Five running for two open seats on the Macon County School Board

Macon County School Board photo by Vickie Carpenter

According to the the Macon County Board of Education policy manual, the board consists of five members. Terms are for four years with the terms staggered so that as nearly equal to one-half as possible will expire every two years. Elections are to be held at the time of the November general election in even-numbered years.

Six names appear on the ballot for the nonpartisan position of Macon County School Board member. Two seats are open – one for District 2 and one for District 4. Running in District 2 is Danny Reitmeier, Stephanie Hyder Laseter and Billy Handley. Long time board member Tommy Cabe’s name is also on the ballot even though Cabe passed away last month.

Running in District 4 are incumbent Carol Arnold and Diedre Breeden. Arnold was appointed to replace Fred Goldsmith when he resigned in 2020. 

Danny Reitmeier

Danny Reitmeier

Danny Reitmeier was raised in Franklin with his sister, Beth Corbin and their brother, Chris by their two parents. He was a student athlete and very involved in student government all through his school years.  He graduated Franklin High School, joined the Air Force and served for 8.5 years.  He is a proud veteran, having served in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm. He is married to his wife, Kim, and “we have a wonderful family,” said Reitmeier.  They are “very proud” parents and grandparents.  He am a “born again Christian, saved by the blood of Jesus.”  He is a member of Holly Springs Baptist Church, where he has attended for 28 years.  He has been a Sunday school teacher, sang in the choir, and helped with the church youth group.  He has coached many youth sports teams, and has umpired and refereed in youth leagues for many years.  He has volunteered at many school activities.  He was the equipment manager for the high school football team for many years and is the public address announcer for Macon County Youth Football games.

Diedre Breeden

Diedre Breeden

Diedre Breeden is a wife, mother of three and a follower of Christ. Native to Macon County, I was raised by a family of educators and highly value the role of education and learning in our lives. Pouring back into my own childrens’ education has been second nature to me from the time my oldest entered school. I have been a lifelong member of Cowee Baptist Church, serving in a variety of ways there, as well as within the community. I have a B.A. in Psychology and M.A. in Professional Counseling. Currently I own and operate a private Christian counseling practice in Franklin. In addition to this, my husband, Barry, and I lead Heart for Families, a local non-profit that specializes in bringing Bible based marriage and family resources to our community.

Carol Arnold

Carol Arnold

Carol Arnold is running for the Macon County School Board (District 4 – At Large) seat. She was previously appointed to this position December 2020, upon the resignation of Fred Goldsmith to complete his four-year term. She is asking for support to elect her to another four-year term, to complete projects that are currently in progress. These projects include capital building projects as well as curriculum programs.

She has been “happily married” to Jerry Arnold for 47 years. Educating children, working with parents, and helping fulfill educational dreams have been their life-long mission. They both attended and graduated from Macon County Schools and Western Carolina University. The couple has one son, Jason Arnold, who is currently Chief Assistant District Attorney for the 43rd Prosecutorial District. He also graduated from Franklin High School and UNC-Chapel Hill.

She has 38 years of experience in education including as an elected member the Macon County Board of Education from 1998-2002. 

Education includes Bachelor of Arts in Education; Master of Arts in Education; six-year educational degree; current educational licenses in Early Childhood, Middle Grade, Mentor, Curriculum Specialist, Principal and Superintendent licenses.

Experience includes teacher in Swain County; Macon County teacher (Teacher of the Year 1984); Exceptional Children Director (EC and gifted) Macon County; Central Office Executive Program – UNC Chapel Hill; Ed/Consultant NC Department of Public Instruction – Region 8; Education Mediator – Region 8; Adjunct Professor –  Western Carolina University; Associate Superintendent – Clay County Schools; Contract Consultant – Federal Programs – Macon County Schools.

Stephanie Hyder Laseter

Stephanie Hyder Laseter

Stephanie Hyder Laseter is running for school board District 2.

She is a native Maconian and graduate of Franklin High School.  She is a biologist, volunteers in Franklin athletics clubs and PTO.  She is a wife to Ben, mother to Laurel (10th) and Reid (7th).

Why are you running for school board?

Reitmeier: “My reason for running for School Board is simple….I love our county and the people that live here and want to serve them in the best way possible. Our students deserve the best education and chance to succeed in life.  I have a strong desire to preserve and improve the quality of our school system. It’s time for new ideas, new energy, new personalities, and new ways of looking at things.

“I am a ‘people person’….I’ve never met a stranger.  I truly care about people.  I believe those character traits will help me connect with the citizens in our county and earn the trust necessary to move our school system forward. All of our citizens, teachers, administrators and support staff deserve someone to truly listen to them, be transparent and speak on their behalf.  I would be that voice.”

Breeden: “I am running because I have a desire to serve and believe I can make a difference. I am a parent of children currently in the school system so I have insight to current issues and my professional background gives me a perspective I believe would be an asset to the board. I can bring new thoughts and ideas to discussions, which is important to our community finding ways to move forward and giving our students the best possible start after high school, in whatever path they may choose.” 

Arnold: “Franklin High School is deteriorating. Fred Goldsmith left me a responsibility to see a new high school completed. This accompanied by increased parental involvement in all areas, academics promoted in all subjects, safe schools, and Pre-K classrooms in all elementary schools. Our county’s parents deserve no less.”

Laseter: I have a passion for public education, for supporting our schools ( which directly impact our community) and teachers.

What do you think the role of a school board member is?

Reitmeier: “Provide every child with the opportunity to receive a “sound basic education.” Set educational policy within the limits of its authority and overseeing the implementation of its policies and the state’s educational program.  Make decisions about the superintendent’s personnel recommendations.  Manage the budget wisely.  Provide adequate school facilities.”

Breeden: “The purpose of the school board is to promote the success of our students, but this is multifaceted and requires addressing the whole child, which includes supporting their families, finding ways to bring balance to their lives within the academic realm, all while setting them up for future success.”

Arnold: “School board members help build public support and understanding of public education, lead the public in demanding a quality education for all students, and oversee policy and budget. Board members should continually keep abreast of requirements/statutes of school law, finance, physical plant, personnel, curriculum, etc.”

Laseter: “It’s not what I think the role is- it is by definition to provide support to the staff of Macon County schools, an excellent learning environment for students and teaching environment for teachers.”

Do you support parental/community involvement in schools? Explain why or why not.

Reitmeier: “I absolutely support their involvement in our school system! The parents know their children better than anybody else.  Their input and insight would be invaluable when deciding how to provide the best education and resources for our students. The community should be involved as well because they pay taxes that are used to operate the school system budget.  It would  be a good way to ensure transparency with our citizens.”

Breeden: “I believe it is essential. I am a parent of three, and strongly believe in parents having input and choice in their child’s education, which will only become more important over the next few years. In speaking to the parents out there, I will always do my best to listen, that is my career after all, and am passionate about bringing change wherever needed to promote the success of our students who are our future.”

Arnold: “Parent engagement in schools is a shared responsibility between parents and school staff. They work together to support and improve the learning, development, and health of children. Parent engagement is one of the most important components of having a successful school program. I fully support parent/community involvement in all schools.”

Laseter: “100%. Several years ago I felt that parents weren’t as informed as they should be on important issues.  I co-created a social media platform to help with this: Macon Co Support Our Schools can be found on Facebook.

“Parents and guardians have to be engaged in their child’s classroom.  Community members can volunteer, mentor, assist with after school programs or drive buses.  This only strengthens the community.”

What do you see as the greatest challenge to improving Macon County Schools?

Reitmeier: “Personally, like life, everything is a challenge to a certain degree. Some challenges are greater than others, but when it comes to our schools and children, they are all equally important to me.  Advocating for current and future facility needs and understanding the expenses and ramifications to our community is important. Wading through the curriculum and trying to figure out how to better prepare our youth for the real world is important. Involving everyone in our community and making sure their voices are heard is important. Getting as much feedback and input from the teachers, administrators and support staff is important!  The greatest challenge to me in regards to the current school system is to keep everything balanced equally because they’re all important to me. Not just as a candidate, but also as a father and grandfather. There’s not a singular item in mind that trumps one over the other. Everything is important and challenging in regards to our children because we only have one chance to set an example and prepare them to excel in this world. If you’re looking for a candidate that is singular on one issue, then that’s not me. If you are looking for a candidate that prioritizes everything equally with our children in mind, then vote Danny Reitmeier for school board.”

Breeden: “Mental health is one of the greatest challenges described to me in multiple recent conversations with school administration and employees I have been able to connect with during this process. Over the last few years we have seen a significant rise in mental and behavioral health issues within our students and families.  Every school in our county has expressed to me the need for adequate mental health support within the school system. 

“We also have some significant infrastructure needs across the county, like the new Franklin High school, for example, which need to continue to be a priority. Above all, the ongoing need to prioritize student success, which encompasses so much; protecting the learning environment, supporting teachers, promoting parent involvement and a continued emphasis on growth of opportunities for our future.”

Arnold: “The greatest challenge facing Macon County schools is to continue our path toward ‘excellence’ in all areas. Working in tandem with our county commissioners, county manager, all communities, and parents will ensure safe, modern facilities and effective programs. Our goal for all students is to learn how to communicate effectively, compute efficiently, and develop scientific literacy. These required components set the the foundation for ‘student success.’”

Laseter: “Aging infrastructure.  We’ve put this off for years and now the bill is coming due.  The reality is we have to replace, improve, and maintain our schools.  For far too long we’ve argued about the cost and then kicked the can down the road.

“It’s time we addressed the issues, without cutting corners.”

Candidate for District 2 Billy Handley had not responded as of presstime.