Name as it appears on the ballot: Bill Fletcher
Full legal name, if different: William Utley Fletcher
Date of birth: April 20, 1949
Campaign website: BillFletcher4SchoolBoard.com
Occupation & employer: Realtor at Keller Williams Realty Cary
1. What do you see as the most important issues facing the Wake County school system? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
The most important issue facing the Wake system is rebuilding public support for the public schools. We do this by demonstrating increasing academic rigor and student success.
1. By demonstrating that our students are being prepared for success at the next level… being career and/or college ready.
2. By assuring that every child learns to read well.
3. By being vigilant stewards of the public purse and assuring that every resource is invested to prepare students for future success.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you’ve identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.
When I served on the Board in the past, we focused on academic achievement… that 95% of children in grades 3 through 8 would be reading and doing math at or above grade level. We reached 91.3% and dramatically closed achievement gaps between different types of students. For children living in poverty, 89% reached grade level. And while bringing low performers up to minimum standards, a greater number of students achieved at the highest levels on state tests. We can and must do this for today’s students!
3. Indy Week’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle and North Carolina. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.
Assuring that each child learns to read well will provide all students with a significantly greater opportunity for success in school and life.
4. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
The research is clear that it is extremely difficult for students in high poverty schools to excel. Students living in poverty need additional time and attention from our teachers. A teacher with six to eight high needs children is much more effective at meeting student needs than is a teacher with 20 or more high needs students in their classroom. Student assignment plans must embrace this teacher-effectiveness factor while effectively utilizing building capacity and providing student stability and family proximity.
5. If these issues haven’t been addressed above, would you please comment on:
a. Do you support or oppose the 2013 bond issue for Wake schools that is on the October ballot?
Yes I support passage of the bond issue.
Do you think the $810 million bond is adequate to meet school construction needs for the foreseeable future? Is it more than is needed? Or is it not enough, which would necessitate another bond within 2-3 years?
$810 million in construction will maintain current levels of crowding and disrepair. There is strong evidence, even with the conservative estimate of student growth, that another major building program will be needed by 2016.
b. Annual spending for the Wake schools has dropped below $8,000 per student, which is less than the state average, about $500 less than in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and $5,000 less than in Fairfax County, VAwith which Wake is often compared. In light of this, should the Wake school board be asking for more money from the Wake County Commissioners? If so, how much?
The Board of Education needs to re-engage the community in building a new vision for what the community expects of our public schools. This shared vision will become the instrument that defines the need for additional funding. Any request for funding to the County Commission must be supported with well defined and targeted outcomes, time frames and metrics. Any funding request will be to accomplish specific goals, not just for a general funding increase. The amount will be determined by the defined goals and County politics. One specific area of need is to increase teacher compensation. An average of $100 increase per teacher per month in local supplement is an additional $10 million expense and would require a one cent increase in property taxes. Politically, broad community support will be necessary to significantly increase local funding.
c. As a school board member, what steps would be recommend, if any, to better support our teachers? Ideas might include pay supplements? Hiring more teacher assistants? Adding professional development programs? Or others?
Our teachers do a fantastic job managing all of the stuff we ask them to do. Our first obligation is to reduce the non-instructional demands and allow them more time to teach. We need to provide effective and targeted professional development based on what teachers say they need to be successful with their students. Teachers need more time for reflection and “sharpening the saw”. And we must take every opportunity to show appreciation for the work they do. The continuing work to retool discipline policies and keep the focus on learning and teaching will also help.
d. What programs or policies would you recommend to improve students’ performance and raise Wake’s high school graduation rate, which last year slipped below the state average?
Every child reading well. Rigor, relevance, relationships through all grade levels. When students connect their goals with what they are asked to learn, achievement will go up.
e. In pursuit of school safety and discipline, the Wake school system has tried zero-tolerance policies, resulting in high out-of-school suspension rates, and spent heavily on paid security officers with arrest powers. Now, some advocate letting armed volunteers help in the schools? What’s your view of school safety needs and how to achieve them?
The safety of all students is our Number 1 priority. An effective system of behavior expectations supported by clear policies and measured, appropriate interventions is necessary. The body of Wake’s student behavior policies is under review with the goal of keeping students in learning environments and minimizing system-initiated absences/suspensions. As part of this transition, the System is implementing an instructional and student support system called RtI or Responsiveness to Instruction. Teachers and administrators will first ask whether the behavior issue is a function of instruction and how might different instructional strategies change the student response. Only after exploring how to better engage the individual student through new strategies in the regular classroom will alternatives be considered. This approach also supports the new 3Rs rigor, relevance and relationships. Students learn from teachers with whom they have positive relationships and when they see the rigorous curriculum as relevant to their lives.
We do not need nor should we allow anyone other than sworn law enforcement officers to bring firearms on campus.
f. Diversity in school populations has been a controversial subject in Wake County for years. Do you support or oppose a policy to assure that every school has a diverse student body in terms of family income? Do you support or oppose a numerical goal such as the former one of no school with more than 40 percent of students eligible for the free and reduced lunch program?
We live in a diverse community and our schools should reflect that. Students who learn in a diverse environment will be better prepared for real world careers provided they are challenged with rigorous course work and high expectations for academic progress. The educational issue is how we best utilize our great teachers to meet the needs of all children. Sometimes moving children to a teacher with “additional capacity” may create a better educational option than moving a teacher to the children.
g. Related to diversity, the magnet school program is much debated. Some think every school should have comparable curricular offerings, even if it curbs the magnets’ special attractiveness. On the other hand, application rates to the magnet schools are on the decline, suggesting they’ve been weakened too much. What’s your view?
Wake operates a system of schools with diverse course offerings available across the system. Providing exceptionally unique programs in some schools is appropriate as the system continues to utilize every available educational building including many in areas with low student populations. Magnet applications are still 200% of the available seats and that is healthy. Every school must provide a high quality educational experience but not every school must offer the same experience.
h. Wake is experimenting with all-male and all-female academies. Is this a good idea? Should it be expanded?
The single-gender academics have been well received and are an appropriate setting for some students and their families. Students find it easier to focus on academics without the presence of the opposite gender. These appear to be good program options and should have systematic review & evaluation prior to any discussion on expansion.
i. With state policies favoring more charter schools, should the Wake school system have its own charter schools? Why or why not? And if your answer is yes, how should they be governed?
At one time Wake petitioned the state to become a Charter District. Yes, Wake should be in the charter school business. Let charters sponsored by a school district operate under the same rules as other charters.
A bigger threat to public schools is the idea of vouchers. A voucher by any other name such as “opportunity scholarship” is the transfer of state tax revenues to an individual for use in an alternative educational setting. Two problems: the lack of accountability for how your taxes are spent and no accountability for whether the child is actually educated to at least state minimum standards. There is no accountability… no standardized tests, no fiscal review of finances by the state, no assurance that the services mandated by the state and federal government are being provided.
Both charter school and voucher-supported students face the threat of “being sent back to his public school” for poor attendance, excessive tardiness, poor student behavior, or weak academic performance. The threat is always there “If you don’t do (fill in the blank) you’ll have to go back to your public school!” What leverage does the public school have?