Name as it appears on the ballot: Deborah Prickett
Campaign website: www.prickettforwakeschools.com
Occupation & employer: Program Administrator, NC Department of Public Instruction
1. What do you see as the most important issues facing the Wake County school system? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
Program disparity across the county
Student achievement and student success
Student assignment moving forward
With lots of effort, community meetings and input, and assistance from the schools’ leadership, District 7 now has the first K-8 Academy in Wake County. Hilburn ES was once a severely under enrolled school (by about 20 classrooms) that is now filled with happy students. In addition, it is one of the STEM themed schools. Also, York ES is a STEM school and Jeffreys Grove ES is a Global School. All have been added during my tenure on the Board. These additions have directly helped program disparities.
Student achievement is what we’re all about with the ultimate goal of having students graduate. I totally support ACT testing opportunities for all students since this can directly impact higher education choices. In the past, all students did not have this opportunity. I would like to see more economics, personal finances, and US and NC history courses offered at our schools. Even though the State Board of Education sets the graduation pathways etc., the local boards can still have an impact. For me, it’s more than achievement. After working as a school counselor for many years, I know that student success is a “key” factor. One size does not necessarily fit all when it comes to the student’s needs and which elements make the difference in the life of a student. I am in favor of a wrap around model knowing that business partners and other agencies have services that can be used to supplement what the schools can do.
I like the idea of school choice as the best assignment model for our very large student population. This way parents can choose whether to bus their student farther away or keep them closer to home based on family need. With the address-based, node model that we have now, it is harder to manage since the schools are sometimes not in the location that is best for county office numbers. I believe the parent knows what is best for the child. We still have work to do in this area with population growth on the horizon, but I’m willing to do the hard work that is necessary on the Board. I have a very good working relationship with the County Commissioners who help us with our facility needs.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you’ve identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.
Under my leadership, themed schools (STEM and Global) and the first K-8 Academy in Wake County have been incorporated in District 7. A ninth grade center has been started this year at Panther Creek HS. Leesville MS was able to get Spanish back as an elective. Bell schedules and school calendars were adjusted to meet family needs based on the feedback from the community. “Stability” and “proximity” are now a major part of student assignment. I worked with the families in the Cedar Fork/Breckenridge area to ease some crowding. Kitts Creek, Carpenter Village, Brier Creek and other area citizens were listened to and adjustments were made in assignment options based on their feedback. I voted to give students equal opportunity to take higher level math courses based on EVAAS data and changed the outdated discipline policies in order to keep students in school. I was budget conscious with taxpayers’ dollars.
3. INDY Week’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle and North Carolina. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.
All of our schools should be good schools and the community as a whole will be helped in the process when parents and business partners are more involved and students are successful. It is my mission to prepare students for the world of work and have them to graduate. My job with the NC Department of Public Instruction allows me to bring best practices and new initiatives to my position on the Board.
4. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
The school bond is very important during this election. I am in favor of the bond since it seems to be the best way to pay for the building of new schools, facility maintenance, and repair that WCPSS needs. I also understand that in this stressed economy that the extra dollars needed to fund these projects through higher county taxes will be a hardship on many– especially those on limited incomes and citizens that don’t have children in the system. In addition, citizens have stated that if this bond passes, they truly hope that the Board will use these dollars wisely such as building the schools in the appropriate places etc. This is where the assignment plan moving forward is so important.
5. If these issues haven’t been addressed above, would you please comment on:
a) Do you support or oppose the 2013 bond issue for Wake schools that is on the October ballot? Do you think the $810 million bond is adequate to meet school construction needs for the foreseeable future? Is it more than is needed? Or is it not enough, which would necessitate another bond within 2-3 years?
b) Annual spending for the Wake schools has dropped below $8,000 per student, which is less than the state average, about $500 less than in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and $5,000 less than in Fairfax County, VAwith which Wake is often compared. In light of this, should the Wake school board be asking for more money from the Wake County Commissioners? If so, how much?
As I travel across the State in my DPI job working with afterschool programs for low income students, I see many counties struggling with high unemployment rates and lean budgets. Our County Commissioners are very receptive to helping the school system. Most of the county budget goes towards the funding of our schools. Funding needs to be reviewed on all levels (local and state). It is our goal to assure that allotted funds make the most impact. It is on us to prove to the public that programs we have in place are effective and dollars are used wisely. Communication is ongoing in this area.
c) As a school board member, what steps would be recommend, if any, to better support our teachers? Ideas might include pay supplements? Hiring more teacher assistants? Adding professional development programs? Or others?
Teachers’ salaries are made up of state and local funds. The state appropriates the largest portion and the county (depending on where you work) may or may not supplement the salaries. I voted in favor last year to raise the supplements in WCPSS and will continue to monitor the progress. I taught with WCPSS for over 20 years, and I remember the state salary steps being frozen as far back as the 80’s. This is not a new topic and one that still needs more work. I’m certainly open to hearing from our teachers and staff on this important topic.
d) What programs or policies would you recommend to improve students’ performance and raise Wake’s high school graduation rate, which last year slipped below the state average?
e) In pursuit of school safety and discipline, the Wake school system has tried zero-tolerance policies, resulting in high out-of-school suspension rates, and spent heavily on paid security officers with arrest powers. Now, some advocate letting armed volunteers help in the schools? What’s your view of school safety needs and how to achieve them?
I was not in favor of the zero-tolerance policy and voted to change the policy to one that uses more of a common sense approach and helps to keep students in school. It still needs work, but it is much better. I appreciate the work of the recent safety task force and feel that we will be able to implement changes suggested by the committee that will be effective. Coming from a counseling background and being a parent myself, I’m in favor or a proactive versus reactive approach. I feel that school counselors, social workers, school nurses, and psychologists are important to the overall school climate. Again, this is ongoing and on my radar.
f) Diversity in school populations has been a controversial subject in Wake County for years. Do you support or oppose a policy to assure that every school has a diverse student body in terms of family income? Do you support or oppose a numerical goal such as the former one of no school with more than 40 percent of students eligible for the free and reduced lunch program?
Free and reduced lunch eligibility is self-reported data, and the data can vary based on things such as situational poverty. Also, many students chose not to participate in being labeled F & R in higher grade levels making it difficult to maintain these thresholds. A system like this has caused us problems in the past, and we don’t have any real data that says it makes a difference in the achievement levels of students.
g) Related to diversity, the magnet school program is much debated. Some think every school should have comparable curricular offerings, even if it curbs the magnets’ special attractiveness. On the other hand, application rates to the magnet schools are on the decline, suggesting they’ve been weakened too much. What’s your view?
Magnets provide another layer of choice in Wake County which is attractive to many families. District 7 does not have a magnet school and travel distance to a magnet would be a concern; so, themed schools are helpful in relation to program disparities. Some have chosen through the brief period of Choice School Assignment to stay in a more proximate school since we now using a “stay where you start” approach. In past assignment plans where nodes were used, being selected to participate in a magnet school could bring increased stability. Also, six of the magnet schools in Wake are classified as NC Focus Schools. A Focus School is a Title I school that is contributing to the achievement gap. These schools have the largest within school gaps between the highest-achieving subgroups based on the information from the NC Department of Public Instruction and may be an area for concern. We are continuing to look at magnets and various program offerings.
h) Wake is experimenting with all-male and all-female academies. Is this a good idea? Should it be expanded?
Students choose and must apply to the academies. The feedback has been very positive from students and families. The concept is new for us, and I look forward to reviewing the results and feedback.
i) With state policies favoring more charter schools, should the Wake school system have its own charter schools? Why or why not? And if your answer is yes, how should they be governed?
Charters are attractive to many families and again this brings more choice which I think is a good thing. I would be open to hearing more about the ideas listed above. I’m interested in seeing how things progress on the state level where charters are monitored.