Name as it appears on the ballot: Jim Martin
Campaign website: jimmartin4schools.com
1. What do you believe are the three most important issues facing the Board of Education? What are your priorities for addressing these issues?
The three most important issues, and my top priorities facing the Board of Education are to:
a. Continue to address chronic underfunding of our public schools, at both the state and local level.
b. Work toward reversing the increasing segregation in our schools, including work toward increasing educational, CTE and enrichment opportunities in schools that have been historically under-resourced.
c. Build greater support systems such that the teaching profession is respected as the profession it is.
Each of these were priorities prior to the COVID pandemic and have only become more critical with the added challenges for both schools and 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 have effectively served on the WCPSS Board of Education since 2011 and have been a professor of chemistry at NC State since 1994. With extensive policy experience, I chaired the WCPSS policy committee for 7 years, leading a comprehensive policy review, including a major reform of our code of student conduct to shift the perspective from “discipline by punishment” to “discipline by restorative change of behavior.” In 2018-2019 I served as Chair of the Board of Education, leading effective budget work that included one of the most substantial County investments in history while also outlining a 5-year plan to address outstanding systemic challenges. I initiated a systematic process to address the increasing segregation of our schools. I continue to believe this work, in partnership with RTI, must continue. I also initiated a project to document the history of the historically segregated schools in Wake County; another project that I would like to see continue.
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.
The increasing segregation in our schools, both economic and racial, is a critical issue in public education both nationally and here in Wake County. Housing patterns are a primary driver of this trend. Development of middle- to high-income housing in regions without simultaneous development of workforce- and low-income housing creates communities segregated by wealth, which also exacerbates current and historic racial segregation. It is difficult to have integrated schools in a community that does not have integrated neighborhoods. A second major factor increasing the segregation of schools is a diminishing of the community’s commitment to public education as a great equalizer, rather seeing education as a primary tool to increase one’s (or one’s children’s) individual advantage for access to higher education and employment. While the school system has limited control over housing patterns, we can commit to creating strong and diverse educational opportunities in all schools, with particular emphasis on placing opportunities in academics, the arts, language, CTE, etc. into schools in communities that are historically less resourced. Schools with outstanding programming and opportunities can most easily be integrated.
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?
Data show that charter schools do increase segregation of regular public schools since charters tend to select for more homogeneous populations. Notably, charter schools rarely meet the six criteria for establishment in the North Carolina Charter Schools Law. They do not show improved learning for equivalent populations of students. They provide opportunities for only limited groups of students. They are no more innovative than the numerous innovations across the WCPSS. Notably, the WCPSS is more innovative than charter schools despite having to operate under much more restrictive regulation. Critically, the current funding structure of charter schools significantly disadvantages regular LEA’s. Specifically, charter schools receive a per-capita percentage of the public-school allotment of all local tax revenue, fines, fees, etc.; currently about an 8% charter school tax on all local dollars. This means that charter schools receive 8% of all fees paid by high school students for parking, and similarly 8% of any initiative negotiated by WCPSS and the Wake County Commissioners (e.g. for school social workers). However, the charter schools have no obligation to use those funds for the purposes established in the budget. Like any responsible business practice, charter schools should only be paid for services rendered. They should not receive an automatic % of all local public-school dollars.
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?
It can be safe for students and staff to be in-person in classrooms IF: there is sufficient effective PPE, there are clear plans and protocols to ensure accountability of student and staff behavior, classrooms and all gathering spaces have reduced populations such that appropriate social distancing is possible, and there is appropriate staffing for cleaning and a nurse (or at least a medical assistant) in each school. There is no way to successfully accomplish in-person opening without additional staff. Prior to COVID, teachers already worked on average about 5 h per week on their own, uncompensated time. With the pandemic iterations of school this has increased to 10-20 h of personal, uncompensated additional time required to create and deliver new types of curriculum and instruction and to engage with students. These time demands will only increase as schools transition to in-person engagement since teachers will need to teach both in-person and remotely, and too often will be assigned additional, non-educational duties in their schools. For a safe and effective transition to in-person engagement, it is necessary to provide schools with additional staff (either hired or a volunteer corps) to assist with health assessments, supervision of lunch, instructional assistants in classrooms, etc.
Some aspects of remote instruction will be with us for quite some time. While remote instruction has dramatic challenges beyond normal in-person instruction, effective education can be offered in a remote setting. However, from direct personal experience as a professor at NC State offering both virtual and COVID-in person instruction, I know this takes more time for effective engagement. So as not to require teachers (and students and parents) to invest substantial uncompensated time, this too requires an investment in more staff. For remote instruction to be successful it is also critical to ensure that reliable broadband internet service is accessible to all students and families. In addition to the delivery of remote instruction, it is critical that both the school system and other partners in the community develop programming to address the social and emotional needs of students that are diminished in remote-instruction settings when there is less face-to-face interaction with both students’ teachers and their peers.
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?
I believe there needs to be some law enforcement personnel, specifically trained to interact with youth and trained in restorative, de-escalation techniques to serve as an interface between schools and regular 911 law enforcement. SRO’s or any alternative type position, should have a limited role in schools, and any interactions must be consistent with WCPSS policy which provides appropriate limitations to law-enforcement engagement, an appropriate reporting structure, and substantial student rights. As clearly stated in our current SRO MOU, “The school administrator shall be solely responsible for implementing the student Code of Conduct and discipline policies. The school administration, not the SRO, has the primary responsibility for maintaining order in the school environment and for investigating and responding to school disciplinary matters.” It is critical that positions and structures related to law enforcement in schools are developed that first seek to prevent and de-escalate any issues that could become matters of safety or violations of law, and further, that when incidents do occur, they are dealt with in a restorative manner seeking to build effective changed behavior, rather than meeting punishment by sending students into the criminal justice system.
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?
Racial disparities in suspension and other disciplinary practices are and continue to be matters that are being taken seriously by the WCPSS Board of Education. Recent reforms to the student code of conduct were in part made to address this very issue. Suspensions are no longer authorized for Level-1 violations of the student code of conduct. More importantly the student code of conduct has been revised so as to change the narrative from a focus on discipline as punishment to discipline that is focused on changed behavior and restorative justice.
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 believe my record provides clear demonstration that I make decisions based on the best interests of schools and the public school system, without regard to the “cost of votes.” This is evidenced by my more than 5-year effort to reform the student code of conduct, my leadership as chair to initiate comprehensive work to address school re-segregation and by my tireless advocacy for effective budgets to meet needs in schools. Currently, I try my best to take principled stands with respect to the re-opening if in-person instruction. As an educator in the classroom, I know that it is necessary to bring voice to those actually in classrooms and schools who will be expected to carry out any expectations imposed on them by the Board. I recognize such stands are not welcomed by all, but I have no doubt that without safe plans that appropriately listen to and respect the teachers, then the implemented programming will not be effective for our students.
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