Name as it appears on the ballot: Lindsay Mahaffey
Party affiliation: Non-Partisan seat – Registered Democrat
Campaign website: electlindsay.com
Occupation & employer: Teacher – Stay at Home Mom of 3
1. What do you believe are the three most important issues facing the Board of Education? What are your priorities for addressing these issues?
A safe return to school buildings – This is done by listening to science and data, getting our school community and greater community to follow the 3W’s, and monitoring where we are as a county. Not only does North Carolina have Dr. Mandy Cohen in charge of DHHS, but WCPSS has partnered with the ABC Science Collaborative based out of Duke University to help inform our decisions as we work to keep our buildings safe for staff and students
Increasing classified staff pay to a living wage – This past December WCPSS, with the help of our County Commissioners, was able to increase support staff pay by 3% and increase the starting wage for our bus drivers to $15/hour. State Salaried Employees begin at $15/hour unless they work for a school district. Our employees who work tirelessly for our children deserve that. My hope is that we can continue so that our TAs, Custodians, Front office Staff, and more can also be paid a fair and competitive wage in order to recruit and retain caring adults.
Increasing the number of counselors, social workers,& psychologists in our schools – If anything this pandemic has shown the importance of mental as well as physical health for our students. North Carolina is behind the national average of mental health professionals in schools. Our students deserve to be seen by a counselor or other professional when they are in need of one. Many of our schools use Positive Behavioral Intervention Support, Circles, and other practices to increase empathy and help students in their ability to express their needs and advocate for themselves. Counselors can help students on social and emotional learning in a classroom environment. More Social Workers will allow for more collaboration with community services, and psychologists could help address student needs as well as reduce the backlog of testing.
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.
My background is teaching. I have eight years of classroom experience teaching in a K-8 setting. I have a Masters of Arts in Teaching Social Science Education, and my three children have been enrolled in Wake County Public Schools since Day one. I am intimately familiar with the IEP process and what it means to have a child who is AIG as well. Having worked in a school environment as a specialist teacher and as the co-chair of an accreditation committee for that same school, I am very familiar with the collaboration and trusting relationships needed in order to make things work for the best interest of students. In my capacity as a member of the Board of Education, I currently serve on the Budget & Finance Committee, and the Policy Committee, I previously was Vice Chair of the Student Achievement committee, and as the board member with the fastest growing district, I am often found at the table of our Facilities Committee.
This has been seen in the revisions of the code of conduct in our policy committee along with the work done to create a stand alone more gender neutral dress code with guidance to maintain relationships between staff and students. I was grateful to my colleagues for going through that process after I submitted a template for this and working together to find a way for our students, especially our female students, to have a more appropriate dress code.
I have worked with my colleagues to increase communication and transparency around reassignment. It used to be parents were not notified of an upcoming reassignment policy until after the first draft had been presented by staff, and that was only shared with families that were impacted. Now all families are notified when draftone of a reassignment plan will be shared with the board so no one is caught off guard by an email or something shared on a neighborhood social media page. Due to this effort, along with re-envisioning our long range planning model, staff is working on a transparency model that should be shared with the Board soon. As a district we have to be responsive to our students, teachers, and our families In finding a balance for what is best for the students in our district while being respectful of taxpayer dollars.
District 8 is the fastest growing district in Wake County. In my time on the Board, we have opened Green Level High School, Apex Friendship & Alston Ridge Middle Schools, and Horton’s Creek & Buckhorn Creek Elementary Schools. Major renovations have been at one High School with another to be completed next year. WCPSS is currently in the design process for one High School in the Felton Grove Area, a Middle School on the Herbert Akins Rd site. WCPSS worked with the Town of Apex to make Apex Friendship Elementary a larger school than initially planned, and land banked for another elementary school. There are two elementary schools with land purchased in Holly Springs, and one is currently in the design process. We are working hard to catch up with the growth in our district.
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.
Our housing patterns in this country and this county have been segregated since its inception. Finding a home that is affordable for a teacher, a bus driver, or a firefighter in Western Wake County is increasingly difficult. Our county government has been working to increase affordable housing, and many of our local municipalities have made this a part of their strategic plan as well. The 1999 NC Supreme Court Decision Capacchione v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools declared that schools in North Carolina make assignment decisions based on race. When the school district was founded in 1977, the Magnet schools were created to provide programming to entice families to voluntarily send their children to the majority minority schools in Downtown Raleigh. Now the magnet office is focused on socioeconomics and that program is expanding. During my tenure on the board, we have added one new magnet elementary school in Fuquay-Varina and will be adding two more in the eastern part of Cary focused on second language acquisition and global thinking. Schools that have diversity – be it racial or socioeconomic – benefit all students. My colleagues and I have discussed having a ‘magnet fleet’ of buses to decrease ride times and increase transportation opportunities for magnet students. The pay increase for bus drivers will hopefully help with recruitment and retention of drivers – which would help make this a reality.
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?
The number of charter schools in Wake County is having a lot of direct impact on the enrollment and socioeconomic diversity in the eastern and southern portions of our county. In North Carolina, the money for per pupil expenditures follows the child, so that not only means that our schools have lower enrollment, those schools that are impacted by unchecked charter expansion have less funding for teaching positions and supplies. Many charter schools do not provide transportation, which automatically is an enrollment barrier for students whose families may not have a reliable form of transportation. What the overprominance of charters does is create traditional public schools that are predominantly filled with students from a lower socioeconomic strata . This in turn allows a school to receive Title I funding, but also gives the school a label that many parents consider to designate the school as ‘lesser’. EOG and EOC scores then feed into the NC School report card that favors proficiency to growth (80% to 20%) and the public school then gets saddled with a School Grade of a C or D, which to a new family moving to the area makes it unappealing. This combined with a charter school’s “flexibility” with their calendar, their funding, and their hiring have made it harder on public schools in parts of our county to be fully enrolled.
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?
This pandemic has flipped our schools into a digital space. The only way to open schools safely is to look at data and science. In North Carolina that means following the guidance provided by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services led by Dr. Mandy Cohen. In n Wake County,this includes a partnership with our staff and the Wake County Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the ABC Science Collaborative out of Duke University. This does not mean that we open the doors and hope for the best. This involves careful planning and understanding of the guidance provided by science and healthcare professionals. This guidance must be followed and as it is updated our district will be adjusting accordingly. . This is not just about the safety of our students but also for the staff members caring for them. I am greatly disappointed that legislators left Raleigh without providing the necessary funding for our schools to run during this pandemic. We need to hire more staff to help during this time, not only with day to day operations (temperature checks, more teachers for smaller classes), but also the mental health aspects our students and teachers are facing during this pandemic by hiring more counselors. Our teachers have done incredible work to build relationships with their students during remote learning. Our school counselors have been active at all levels to provide social and emotional support for students in and out of the virtual space. School districts need more flexibility from the NC General Assembly in their calendar to create more time in the year for teachers to plan. This year’s calendar restrictions did a great disservice to our teachers by only giving many of them two paid planning days. North Carolina schools cannot run on the love of teaching alone; our legislators more than ever need to follow the guidance of the WEST-ED report and fund our schools per the Leandro Decision and North Carolina’s constitutional mandate for providing our children with a “Sound Basic” education.
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?
WCPSS is currently discussing the role of the School Resource Officer (SRO) in our schools. We have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with 12 local law enforcement agencies to define what this role is. The work of our board is to listen to the students and community advocates that are sharing the negative impact of having police officers in their schools and how that contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline. At the same time, it is balancing the relief parents in my district felt knowing a police officer was on campus when the claim of a stranger in the building was reported and a school went into lockdown. Working through the MOU to even more clearly define the role of an officer is a key part of that balance. I fully support having more counselors and social workers in our buildings. I also support increasing opportunities for restorative practices with students who are in conflict, as well as supporting the pilot of a Peacebuilders program to increase the social and emotional support for students, staff and administrators. A police officer should only be called as a last resort.
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?
Absolutely. This has been a topic at student achievement committees and board work sessions. Although some changes have been made, there is still work to do. WCPSS has an Office of Equity Affairs and school-based equity teams throughout the district to help raise awareness of issues such as implicit bias. There is more work to do around this including recruiting and retaining more teachers of color and making sure our curriculum is culturally responsive while still adhering to state standards. This is just the beginning of this work.
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.
Social and Emotional learning goes hand in hand with academic learning.