Chatham Board of Education Candidate Q&A

Board of Education District 1

Melissa Hlavac 
Board of Education, District 1 (incumbent)

Q1: Who are you? 

Chatham County is a large, diverse community comprised of people from a spectrum of cultures, backgrounds and socioeconomic levels. Like some, I’m a first-generation American who spoke only Spanish until learning English at age six in public schools. As the first woman in my family to graduate from college, public school education was my springboard from one socioeconomic level to another. 

Today, I’m Associate Dean at UNC-Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School where I lead MBA administration and strategy. Concurrently, I have the privilege of serving on the Board of Education for Chatham County Schools in which both of my children attend, one in elementary the other in middle school. 

I’ve served on the Chatham Arts Council Board, co-founded an inclusive PreK-5 Arts Exhibit at Fearrington Barn, and have written/awarded grants for children with food insecurity in Chatham County. I’m also a Chatham Education Foundation Ex Officio Board member. 

Q2: Why are you running to be elected or re-elected? 

I’m seeking reelection to continue the momentum that the Board has had over the past five years. We’ve made progress on a plethora of critical issues including educator pay, new schools, achievement gaps via programming and internet access, equity and safety. But we can and need to do more for children and teachers in this county. 

We must acknowledge the power of education to improve the lives of others and the world around us. We have a responsibility to model behavior and be the change students need to see. 

My voice has enabled me to represent a kaleidoscope of stakeholders from varying socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds. 

The culmination of my experiences — background, ethnicity, higher education career, business acumen, active Chatham County Schools parent perspective, tenure on the board of education — contribute collectively to the distinct perspective that I bring to the Board of Education for Chatham County Schools. 

Q3: What will you do for the citizens of Chatham County if you are elected on November 3rd? 

• Pandemic: As we have experienced, global health issues can force immediate hairpin turns in education. It’s imperative that we remain steadfast in our focus to provide quality instruction in a safe environment across various formats to meet the needs of all students. 

• Stakeholder Communication: We need to redirect efforts to more effectively connect with parents, teachers and the community. 

• Achievement Gap and Equity: We must continuously focus on improving student outcomes among all populations via innovative instruction, teacher training, social justice advocacy, and barrier eradication for diverse populations. 

• Teacher pay: While the Board consistently voted unanimously for increased pay, we must remain unwavering in our efforts as teachers are leaving the profession and fewer people are considering a teaching career. 

• Digital Divide: We need to continue to partner with county leaders and communication companies to provide internet services for families without access as this directly affects children and teachers. 

Tim Winters
Board of Education, District 1

Q1: Who are you? 

My name is Tim Winters. I am 43 years old and a 14-year resident of Chatham County. I was born and raised in Northeast Iowa on my family dairy farm. Growing up, my mom and dad taught me the importance of hard work and a good education. Embracing those lessons, I earned my Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineer. 

After college I worked at Ford Motor Company for 5 years and, most recently I’ve worked at Caterpillar for close to 15 years. My work has included time in operations, supply chain, and accounting. My wife Patti and I have been married for 12 years. We are raising two fantastic kids that attend Chatham schools. My children have had a wonderful experience in Chatham schools. The problem is that many kids in our county are not having that same experience. Many of our Chatham kids are struggling academically. 

Q2: Why are you running to be elected or re-elected?

Almost one year ago I read a news article on the Chatham School District’s performance in the latest North Carolina Department of Public Instruction report card. The results were alarming. 

38% of our students were reading below grade level. 37% of our students were performing below grade level in math. 24% of our students were performing below grade level in science. The data on minority students was stunning. 62% of Black students were reading below grade level. 62% were performing below grade level in math. 51% were performing below grade level in science. 

We are failing large groups of students in Chatham Schools, but I believe we can change course. The current school board is not applying enough pressure to our County Commissioners to increase funding for our schools. The good news is, we can increase funding to our schools without increasing taxes on residents and businesses. 

Q3: What will you do for the citizens of Chatham County if you are elected on November 3rd?

Performance: Chatham is a growing county. We can afford to invest more in our students, without raising taxes. We must bias a larger share of future revenue to our schools. We must use these funds to hire more teachers, decrease class sizes, and partner with community groups to reach our struggling students. 

COVID19: The virus is not a hoax. It will be with us in a meaningful way for the next 12-18 months. I will use facts, data, and science to guide my decisions on reopening. I will share the data used to make these decisions. As data improves, I will support the ability of students to return to a form of in person learning. If data changes, I will adjust my approach. 

I will be an independent, non-partisan, voice on the school board. I will improve communication with parents and teachers. I will be a transparent decision maker. 

Ryan Armstrong
Board of Education, District 1

Q1: Who are you?

I am a retired Command Sergeant Major, having served 23 years on active duty. I hold a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and Human Resource Development. I have been married to my wife Amy for 23 years and we have two children Kyler (16) a sophomore at Northwood High School and Layne (13) an eighth grader at Margaret B Pollard Middle School. My family and I moved here from Portland, Oregon and we chose Chatham County as the place that we will raise our kids, as it gives us the same comfort and enjoyments as we had growing up. I am an active member in our community as a youth and high school coach within the district. 

Q2: Why are you running to be elected or re-elected?

I view being a member of the Chatham County Board of Education a position of special trust. One that requires a leader who listens, provides leadership, and makes prompts decisions. I want to ensure parents have the necessary resources to empower their children to not only excel in our current environment, but to make a positive changes that will make an impact now and into the future. I want to ensure that our students with IEPs and 504s are provided the resources that they are entitled.   

Q3: What will you do for the citizens of Chatham County if you are elected on November 3rd?

The citizen of Chatham County will get a School Board member that will be:

  • Visible and reachable 
  • A good listener 
  • An advocate for students, teachers, and parents
  • A Prompt Decision Maker 
  • Transparency within the community

As elected official, it will be my responsibility to listen to the concerns of the community, come prepared to the board meetings in order to advocate for them and act in their best interest. 

Board of Education, District 2

David Hamm
Board of Education, District 2 (incumbent)

Q1: Who are you?

Date/place of birth: February 10, 1956. Greenville SC
Current occupation: Retired CCS educator/ member CCS BOE 


  • 1974 graduate Northwood High School
  • 1978 graduate East Carolina BS Elementary Education/Reading
  • 1979 graduate ECU MA Elem Ed/Reading
  • 1979-1983 first grade teacher Pittsboro Elementary
  • 1982 UNC-CH Administration Degree
  • 1983- 1988 Assistant Principal Siler City Elementary
  • 1986-1988 Part time Youth Minister First Baptist Church Siler City
  • 1988-1994 Principal Bonlee Elementary
  • 1994-2007 Principal Pittsboro Elementary
  • 2008-present CCS Board of Education
  • 2019- present member North Carolina School Board Trust

Wife: Ellen since 1980, retired CCS teacher of 21 years
Daughters: Melissa (testing specialist Alamance County Schools), Catherine (reading teacher for CCS, PES and Moncure), Elizabeth (Instructional Assistant for CCS, PHS), and Allison (Volunteer Coordinator for the Chatham County Council on Aging)
Grandchildren: Sadler (11), Anderson (9), AJ (8), Haley (6), Taylor (4), and Caroline (4 months)

Q2: Why are you running to be elected or re-elected?

Having served on the Chatham County School Board since 2008, a 1974 graduate of Northwood High School and worked in the CCS as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, and principal for my entire career, one can say that I am totally vested in the school system. In fact, my wife and four daughters all graduated from Northwood High School, and at one point in time we were all employed in the school system. Now I have two daughters working with CCS as well as four of our grandchildren attending as students. Yes, CCS has been a big part of my life.

A key component for serving on the school board is to be able to relate and understand the history of where the school system has come from. In order to set your compass for the future, one must have a solid understanding of what you have experienced. Chatham County Schools has evolved from a small rural system to an ever expanding multicultural magnet of various learning opportunities for every child. Allowing each child to explore and find their greatest potential as a student in CCS leads them to become a vibrant contributing citizen.

I am proud to say that as a member of CCS BOE, we provide a rigorous and diverse curriculum from college level classes to various arts programs to an array of career/technical avenues which allows every student to be successful. From the pre-K classes with a true hands-on learning experience to the athletic fields of competition, I have helped families for over four decades achieve their dreams in the Chatham County Schools.

As a current member of the CCS BOE for 12 years, I want to continue our accomplishments in academics, personnel, and community relationships.

Q3: What will you do for the citizens of Chatham County if you are elected on November 3rd?

Attracting certified and competent teachers is the backbone of a successful school system. Successfully retaining the best teachers in Chatham is successful due to positive work environments in all our schools. If you like working where you are, you stay. In our region of 16 school systems, Chatham County Schools ranks 2nd in teacher attrition over the past 3 years. Last year we had teacher attrition at 12 % while the state average was 13.3%. 

Another important factor in retaining teachers is directly affected by the local pay supplement. Based on information that is published on the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction website, Chatham is 7th in the state for teacher supplements and 5th in the region. Our average teacher supplement is $6,481. 

A big thank you goes out to our Chatham County Board of Commissioners in providing the funds necessary to keep us at the top of the supplement pay scale not only in our region, but in the State.

Dennis Lewis
Board of Education, District 2

Q1: Who are you?

I believe in America and what she stands for. I grew up in a small town in West Virginia, graduated from West Point, spent 28 years in the Army, and retired as a Colonel. Since, I have worked with large Defense companies, managed a $100M division. Currently, I consult for the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina and direct the NC Defense Technology Transition Office. I have a MS from Purdue University and National Security Strategy Studies from the US Air Force War College. 

Moreover, I’m a career parent with 3 grown children who attended K-12 schools in NC, five other states, and overseas. They all graduated from NC Universities and went on to earn advanced degrees. These are the perspectives and background that I bring to the board. 

Q2: Why are you running to be elected or re-elected?

Nothing is more fundamental to the future of our children and our country than a solid kindergarten through 12th grade education. Throughout my career, including 3 years of mentoring cadets at West Point, I witnessed how a poor grasp of academic fundamentals and study skills quickly diminished one’s confidence, interest, and ability to succeed. 

Chatham County Schools have received a B- rating overall. Over 50% of our students do not meet math and reading grade levels. We are at a crossroads. We either continue the current course, or we open the aperture, consider new initiatives, and best practices proven successful in other areas of the country. 

Q3: What will you do for the citizens of Chatham County if you are elected on November 3rd?

I will leverage my experiences as an Army Officer, a businessman, and a parent to build on the progress of the past and energize new initiatives to elevate our schools with a clear focus on academic fundamentals, study skills, personal responsibility, and citizenship. 

To accomplish this, I will ask WHY? I will actively solicit and listen to the concerns of parents. I will insist on contingency planning with trigger points, push communication to the parents, and listen again. I will guard against the unending growth of requirements placed on teachers. And will always make paramount the safety of our students and teachers. Let’s not accept B- schools and the status quo. Our children deserve better and so do we. 

Click here to learn about the Chatham County Board of Commissioner candidates.