Name as it appears on the ballot: Monika Johnson-Hostler
Party affiliation: D
Campaign website: monikaforschools.com
Occupation & employer: NC Coalition Against Sexual Assault
1. What do you believe are the three most important issues facing the Board of Education? What are your priorities for addressing these issues?
For too long, North Carolina’s elected leaders have willfully underfunded schools for the state’s most vulnerable students. Leandro set forth the priorities to achieve this goal by requesting fair, equitable and adequate funding for all schools. Funding is needed to meet the goal of delivering a sound basic education for all children. I have discussed the impact of underfunding public schools therefore, after funding, if limited to three, I would focus on the following (from Leandro):
● Providing a qualified, well-prepared, and diverse teaching staff in every school along with well-qualified principals at every school.
● Providing all at-risk students with the opportunity to attend high-quality early childhood programs such as NC Pre-K, Smart Start, and the NC Infant-Toddler Program to help prepare children coming into WCPSS for kindergarten.
● Directing resources, opportunities, and initiatives to our students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, English learners, and student support personnel such as nurses, counselors, psychologists, and social workers.
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.
● Leadership Experience – It is important to have a diverse board including qualifications and experiences. As Executive Director of my organization for nearly 18 years, I also have served as board president of our national organization and have served on various nonprofit boards and committees. I have a deep understanding of federal and state policy, state and federal school finance, experience with federal and state grants and funding structures, and deep experience with board and executive leadership. My professional experiences are assets to the Board. I have served as Chair of the Wake Board of Education and in several other leadership roles.
● Advocacy Experience – Prior to being elected to the school board, I was a registered lobbyist and advocacy expert which helped me establish relationships at the state and local level related to our legislative work at WCPSS. These relationships extend across the political aisle. When I was Chair of the school board, this was a major benefit to our work at WCPSS and helped me lead our board to several successful legislative results. I worked with House Representative Skip Stam prior to his retirement to pass a bill to improve how road infrastructure was paid for when building a new school. This saves us hundreds of thousands of dollars while improving our timeline for building new schools. I also worked closely with Garner’s Mayor to advocate with the NCGA and the NCDOT to find a way on this process. Without my work on this bill, it would not have passed.
● NC Public Schools Experience: I consider being a product of NC public schools, the spouse of a public school educator, and a parent of a WCPSS student, as valuable credentials that have informed my role as a school board member in significant and effective ways.
3. Research 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 WCPSS needs to address? Please explain your answer.
I believe in choice and ensuring people have options, however I didn’t imagine charter schools and school vouchers would become so divisive that the impact to public schools could be devastating. Public schools are paramount to our country’s infrastructure, and it has been fraught with inequities. As a product of public school, it was paramount to my success therefore I remain committed to investing in ensuring it meets the needs of all students. My hope for WCPSS is that it becomes the first and best choice for all students. Given the climate of school choice that has created de facto segregation and loss in resources, WCPSS has to address the impact that is dismantling our public school. I am committed to public schools and as a board member it is a priority to advocate on behalf of our schools; to address the gaps and reasons parents leave and glean from best practices. It is also our responsibility to advocate for adequate funding from our General Assembly to ensure all students have access to a high-quality public education and that WCPSS has the resources to deliver a high quality education to all students.
4. 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?
I understand the philosophical belief of school choice however my concern is when a philosophical belief excludes groups of people. The plan for school choice, begins with ideals of sharing innovative lessons learned with a public-school partner. I visited several charter schools as an elected school board member and asked each school what lessons they have learned and how they have worked with their public-school partner. That question seems to be lost on those who create charters. Additionally, charters in Wake County and across NC have become a tool to segregate students by race and class. The charter schools are segregated and by virtue it is also impacting the diversity in public schools as well. Our board has implored elected officials and charter schools to consider the impact to all schools and most importantly the impact on students. We should stay on the cutting edge, always looking for ways to challenge our students and prepare them for an ever-changing global economy.
5. In light of the ongoing threat of COVID-19, do you believe it is safe for students to return to the classroom? What policies or protocols should be put in place to ensure the health and safety of students? If remote learning must continue in some form in the future, what can be done to ensure students are still receiving a quality education?
The science is evolving and so is the data as more people are tested. WCPSS is participating in the ABC Science Collaborative and based on the data in Wake County, the Governor’s plan to resume in person school for elementary are the factors I considered regarding this discussion. After weighing the data, listening to parents, educators, students and the community I believe it is safe to return our younger students to in person following the precautions, 3 Ws- wearing a face covering, social distancing and washing hands and cleaning the building throughout the day. I am also keenly aware it is important to continue to monitor the precautions.
6. Do you support the placement of school resource officers in Wake schools? If so, what do you think their role should be? If not, what do you propose as an alternative?
The roles and responsibilities for SRO needs to be created including all stakeholder feedback, similar to the process we used to create our strategic plan. The administrator is responsible for discipline not the SRO. To eliminate the divergent perspectives of their role, the role must be clearly defined and implemented. To create a safe school climate for all students, everyone’s voice and experiences should inform the roles. Lastly, it is imperative we set the expectations, train on the expectations and provide clarity between the local law enforcement agency and the school district/school.
7. Black students make up about a quarter of Wake County public school students, yet, according to the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, are nearly eight times more likely to be suspended than their white peers. Are racial disparities an issue you think the board of education needs to address?
Black and brown students deserve excellent and relevant education every day from skilled teachers who understand student culture and need. WCPSS needs renewed focus and different strategies to engage all students, eliminate disciplinary disproportionalities, and create positive climates in all our schools for all our students, regardless of their race, gender, or identity. Creating balance policies is a strategy the board is and should continue to address. A strength-based approach to our student policies that creates a culture that we want to see and should be balanced with the consequences of policy violations. That same balance has to be reflected in our school communities.
8. 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 will continue to use an equity framework in my advocacy and decision-making to ensure every student can achieve successful educational outcomes. I believe this framework is the foundation to eliminate the ability to predict achievement based on socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity.
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