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BOE Profile: Seth P. Hunt Jr.

posted Jun 20, 2017, 5:42 AM by Cheryl Shuffler

Burke County Public Schools’ newest Board of Education member has occupied his seat for six months now and said it didn’t take him long to understand that this board puts students first.

The board appointed Seth P. Hunt Jr. in November to serve out the term of veteran board member Catherine Thomas. Thomas vacated her seat due to growing commitments outside of Burke County that pulled her away from her board duties.

Hunt said of his experience thus far on the board, “It has been more gratifying than I ever thought it would be. I get bored easily intellectually, but the things we deal with as board members hold my attention. It is most enjoyable to be a part of this board. While the board doesn’t agree on everything, every board member is focused on the education of our children.”

Hunt said he sought the vacant seat because of the impact public education had on his young life, and he wanted to make a difference in this generation of students. He said, “Serving on the board is something I really wanted to do, not just to do something nice, but to be a part of something that is good for our kids and Burke County. I wanted to be a part of a group that is making a positive difference in the lives of children.”

                  As a youngster growing up in Wilson County in eastern North Carolina, Hunt was the son of a school principal and teacher assistant. 

“I was an average student,” Hunt said. “I didn’t apply myself as I should have. Now, I want students to understand when they graduate from high school or a community college or university that their education is just beginning. It is so true that education is life long, and if you can master the basics, you can successfully navigate life.”

Hunt graduated from Saratoga Central High School and went on to get a degree in political science from Atlantic Christian College, which is now Barton  College. While his career paths took various turns throughout his life, the one constant has been his servant leadership. Hunt has been a sheriff’s deputy, an EMS dispatcher and a small town mayor. He also spent 15 years as the CEO of state institutions, the majority of which was at Broughton Hospital. He finished out his career as the special executive to the facility director at the J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center. In 2015, the year Hunt retired, the state recognized his years of service with the N.C. Order of the Long Leaf Pine, a prestigious honor the governor awards.

Brougton Hospital brought Hunt to Burke County 23 years ago, and he now thinks of it as home. Hunt’s wife, Scarlett, recently retired as a teacher with Burke County Public Schools and their son, Prior, is a gradate of Patton High School and Appalachian State University and plans to attend law school. Hunt said he and his wife have enjoyed being involved in the community and feel blessed by it. He said, “We have had really good experiences with the school system with our son going through it and my wife working in it. I inherently knew serving on the school board was something that I wanted to be a part of.”

Hunt’s professional experience with education includes overseeing residential schools at the Longleaf Neuro-Medical Treatment Center, the North Carolina School for the Deaf and Broughton Hospital.

Hunt said his time in state government brings him valuable experience as a board of education member. He said, “I am a budget hawk. I believe that if you are going to change things for the better and make an impact, you have to know the system, otherwise you won’t accomplish anything, and you will be left frustrated. I know the bureaucracy of how things work.”

Hunt sees the role of the school board as a buffer between what is handed down from Raleigh into the classroom. His goal is to help find balance between teachers teaching the curriculum that is set for them and giving them the tools they need to do their job. He said, “I feel for teachers and how the pressures of testing and other measurements complicate the curriculum.”

He said, “I don’t want to be a blockade, but a mitigating force so teachers can actually teach. They know their jobs, and I want them to be able to do it. I am proud of our teachers and staff and all they do day in and day out to make our schools work. They provide for our children in an untold number of ways. There is no way to recognize everything they do as they do so much more than we see or hear about. They don’t do it because they want the accolades. They know the effect they are having on kids’ lives, just like the two to three teachers who had an impact on my life as I was growing up.”

Hunt wants teachers to enjoy a good work life balance. He said, “It’s not all about work, and it’s not all about play. You have to work hard, and I appreciate and understand that teachers put in so much time.”

                  Since Hunt joined the school board, he is most excited about being a part of finalizing the plans to build the new Mountain View Elementary School. He said, “I drive by there two to three times a week. It is thrilling to see it come about and to know what it is going to be and to know I’m a part of it.”

Looking ahead, Hunt said he is equally excited about the direction Morganton and Burke County are headed in. “I am looking forward to the growth of our school system overall as Burke County grows. There are exciting things getting ready to burst, and this is an exciting time to live in Burke County.”