Seeking good listeners. Job requires fund-raising–in the form of asking Orange Commissioners for funding–and understanding of land-use planning to aid in citing future schools ahead of population growth. Parents of kids in the district and/or professional educators preferred. Tenacity and follow-through required in order to deal with longstanding achievement gap. Strong communication skills a must, as is the ability to stand your ground in the face of angry parents. Must be motivated to work for what’s best for all kids, including those with few adult advocates.

We endorse both incumbents on the school board. Lisa Stuckey has been a strong, well-rounded board member. She’s a good communicator and has a clear understanding of what the board’s role is. She has been a liaison to library work groups, Chapel Hill’s Active Living By Design committee, and the town’s transportation board. That knowledge of transportation and growth will help with the important but often overlooked aspect of the job. Stuckey also chaired the most recent redistricting committee and the design committee for the district’s third high school, which is set to open in Carrboro in 2007. We believe Stuckey will take great care in the redistricting that will inevitably be required, balancing the need for diversity of race and socio-economic status while keeping minority neighborhoods such as North Side intact. She has a clear philosophy of how to close the achievement gap, on which we encourage her to stay focused. Facing protest from parents and teachers, she has also advocated for revised scheduling in high schools in order to give students access to a broader range of courses and electives, showing that, when she feels it is necessary, she is willing to stand her ground on unpopular decisions.

Pam Hemminger was appointed to the board in 2004 after Valerie Foushee was elected to the board of Orange County commissioners. Hemminger is a soccer mom (she has coached, been on boards of soccer clubs and advocated for more public soccer fields) who has a record of service on parks and recreation groups, which overlaps with school issues in a variety of ways. In order to scale the learning curve this term, she has made a habit of visiting schools, and she emphasizes listening to students, parents and teachers in order to figure out what’s not working–particularly in addressing the achievement gap. She’s also willing to take the political risk of limiting the number of AP and honors classes high school students can take in a single school year, in order to reduce the absurd level of pressure on many of Chapel Hill’s college-bound kids (which trickles down to all kids). Hemminger has done a good job so far, and we hope to see her follow through on her expressed concerns.

Of the two newcomers, we endorse Jean Hamilton, a mother of two who works on population research at UNC. Having lived in Chapel Hill for only five years, her first contact with the board was to advocate for academically gifted programs and to protest redistricting decisions. Since then, she has been a vocal parent at Estes Hills Elementary, serving on the school governance committee since 2003 and starting a support group there for African-American parents. She pledges to work for the advancement of all students and to make closing the achievement gap a top priority. She has cited literature that suggests addressing problems as early as third grade can prevent the lifelong problems district kids are experiencing in high school. We hope she will stay focused on those goals and continue reaching out to diverse members of the community. With more experience serving the district and clear philosophies to guide her decisions, she wins our endorsement.

Jeff Danner is even newer to town. A chemical engineer, he’s interested in looking at data from other districts in order to come up with new solutions to problems such as the achievement gap. He advocates better recruitment and retention of teachers and increased resources devoted to literacy and early language instruction. He also advocates starting over with a new plan to address the achievement gap that focuses on teacher accountability. His hard work on the campaign demonstrates that he is committed to serving the schools. We hope he’ll stay involved and learn more about the district’s issues.