Name as it appears on the ballot: Taylor Tally

Age: 36

Party affiliation: Democrat

Campaign website: Tally4CHCCS.org

Occupation & employer: Director of Operations at Windlift

Years lived in the area: Born and raised in Greensboro; 2.5 years in Carrboro 

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? What are your priorities, and what would you want to see the school board do differently or better over the course of your term?

I’m running to ensure every student in our district has access to an exceptional education, regardless of their background. My military experience has honed my negotiation skills, problem-solving abilities, and unwavering commitment to mission success. I believe these qualities, combined with my dedication to education, make me the right candidate for this position. My priorities include closing the achievement gap, tackling the teacher shortage, and preparing the district for upcoming maintenance and upgrade costs. I aim to work collaboratively with the community and other stakeholders, fostering inclusivity, equity, and excellence in our district.

My journey as a fighter pilot equipped me with the discipline and adaptability necessary to operate effectively in high-pressure environments, often with incomplete information. I’ve learned to collaborate with teams of diverse individuals, each with their unique perspectives and priorities. This experience has taught me the importance of active listening, negotiation, and finding common ground to achieve common goals.

I am deeply committed to ensuring that our students receive the best education possible. Your vote can help ensure that every child has access to an exceptional education.

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?

Overall, I think we’re on the right course. The superintendent’s strategic plan helps focus the district when creating and implementing policies, but we’ll still need dedicated board members, teacher buy-in, and community involvement to ensure its success. While our district excels in many areas, challenges like the achievement gap and teacher shortage persist. I would support efforts to recruit and retain a diverse workforce, and continue to implement policy changes that create a more inclusive environment for our students. For instance, the board recently allowed free athletic admissions for high schoolers at their home games, ensuring fewer economic barriers to social and emotional development. Those kinds of small investments can pay big dividends for the community in the years to come. 

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?

The three main issues that the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools Board of Education should address in the upcoming year are:

  • Achievement Gap: We must implement targeted strategies for support, restorative justice programs, and a more diverse teaching staff.
  • Teacher Shortage: We should incentivize teachers through competitive compensation, top in-state benefits, and work with the town councils to ensure housing options.
  • Infrastructure Preparedness: We need to prepare the district for upcoming maintenance and upgrade costs to ensure our schools remain safe and modern.

4. Describe something you think the school board should have prioritized differently in the current budget. Do you think the budget supports students from lower income families as well as from affluent families? Does the budget meet the district’s infrastructure and staffing needs?

I think there was a missed opportunity when the board canceled the parental leave. Since the state leave policy is more substantial, the board got rid of the four weeks to save money. I would like to have seen a compromise in which our district offers an additional two weeks on top of the state benefit. That would have saved money compared to the previous policy, but also given an extra benefit to help recruit and retain excellent teachers who have options.  While our district does better than most with support programs, there will always be more work to do. Ensuring we are fully staffed with counselors and program facilitators who actively outreach to the community regarding our suite of services would be a great start.

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

Yes, the NCGA has a constitutional obligation to fully fund public schools and provide a sound basic education. Lawmakers should also focus on teacher recruitment, reducing class sizes, and increasing funding for disadvantaged communities to strengthen public education. Expanded and improved pre-K/early education opportunities can make a difference in childrens’ lives. 

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?

To close the achievement/opportunity gap between white students and students of color, CHCCS should pursue targeted policies. This includes a more diverse teaching staff, restorative justice programs, and partnerships with community organizations that can provide additional support to underrepresented students. The district is working on many of these and I would continue to support those efforts. 

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?

The school district plays a crucial role in ensuring that affordable housing is available for its workforce. We must collaborate with the town councils and explore innovative housing solutions to make living in Chapel Hill and Carrboro more affordable for teachers and staff. We should also support efforts to ease the burden of transportation around the district by promoting bus services and expanding walking and biking infrastructure. 

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? 

School boards should approach efforts to ban certain books with sensitivity and a commitment to free expression. While respecting the concerns of parents, it’s important to uphold the principles of academic freedom, diversity of thought, and the value of an inclusive curriculum. Decisions should be based on clear policies and a review of content by educators and experts in the field. Rather than outright bans, we should consider a parental opt-out policy which may alleviate some parents’ concerns while maintaining a robust collection of diverse material for all students. 

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

School Resource Officers can play a role in schools, but they must have proper training and maintain a higher standard of excellence. They should focus on fostering a safe and inclusive learning environment, rather than punitive measures. Collaborative efforts with community organizations, mental health professionals, and educators can help create a balanced and supportive approach to school safety.

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?  

In February the board approved higher wages, consolidated bus stops, marketing dual driver/TA positions, and further promotion of walking/biking options with the towns. I think all of these are steps in the right direction, but it’s likely too early to accurately measure the impact. If problems continue, I would push for even higher wages and more consolidation. The board heard loud and clear that bell changes (earlier elementary school start times) would only increase the teacher shortage, so that option is not on the table. 

11) If there is anything else you would like to address, please do so here.

I believe in the power of collaboration and open communication. My door will always be open to community members, parents, teachers, and students. Together, we can address the challenges our district faces, ensure that every student receives a high-quality education, and strengthen the ties between our schools and community. Thank you for considering me as your advocate for educational excellence.

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