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Emma Saunders

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Emma Saunders
Emma Saunders.jpg
Former candidate for
Board member, New Hanover County Board of Education, At-large
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 4, 2014
Term limitsN/A
Bachelor'sFlorida A&M University
Master'sFayetteville State University
ProfessionRetired teacher
Campaign website
Emma Saunders campaign logo
Emma Saunders was a Democratic candidate for an at-large seat on the New Hanover County Board of Education in North Carolina. She ran on the Elect Red4Ed slate with fellow Democratic candidates Tom Gale and Chris Meek against four Republican candidates in the general election on November 4, 2014. Saunders and her fellow Democratic candidates were all defeated in the general election.


Saunders earned her bachelor's degree in childhood education and elementary education from Florida A&M University. She later earned a master's degree in elementary education from Fayetteville State University. Saunders was a teacher and administrator with the district for three decades prior to her retirement. She has three children who have attended district schools.[1]



See also: New Hanover County Schools elections (2014)


Emma Saunders and fellow Democratic candidates Tom Gale and Chris Meek sought election to the board as a slate in the general election on November 4, 2014. They faced Republican candidates Janice Cavenaugh, Don Hayes, Ed Higgins and Bruce Shell.


New Hanover County Schools, At-Large General Election, 4-year term, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngJanice Cavenaugh Incumbent 16.1% 34,666
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngBruce Shell 15.4% 33,275
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngDon Hayes Incumbent 14.6% 31,540
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngEd Higgins Incumbent 14.2% 30,700
     Democratic Emma Saunders 13.9% 30,101
     Democratic Tom Gale 13% 28,159
     Democratic Chris Meek 12.7% 27,524
Total Votes 215,965
Source: North Carolina Board of Elections, "2014 General Election Results," accessed December 30, 2014


Saunders had not reported any contributions or expenditures to the North Carolina State Board of Elections as of October 23, 2014.[2]


Saunders had not received any official endorsements as of April 29, 2014.


Saunders placed last in the race for three board seats on November 6, 2012.

New Hanover County Schools, At-large General Election, 4-year term, November 6, 2012
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngLisa B. Estep 18.1% 50,820
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngTammy Covil 17.6% 49,217
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngJeannette S. Nichols 17.5% 49,135
     Democratic Elizabeth Redenbaugh 16.8% 47,079
     Democratic Karen Clay Beatty 15.2% 42,613
     Democratic Emma Saunders 14.7% 41,211
Total Votes 280,075
Source: North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Contest: NEW HANOVER COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION," accessed April 29, 2014

Campaign themes


Saunders provided the following statement on her campaign website:

Pre-K Education – Early Intervention

In an all-inclusive Pre-K program, students will be provided the basic foundations to be successful life long learners.

Rebuilding Trust between the Board and Teachers

Research shows that teachers have the greatest impact on the success of a child in school. Teachers have been under attack from both the federal and state governments. The New Hanover County Board of Education should support all those involved in the education of our county’s most precious resource: Our Children.

Creating 21st Century Citizens

Our students should be innovators in the 21st Century. We must prepare them for this endeavor through a rigorous curriculum that challenges their abilities on multiple levels.[3]

—Emma Saunders's campaign website, (2014), [4]

What was at stake?

Issues in the election

AP U.S. History course

In August 19, 2014, the New Hanover County Board of Education passed a resolution requesting that the State Superintendent, June Atkinson, and the North Carolina State Board of Education ask the College Board delay the implementation of its new Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. history course. It also called for the North Carolina Legislature to investigate the changes made to the curriculum of the course citing concerns that the updated course would fail to meet state standards for U.S. history education.[5]

Board members opposed the new AP curriculum saying that it failed to meet the requirements of a state law regarding history education. North Carolina requires high school students to take a semester of American history focused on "founding principles." This requirement was established by Session Law 273 in 2011. The law requires the course to include at least the following:

a. The Creator-endowed inalienable rights of the people.
b. Structure of government, separation of powers with checks and balances.
c. Frequent and free elections in a representative government.
d. Rule of law.
e. Equal justice under the law.
f. Private property rights.
g. Federalism.
h. Due process.
i. Individual rights as set forth in the Bill of Rights.
j. Individual responsibility.[3]

—North Carolina Session Law 2011-273, (2011), [6]

Don Hayes (R) stated that the new course had a "bizarre focus" on America's foundation. He state, "I just think it's not a fair view of American history, the history of this country, and other board member share that same sentiment." He went on, saying, "I think that unfortunately you have in this country people who are not proud of the history of this country. They want to turn things around, and to me it’s very concerning. That's why we as a board have taken the steps we're taking."[7]

Lindalyn Kakadelis, director of education outreach for the John Locke Foundation, was outspoken on the issue in the district. He criticized the College Board's power to affect course curriculum saying, "Do we want an outside force we can’t control? Is that the direction the state wants to go?"[7] The John Locke Foundation is a member of the State Policy Network.[8]

The board followed up the resolution by sending letters to the parents of students who had enrolled in the course to inform them of their concerns and allowed those students the option to transfer to another course. As of October 4, 2014, only eight students had dropped the course. The district does not keep records of why students drop courses, so it is unclear if any of the decisions were influenced by the letter.[7][9]

Candidate Chris Meek (D) provided the following statement criticizing the board discussion of the issue on his campaign website:

At a recent board meeting, the US History AP course was debated. Locally taught Advanced Placement (AP) courses are elective courses. Most students who take AP courses are usually advanced learners who can discern fact from opinion. How do we encourage active participation in our society if we do not give our students the trust to make value judgments in the safety of a classroom where their mistakes will not adversely effect their future. Remember, while the course may culminate in an optional test, the course itself is weighted and students who choose to opt out of the test, as my daughter had done in other AP courses, they will still get the earned grade which counts towards their GPA.

The most disturbing part of the debate was the lack of trust in the teachers, the experts in the subject, to present a balanced curriculum to the students. Even with suggestions of prerequisites or local additions to the curriculum, the current board questioned the integrity of the teachers who teach the course. Current policy requires teachers to give both sides to a controversial topic, it does not restrict them from teaching them. Teachers should be given some latitude in choosing appropriate material and when issues arise deal with them on an individual basis rather than condemn the whole as incapable of appropriately practicing their profession.

A historian once said “History is a dirty subject. We don’t always like what we have to teach, but to teach it accurately, we have to include the ugly with the glory as well.” I interpreted this as we have to present all sides of a story to get an accurate portrayal of what really happened in our past. When we take academic freedom out of the classroom, when we direct a curriculum be taught in a specific manner, we are doing exactly what NHCS Board Policy 7180 Directive 3 intends to avoid. We are indoctrinating and not educating.

Teaching critical thinking skills in a historical context directly contradicts the idea of indoctrination in the classroom. We need this to continue to be free democratic society. This is what the US History AP Course should do if taught by the experts who understand the material and how to present it.[3]

Chris Meek's campaign website, (2014), [10]

April 17 candidate forum

All five candidates in the Republican primary participated in an April 17, 2014, forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Lower Cape Fear. The candidates reached consensus on several issues including the need to reverse a 2013 state budget provision that eliminated starting pay increases of 10 percent for new teachers with master's degrees. Jim Brumit supported repeal of the provision but stated that the pay increase should be smaller. There was also unanimous support for allowing greater school choice for parents but opposition to publicly funded vouchers for students at charters and private schools in New Hanover County was also voiced. Don Hayes expressed concerns about the lack of accountability for charter schools as well as the negative effects of preferential treatment for charters.[11]

About the district

See also: New Hanover County Schools, North Carolina
New Hanover County Schools is located in New Hanover County, North Carolina
New Hanover County Schools is located in Wilmington, the county seat of New Hanover County, North Carolina. According to the United States Census Bureau, New Hanover County is home to 213,267 residents.[12] New Hanover County Schools is the 12th-largest school district in North Carolina, serving 25,131 students during the 2011-2012 school year.[13]


New Hanover County outperformed the rest of North Carolina in terms of higher education achievement in 2012. The United States Census Bureau found that 36.6 percent of New Hanover County residents aged 25 years and older had attained a bachelor's degree compared to 26.8 percent for North Carolina as a whole. The median household income in New Hanover County was $50,420 compared to $46,450 for the state of North Carolina. The poverty rate in New Hanover County was 16.0 percent compared to 16.8 percent for the entire state.[12]

Racial Demographics, 2012[12]
Race New Hanover County (%) North Carolina (%)
White 81.4 71.9
Black or African American 14.6 22.0
American Indian and Alaska Native 0.6 1.5
Asian 1.4 2.5
Two or More Races 1.9 2.0
Hispanic or Latino 5.4 8.7

Presidential votes, 2000-2012[14]
Year Democratic vote (%) Republican vote (%)
2012 46.9 51.5
2008 48.8 50.2
2004 43.7 55.8
2000 44.0 55.0

Note: The United States Census Bureau considers "Hispanic or Latino" to be a place of origin, not a race. Therefore, the Census allows citizens to report both their race and that they are from a "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin simultaneously. As a result, the percentages in each column of the racial demographics table will exceed 100 percent. Each column will add up to 100 percent after removing the "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin percentages, although rounding by the Census Bureau may make the total one or two tenths off from being exactly 100 percent.[15] This Ballotpedia page provides a more detailed explanation of how the Census Bureau handles race and ethnicity in its surveys.

Recent news

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See also

External links

Suggest a link


  1. Michelle Sexton, Lumina News, "Primary 2012: New Hanover County Board of Education Candidate Profiles," April 11, 2012
  2. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "NC Campaign Report Search By Entity," accessed October 23, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  4. Elect Emma Saunders New Hanover County Board of Education, "Issues," accessed October 23, 2014
  5. New Hanover County Schools, "Resolution Requesting the NC State Board of Education Demand a Delay, and Rewrite, of the Advanced Placement U.S. History Curriculum Framework," accessed October 23, 2014
  6. General Assembly of North Carolina, "Session 2011: Session Law 2011-273, House Bill 588," June 23, 2011
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Elephant Strong, "New Hanover County School board raises concerns over liberal revisionist AP History course," August 26, 2014
  8. State Policy Network, "Directory: North Carolina," accessed October 23, 2014
  9. School Board's letter regarding AP History makes little impact," October 4, 2014
  10. Elect Chris Meek: New Hanover County Board of Education, "What is Advanced Placement and Why We Teach It," August 20, 2014
  11. Lumina News, "Candidates weigh in on county issues," April 23, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 United States Census Bureau, "New Hanover County, North Carolina," accessed April 29, 2014
  13. National Center for Education Statistics, "ELSI Table Generator," accessed April 29, 2014
  14. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Election Results," accessed April 29, 2014
  15. United States Census Bureau, "Frequently Asked Questions," accessed April 21, 2014