Name as it appears on the ballot: Rani Dasi

Age: 52

Party affiliation: Democrat

Campaign websiteDasi for School Board

Occupation & employer: Finance

Years lived in the area: 16

  1. In 300 words or less, please give us—and our readers—your elevator pitch: Why are you running? Why should voters entrust you with this position? 

I am deeply concerned about the future of education in North Carolina. The climate of the state continuing to underinvest in education resources requires continued vigilance and advocacy to sustain public education.

Education has always been important to my family. When my children entered Chapel Hill–Carrboro City Schools, I engaged in volunteer activities, serving in various ways including PTA teams and School Improvement Teams (SIT)s. This engagement made me aware of the challenges teachers and staff faced with inconsistent access to resources and the resulting impact to students. 

I saw the opportunity to build stronger foundations in areas such as:  implementing consistent curriculum across schools and levels, investing in PreK, increasing compensation for teachers and staff, and collaboration with community partners to support the success of all students in our district. I was elected in 2015 and again in 2019 and am seeking to continue the work. With the potential to have so many new board members, I look forward to sharing experience for continuity to support the districts work toward the strategic plan. 

What are your priorities?

  • Increase teacher and school employee compensation to enable recruitment and retention
  • Improve access to mental health resources
  • Strengthen accountability systems, communicating progress on success metrics and check points for interventions as needed
  • Renovate our school buildings to create appropriate learning spaces 

What would you want to see the school board do differently or better over the course of your term?

  • More communication to build public awareness of education issues
  • Increase opportunities for partnership with community groups to support district plans

2. Given the direction of the school district, would you say things are on the right course? If not, for what specific changes will you advocate if elected?

The district is focusing on the right issues to improve outcomes for all students. Specifically, the board is focusing on resources which directly support teachers and staff, aligned to a strategic plan to focus efforts and assessing what’s working in programs to make changes as appropriate.

3. What are the three main issues that you believe the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools Board of Education needs to address in the upcoming year?

  • Increase teacher and school employee compensation to enable recruitment and retention
  • Strengthen accountability systems, communicating progress on success metrics and check points for interventions as needed
  • Renovate our school buildings to create appropriate learning spaces

4. Describe something you think the school board should have prioritized differently in the current budget. 

The current budget appropriately focuses resources on increased compensation for staff.

Do you think the budget supports students from lower income families as well as from affluent families? yes

Does the budget meet the district’s infrastructure and staffing needs?

Local funds cannot sustainably cover funding gaps that the state has the constitutional responsibility to provide. Because of the state’s refusal to adequately fund teacher compensation, public school districts across North Carolina are struggling with skyrocketing teacher vacancies and we only see this worsening with significant declines in enrollment in teacher preparation programs (down by 50% over the last decade). The lack of adequate compensation is a current gap negatively impacting CHCCS’s ability to attract and retain teachers and staff. 

As it relates to school infrastructure needs, historically, every ten years, the state has issued a bond to support school facility infrastructure. However, it has been nearly 30 years since the last school capital bond provided funding to districts and we see this in the continued deterioration of our school facilities.  

We must continue to advocate for increasing compensation including salary and benefits and funding to rebuild our schools. 

5. Does the General Assembly have a constitutional obligation to comply with the state Supreme Court order in the Leandro case to fully fund public schools and give every child in North Carolina a sound basic education? 

Yes. The courts have ruled on this issue multiple times. We know that investing in education has a significant return for the state so why would we not fully fund schools?

What other policies should lawmakers enact at the state level to strengthen public education?

  • Allocate resources to increase the number of school counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists
  • Invest in consistent technology that enables access to data 
  • Reinstate Teaching Fellows and other measures to rebuild the teacher pipeline
  • Increase investment in facility improvements to meet current building standards
  • Increase investment in health resources (physical and mental health) 
  • Increase local flexibility for school districts to determine what works best for their communities

6. Despite boasting a 94.8 percent graduation rate last academic year and ranking in the top four percent of all public school districts in the nation, an achievement / opportunity gap still exists between white students and students of color. What specific policies should CHCCS pursue to close this gap?

  • It is important to focus on consistent implementation of policies and practices and fully consider the impact to all students. This sets clear expectations for all involved and minimizes frustration and biases. 
  • Policies which support teachers and staff are especially critical. Teachers have the most significant impact on student learning. Polices such as those that direct investment in professional development, equity policy, and employee benefits are critical to student success. 
  • Policy to action:
  • Focus on supports for teachers – continue to advocate for increasing compensation including salary and benefits. 
  • CHCCS needs more teachers of color in our classrooms. This is strongly supported by research which concludes that having just one black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade reduced low-income black boys’ probability of dropping out of high school by 39 percent. 
  • Continue to prioritize leadership focus and defined action plans towards the goal of improving growth for all students
  • Continued focus on maintaining a school and district climate which welcomes and engages families and students of color including the implementation of culturally inclusive rigorous curriculum and instruction to meet the wide range of student abilities
  • Invest in social/emotional resources
  • Focus on reducing discipline disproportionality
  • Raise awareness on implicit bias and provide professional development for school staff to apply school discipline policies and practices in a fair and equitable manner so as not to disproportionately impact students of color, students with disabilities, or at-risk students
  • Accountability: Embed robust system of accountability with metrics that are frequently reviewed by leadership. Use data to understand where growth is happening, and leverage what we learn to continue growth district wide

7. Despite working for CHCCS, many teachers and staff can’t afford to live in Chapel Hill or Carrboro. What role should the school district have in ensuring that affordable housing is available for its workforce?

I strongly support community partnerships to explore options to provide school employee housing. The key challenge for CHCCS is the limited site options for school expansion. We have explored the Lincoln Center campus as an option and need additional funding to continue to understand how to make this work. 

8. Recently, groups of parents with students in North Carolina public schools have mounted efforts to ban certain books from school classrooms and libraries. How should school boards handle these efforts? 

We can learn from the history of banning books. School boards should continue to support access to learning and avoid bans on books. 

9. Do police officers (School Resource Officers) have a role in schools? Please explain your answer.  

How do we ensure that all students and staff feel and are socially, emotionally, and physically safe? If we were creating school communities from scratch, what roles would we prioritize to maximize safety of our students, staff, and visitors? 

There is a model which considers the roles police play in optimizing security in schools and allocates other resources to maximize safety. That could look like:

  • Leveraging School Resource Officers (SRO’s) outside of our school buildings in alternative ways such as frequent patrols, police officer assistance with traffic (if needed) at the beginning and end of school, and periodic officer safety presentations. 
  • Allocate funding to behavioral, socio-emotional and mental health resources in schools
  • Partner with police to request police staff training include Professional Development on child development, equity and other areas to inform how they engage with young community members within and outside schools 

10. CHCCS was able to hire drivers for all bus routes this academic year, but, as with other school districts in the state, it has had a hard time filling transportation vacancies in the past. What steps should the district take to ensure that there are enough bus drivers for all routes in order to get students to school on time going forward?  

  • Continue to offer competitive salaries for bus drivers
  • Seek opportunities to leverage other staff who can drive buses
  • Assess opportunities to maximize efficiency in transportation across the district

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