1. In your view, what are the three most pressing issues facing Orange County schools? If elected, what will you do to address these issues?
There is a panoply of issues facing the school system. Safety and security, Equity, and Student Achievement are three areas of concern for our communities.
Safety and Security of our students and staff and buildings must come first. No child can achieve great things and no teacher can deliver great instruction without first being safe and secure. We, as a community and school system, need to come together and find solutions.
Equity and Student Achievement are closely linked. I believe that in an equitable school system measures of student achievement and success will be more positive. We need to improve how we serve our historically marginalized groups and, in the process, improve how we serve all students.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be an effective Board of Education member? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
I do not back down from speaking up for our students and staff, even when I am outnumbered on the Board. It’s easy just to go along to get along, but that’s not why I want to serve. Speaking up for the right things has put me on an island at times, but I hope that the families that we serve are able to recognize that there is a voice that asks the tough questions on their behalf. I’ve done that throughout contentious times on the Board- whether it was asking for an equity task force early on during the Confederate flag debate or speaking up for people of color when Board members have pushed those concerns aside- I am here to represent the interests of our students and families, not just what is convenient for a specific set of adults.
3. If you are a challenger, what decisions, if any, has the incumbent made that you most disagree with? If you are the incumbent, what in your voting record and experience do you believe entitles you to another term?
I don’t believe that I am entitled to serve on the Board. I believe that it is the voting public that determines who will serve on the Board of Education. Therefore, I am asking each person for a vote. If I have enough votes, then I will be elected to serve. This is a new election, and I’m seeking a term on the Board of Education.
4. Research, including a new report from the NC Justice Center, suggests that North Carolina’s schools are becoming more segregated by race and economic status. What do you think is driving this trend, and do you think this is an issue Orange County schools need to address? Please explain your answer.
5. What effects do you believe the popularity of charter schools is having on the school system? Is it exacerbating segregation or draining resources from neighborhood schools, as some critics contend?
4 & 5. This is a trend that not just the school system, but our legislature needs to address as well. In Orange County, charter schools are a strong driver of segregation; economically, racially, linguistically, et al. There are economic consequences to having two separate and not
system of schools as well.
to charter schools revenue for their students from the public school district. When there are less and fewer monies available to support our special needs students, our community suffers. When there aren’t as many resources to support our English-as-a-second language students, our community suffers. When there are fewer opportunities for the school system to provide basic needs for our students (food, clothing hygiene supplies), our community suffers.
Charter schools do not function under the same requirements as the public schools. In public education, we happily serve all students and all their needs. In Orange County, there are some charter schools that have neither a student transportation system nor an onsite child nutrition department. Families are left to provide for themselves, even though we have all collectively contributed to a system for public education. I know what it’s like to live and learn in segregation: I was a student
our segregated public
system. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now. No family should be made to feel as though they are
citizens because of their economic situation or based on how they look.
6. In the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, what do you think should be done to make schools safer? Do you see preventing such shootings as a “school safety” issue?
I want to keep the local and national dialogue going and open about what we can do to prevent school shootings and to make schools safer. Reason, logic
facts need to rule the day. I hope that we can all agree that keeping our children safe should be our top priority. I’m for school safety, and I’m for doing as much as we can as a Board of Education and a community to promote safety and security in our school system.
7. In a similar vein, do you support the placement of school resource officers in Orange County Schools? If so, what do you think their role should be? If not, what do you propose as an alternative?
I am a strong supporter of having SROs in our schools. It was an SRO who was part of the group that disarmed a school shooter at Orange High School not that long ago in 2006. SRO’s do so much more as well. They provide support in numerous ways to the students and staff at the schools. I think that
vital to our schools’ success.
8. In the most recent data, Orange County Public Schools had a graduation rate of 89.1 percent, a little bit lower than Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools’ rate and considerably better than Durham County’s. What steps can the school board take to ensure that more of its students graduate?
Graduation rate numbers are fine to look at, but they should not be viewed in a vacuum. I want our students graduating with real skills and knowledge to prepare them to be productive citizens. A graduation rate does not represent a literacy rate, nor does it represent that a student is squarely prepared to enter the workforce or college. I want us to do more for our students. The job market and the college market get tougher every day. I want our students and graduates to have knowledge about personal finance, knowledge about our system of government, and what it takes to be a productive citizen in addition to the diploma they have earned. So, yes, I would like to see our graduation rate continue to rise, but I want to see other indicators of success rise with it.
9. According to the most recent data, 47 percent of Orange County Public Schools students receive either free or reduced lunch. In your experience, what are some challenges that economically disadvantaged students, in particular, face day-to-day? What steps can the school board take to help these students?
Educators often point to Piaget’s stages of development and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when it comes to learning. At the core, students must have their basic needs met to learn and grow. It’s an uphill battle to receive good instruction in the classroom if a child doesn’t feel safe. It is difficult to focus and learn when you are hungry. We tacitly acknowledge this as a society and even make light of it (those “hangry” Snickers commercials). But, there is nothing funny about the consequences
being economically disadvantaged. As a Board member, I am proud to have cast the vote to provide universal free breakfast at all our elementary schools. Our students will not start the day hungry, no matter their economic situation at home. We can continue to do more, and we will.
10. Last year, Orange County schools earned seven Bs and five Cs under the state’s scoring system. Do you think the current state grading system is fair and truly reflects school quality?
I don’t think the
system for schools is fair. The assessment on which the grades are based
not fair. The methodologies used in creating the assessments aren’t rooted in equity. Plus, test scores do a great job of telling us how a child performed on one day under a certain set of circumstances. I have raised children in our school systems, and no two days are alike for kids. I have a concern about the increasingly high stakes for testing- for students and teachers. Granted, I want our students to perform well on tests, but test performance shouldn’t be equated to whether you have a good student or a good school. What makes a good school isn’t just a
grade. It’s the leadership, the staff, the students, the parent involvement, the resource allocation, the climate and culture, and the community. Determining what makes a good school is more complicated than what’s within the four corners of a test booklet.
11. What do you think the system could do to keep down suspension rates in Orange County schools?
If we stop suspending as many students, the suspension rate will go down. I know that sounds simple, but sometimes the simplest answer is correct. Who are we suspending and why do we keep suspending them?
12. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some points with voters.
I hope that any stand I take is principled. I’m sure my answers in some of the previous questions won’t sit well with the status quo contingency.