It’s a bittersweet undertaking that Susan Miller has accepted in replacing the late Stan Elrod on the ballot for District 2 of the Forsyth County Board of Education.
Elrod died unexpectedly on Oct. 25, after early voting had begun for the Nov. 8 general election. His name remains on the ballot, per state law, with any vote cast for him now going to Miller.
Miller, 68, is a former teacher, instructional facilitator and reading specialist in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
Miller was the only candidate whose name was put into nomination before the county Republican Party executive committee. She was the party’s unanimous choice, elected by acclamation.
“It’s kind of unbelievable that this has all happened ... very bittersweet,” Miller said.
“I grieve for Stan, and I became emotionally hijacked at the beginning of giving my little acceptance speech.”
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Yet, once Miller learned of how Elrod would be replaced on the ballot, she said she had “200% interest” in filling the vacancy.
“I knew I was an excellent candidate and that our values were aligned — being passionate about our students and their families, building relationships and advancing our students,” Miller said.
During the May 17 primary, Miller finished sixth with 6,254 votes in the race for four Republican nominations to the school board. That was 545 votes behind incumbent Lida Calvert Hayes, who finished in fifth, and 1,229 votes behind Steve Wood, the lowest vote-getter among the four to secure nomination.
Miller said her main challenge is reaching out “to constituents who don’t know me or are getting to know me through my (campaign) website, materials and even word of mouth.”
“For the people who know me, they know of my qualifications. I have gotten text messages saying, ‘you’re the perfect replacement.’
“I feel that for those who don’t know me, if they were to sit down with me, they could see I’m just as passionate as Stan was about our students.”
Since the May primary, Miller said she has been active in county Republican Party initiatives.
That includes in particular Republican Women’s activities involving educational literacy rates, recruiting poll observers and serving as a poll observer during early voting for the general election. Miller has had to end poll-observing activities since replacing Elrod.
Miller said those activities helped her move on past the primary loss “rather than just walk away like most defeated primary candidates do.”
Miller said her background “as being in the trenches” in the school system should resonate with voters, as well as bringing another parent’s viewpoint to the board.
She believes her passion for educational literacy is a positive for her campaign.
“Right now, our district reading proficiency rate for third grade is at 39%. I really want to work on improving that, and I believe that would be the focus on the next board regardless of party.”
Miller said Monday she told GOP executive committee that “we need to be vigilant about no Critical Race Theory in the classroom.”
She said she defines that as teaching that defines minority groups as victims and whites as oppressors, and thinks it is unhealthy for both.
The school district has said on multiple occasions that it does not teach Critical Race Theory.
On Tuesday, Miller stressed that “I didn’t see it (CRT) while I was in the classroom. Let me be clear that it is not part of K-12 instruction.”
“But I’ve heard that others have, and I listened. We need to be vigilant to make sure it does not creep into our classrooms. We still can’t pretend that there’s not even a possibility.”
Miller said what she also heard from parents since the May primary is that “the culture and climate of our schools needs to be healthy for our students,” noting the problem of violence in schools.
“(Students) need to feel physically and psychologically safe.”
Miller said during the May primary that she supports options for learning, including: home schooling; public career and technical education, such as the Career Center and Atkins Academy; private or parochial schools; magnet schools; charter schools; online learning; and early college high schools.
“I especially support the innovative financing mechanisms that make options available to all children: education savings accounts, vouchers, and tuition tax credits,” Miller said.
“I want parents to be able to choose the best school for their child. They know what it is and they should have that right.”
Journal reporter Wesley Young contributed to this article.