawgrass Drive, Advance
Husband, Neal Helms; son, Evan, 13;
daughter, Elliana, 11
University of North Dakota, bachelor’s degree
Area Sales Manager and National Field Trainer for CSL Behring
In The Community
• Members, Center Grove Baptist Church
• Served on the Oak Valley HOA board as well as the Oak Valley Swim and Tennis board
• Prior head coach for the Oak Valley Orcas
• With husband, served 2 years on local and county boards for Davie Little League Football
• President, Ellis Middle School Booster Club
• Founder, Empower Davie Youth, to inspire, motivate and empower kids in Davie, host Mission projects that focus on families, students and teachers
• Parent Advisory Committee for the State of NC
• Make a Wish Ambassador for Make a Wish of NWNC
• Parent Liaison for the Carolinas Teachers Alliance in NC, alternative to the NCAE for teachers and parents
• With daughter, run with Ainsley’s Angels where kids and adults with disabilities are our angels who pull us in special strollers in running races
• Advocate for Children with special needs regarding educational and medical needs.
• Volunteer with my kids’ athletic and educational events
Why did you decide to seek public office?
Helms: My daughter Elliana was diagnosed with Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy at 6 months old. I started advocating for her medical and educational needs the day after we received the diagnosis. Through that process I have been immersed in our states policies, standards, curriculums and overall educational and medical processes. I have extensive knowledge in special educational plans for students including IEP’s, and 504’s. I’ve learned the importance of parent involvement and advocacy in the classrooms for both students with disabilities and those without. I also know that not every parent has the capability or means to be an advocate for their students needs all the time. Serving on the Davie County BOE will allow me to be an advocate for our kids, a voice for our parents and a collaborator with our teachers.
These last 2 years have been an incredible challenge for our students and teachers, I believe we owe them a future of minimal challenges and maximum support. I believe it is imperative for BOE member to understand the policies determined by the NC State board of Education, how the NC department of instruction implements those policies and what local BOE’s can enforce and facilitate. I am a doer, I work with a sense of enthusiasm and optimism. I look at the upcoming years as opportunities for student academic growth, teacher empowerment, and community unity. Focusing on academic successes, student achievements, and new opportunities while instilling values of respect, integrity and accountability will be my goals.
What do you think are the most significant challenges facing the school system, and how do you intend to address those challenges?
Helms: I believe one of the most significant challenges currently is the over reach the districts are facing from the state. All students are capable of achieving success, however that success looks different for every student. For years the state has been imposing blanket ideas and mandates on districts from No Child Left Behind, to Every Child Succeeds, to Common Core, to Whole Child, the SEL movement and everything in between. Throughout all that time we have seen no significant improvement in math or reading skills, and combined with the last 2 years of educational disarray our students are struggling and our teachers are exhausted. We are losing accountability in the classroom, letting go of consequences for actions and lessening disciplinary policies. Kids thrive when they have boundaries, when they have goals, when they are motivated, and when they feel they have made people proud. We need teachers to be able to enforce accountability policies and we need parent support. We need club opportunities for kids to be involved with that they are interested in, more music opportunities in elementary schools including strings instruments, and drumlines.We need STEM, foreign language and writing skills at early ages and hands on opportunities for students in all grades. We need teachers to be able to focus on the subjects they are teaching, to collaborate with similar classrooms across the county and develop curriculum plans that can transcend the district and lead to academic growth. Less focus on standardized tests comparing students to each other and more focus on individual student growth. More teacher collaboration and support staff so we can treat kids as individuals and focus on individual needs instead of blanket policies, trainings and mandates.
Our current BOE and county commissioners team has done an amazing job of getting our teachers a supplement that far exceeds any supplement in the past. We need to continue to show our teachers they are valued at the county level and that we will advocate for them at the state level. We need to recognize teachers that are making impact and celebrate them.
There are multiple challenges that our district faces, collaborating with teachers and parents to understand those that are the most crucial to our children’s academic outcomes is key. Students are struggling with emotional issues and learning disabilities more than ever before, teachers need trained support staff and effective policies to get these students into classrooms and therapies where they can thrive. I believe we need open dialogue without fear of retribution to understand the challenges from a district wide perspective and implement ways to turn these challenges into opportunities. My number one focus and goal would be to improve the academic outcomes for students and ultimately prepare them for success once they leave 12th grade, in whichever path they choose: college, trade school, military, independent living. etc. How we improve those outcomes starts with identifying current and future goals, collaborating with teachers and staff to put plans in place, and executing those plans.
What is your perspective on Critical Race Theory? Do you believe there is an issue of Davie teachers promoting American historical events in a biased fashion that distorts the truth?
Helms: CRT is toxic and it violates the constitutional principals of nondiscrimination and equal treatment. I believe every human is born a miracle and should be motivated, inspired and empowered to be as great as they can be. No child should be told they are better than, less than, privileged or oppressed because of the color or their skin or an identity trait. Based on the intersectionality component of CRT it teaches that my daughter is oppressed due to her disability and my son is an oppressor because he is a white, abled body male. My daughter is capable of anything her God given body will allow her to do or be, she has impacted more, accomplished more, and lives with a spirit of hope more than anyone I know. Her brother is her number one supporter encouraging her and paving the road for her every step of the way. Instead of teaching our children to look at each other through a lens of race or any identity trait, lets teach our children to look at each other as humans. No more teaching our children hate and divide, lets teach our children to love others regardless of race, religion, or ability. The success of my daughters education looks much different than my sons, and my sons opportunities should not be diminished in the name of equity to raise the outlook of my daughter. My daughter has her own traits that are capitalized on that my son struggles with. That is the core of my beliefs: Every child is an individual with different abilities and strengths, it is up to us as adults to help students find those strengths and to lift them as high as they can possibly go while celebrating their differences and unique capabilities.
I do not believe there is an “issue” of Davie teachers promoting American Historical Events in a biased fashion that distorts the truth, however I do believe that is has and does happen. The recent standards set by the NC BOE promote teaching History through a bias lens, however it is up to our teachers to implement a curriculum that teaches our children through unbias facts.
Children should learn from the evil in history, celebrate the wins of history, and critically think about how the events of history have led us to the great country we live in today. If there are questions regarding why, or how something is taught parents and students deserve to address the question respectfully with the teacher and/or administration. Davie County Schools has an incredible nondiscrimination policy that states:
“DCS will provide a curriculum that is inclusive rather than divisive, facts versus opinion. We want students to think for themselves and know that regardless of what is being taught about events, dates, people and ideas of the past, that does not define who we are today or dictate our future. We will not adopt materials that misrepresent our history or define one’s worth based on race or culture.”
Helms: My husband and I moved to Davie County in 2007 with one of the contributing reasons being the great school system Davie County had to offer. I am originally from Minot, ND where I spent weekends between our family farm, and the local lake. Respect and integrity where staples we learned early, we were taught the road to success was through discipline, work ethic, big dreams, and not only did everyone in our town know each other but everyone supported each other. We had 1 public High School and were known for our school spirit and academic achievements. I was raised in a family rooted in public education, my mother and father retired with 65 years collectively from the public school system at the administrative levels.
When I moved to Davie County it reminded me of where I was raised and more importantly where I wanted to raise my kids. Supporting children with special needs and/or learning disabilities is a cause I am very passionate about at the district and state levels. I also have a vested interest in public education because, for my daughter Elliana, public schools are currently her only option.
With confidence, I can say that I am a fierce advocate for students and teachers. I believe every child is a gift, is capable, and when motivated and given the opportunity, can accomplish anything they dream. Each child’s potential is different and, as adults, I believe it is our responsibility to inspire, challenge and encourage each child to find that potential. It is my opinion that public education should be rooted in academics, math, reading, science, history, and writing and not influenced by activism or political agendas.
I also adamantly believe that teachers’ roles in public education are the number one driver for our students’ academic success. I believe that teachers should be able to choose, from multiple resources, tools to empower kids of all levels. Teachers should be given the freedom to teach each student to their individual potential, and teachers should be given the autonomy to hold students accountable both academically and behaviorally while in their classroom. They should be respected, they should be accountable for students’ academic success and not students psychological, social emotional, behavioral, political and/or emotional outcomes. I believe support staff for teachers is imperative and they should have ample access to psychologists, behavioral specialists, TA’s and counselors for their students, but teachers should not have to take on these primary roles in addition to being educators. I believe teachers have a true gift of leading our youth academically and can set our kids on a path to greatness when we empower them to do so.
This is why my number 1 priority will be advocating for both children and teachers in Davie County while striving to understand what is happening in education at the state level and how that has to be implemented and will impact our schools at the local level.
I believe a child’s family is the core of a child’s life, the school and community should be a support for the family. By supporting and helping to strengthen families we free up our teachers to be the educators God intended them to be. I believe parents, teachers, support staff and district personnel should be partners working together to advocate for our students while also feeling free to engage in open dialog without fear of retribution. I believe in transparency, and that open communication and constructive conversations are paramount to a successful school district.
My professional background includes: Charlotte Mecklenberg Police Officer, Senior District Manager for USA Today, Director for the YMCA of NWNC, Tyde Swim Coach, Teacher’s Assistant at Mocksville Elementary, and a National Field Trainer/Area Manager for a leading biopharmaceutical company.
I have always had a passion for helping children succeed and would be honored to work with the school board to advocate for and represent the students, teachers, and family’s values in our community. Collaborating to make decisions based on facts, data, and firsthand knowledge about students’ experiences and needs is essential. Having children in the elementary, middle, EC, and AIG programs, I’ve seen firsthand the needs of our students at all levels, and I would be honored to serve Davie County working together to continue the tradition of excellence in education Davie County is known for!
I am grateful for your support and look forward to the future. Please follow my Facebook page, Marie Helms for Davie County School Board, for more info.