Name as it appears on the ballot: Donald Mial
Campaign website: donmial.com
Phone number: 919-247-5152
Years lived in the county: 66
1. What do you believe are the three most important issues facing the Board of Education? What are your priorities for addressing these issues?
The three most important issues facing the board of education are:
Funding our public schools. Public school funding has been cut to the quick after excessive and reckless tax cuts at the NCGA. Between the recession and the tax cuts, far less money than needed is being allocated to the schools. We do not have the classroom resources we need and we are seeing educators leaving the profession in unacceptable numbers. New teachers are unable to pay off student debt or make ends meet on stagnant salaries. As of the 2017-2018 school year, funds have been slashed from the “general” or “formula” funding which is the primary form of state support for elementary and secondary schools, by 7% or more per student over the past decade and teachers make more than 11% less on average than they did 15 years ago, when salaries are adjusted for inflation. The NCGA has enacted tax cuts costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars each year, instead of restoring education funding. Poor students suffer the most from budget cuts. The board of education must continue to work with the board of commissioners and the Wake County legislative delegation in order to get our funding back up to pre-recession levels.
Safe Schools. A 2018 survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 57% of U.S teenagers are worried that a shooting happening at their own school. Since the shooting at Columbine in 1999, 187,000 U.S students have been exposed to gun violence in school. When students don’t feel safe at school, it impacts their social and emotional learning as well as their achievement. It will be important to implement the Task Force for Safer School’s recommendations especially having a third party to conduct an evaluation and needs assessment for our public schools. There are many evidence-based practices that we should adopt including safe school’s education training, hazard emergency operation and security master planning as well as security surveillance cameras and monitoring. Critically important, is adding more counselors, psychologists, and social workers to help our students and teachers deal with a variety of issues facing our students. Helping professionals are also needed to work with our teachers. According to a 2018 study by the University of Missouri, 93 percent of elementary school teachers report they are highly stressed, and many report needing help with traumatized students. Stressful teachers and students are not able to focus on academic goals. The causes and convergence of teacher and student stress has been a growing concern over the past decade. I am committed to seeing the ratio of counselors, psychologists and social workers per student increased to the levels recommended by professional organizations.
Reforming discipline policies. We need a better way forward on student discipline. The “school to prison” is real in Wake County and is a major concern that also need to be addressed along with the racial gaps found in academic performance. Wake County student arrests and suspensions rates show how students of color has disproportionately higher rates. Since 2010, the U.S Education Department’s office of Civil Rights has been investigating whether Wake’s discipline policies and practices discriminate against African American students. During the 2016-2017 school year, African American students accounted for 60 percent of Wake’s suspension while only representing 23.5 percent of the total enrollment. The school-to-prison pipeline is a challenge that stands in the way of WCPSS achieving its mission for all students. The pipeline is a system of laws, policies, and practices that pushes students out of school and on the path toward the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Schools should be safe and orderly, but also equitable fair and just, including when it comes to school discipline. We owe it to our students to help them stay in school and on a path to graduation, rather than pushing them out school and on a path to prison. I have worked with this population and way too often they end up in our juvenile justice system. Statically speaking, there are four variables that tend to predict students’ behaviors such as their community, family, peer groups and their school environment. If these students have issues with two or three of these variables you can almost predict their outcomes and it is not successful graduation. An increase in school counselors and social workers can also have a great impact on helping these students mitigate their challenges. Finally, we need to move away from exclusionary discipline policies and seek to use the restorative just model along with minority sensitivity training for all staff.
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 work and volunteer experiences and my educational training demonstrate my potential to be an effective Board of Education member. My experience as a public servant extends over 35 years. I have served the people of North Carolina as a Teacher, Probation Officer, Parole Case Analyst, Facility Director and Soldier to name a few. The relevance to this office is that WCPSS needs someone who is committed to service and has relevant experience. I feel I have strong leadership skills and the ability to listen to citizens. As a retired Army Officer and Facility Director, I know and understand what leadership means and why it’s important to know when to lead and when to listen and collaborate. My military and civilian experience give me the leadership skills, legal knowledge, time management skills, global perspective, the understanding and important of a strong education system, the understanding of a large budget and the ability to manage it. Furthermore, I consider my service to this country to be that of a public servant and it is through my experiences in the military and state government which have afforded me great opportunities that reflect on my ability to be an effective member of the Wake County School Board. The understanding of the State Government system is very important, since counties are simply agencies of the state, constituted for the convenience of local administration. In addition to a Master’s degree in Public Administration, my education includes a Master’s in Criminal Justice, as well as a B.A in History & Government and an A.A.S in Paralegal Technology. I have also received many military and civilian awards to include the North Carolina Order of the Longleaf Pine. I presently serve as the Vice-Chair on the Wake County Board of Adjustment and Secretary for the City of Raleigh Board of Adjustment. I have served as a Commissioner on North Carolina Victim Compensation Commission and Secretary of the Wake County Board of Election. My involvement as a public servant continue with my membership in many other social, political and civic organizations and most importantly to my family and church family. Finally, I graduated from the last class of J.W Ligon High School. I am very knowledgeable about this community and I am committed to improving public education for all students, especially East Wake students. I have seen my district change considerably over the last two decades and I understand the many challenges we are facing making sure we keep our students on track for graduation. I feel I have a lot to offer in helping us improve our approach with children of color.
3. If you are challenging an incumbent, what decisions have the incumbent made that you most disagree with? If you are an incumbent, what in your record and experience do you believe merits another term?
This is an open seat and I am the most qualified candidate for this position because of my education, military and civilian leadership skills. I have grown up in this community and I will use this in-depth knowledge to improve our school policies. I am very excited about this opportunity to be an effective member of the school board.
4. Research, including a report from the NC Justice Center, 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.
One reason for the increase in segregation is continued systemic racism that separates communities by race, housing and income, all compounded by rapid growth in our county and in continued impact of the 2008 recession. People of color continue to face significant barriers in education, housing and education. Our schools reflect the continued segregation in housing by race and class. growth has just added to the problem. We have 67 new people moving into Wake County every day including about 20 school-age children. Demographic shifts, residential segregation patterns and changing political attitudes have all affected the extent to which schools have been integrated. The recession and the suppression in wages have pushed more families into poverty and is reflected in the R&F numbers at individual schools (more children counted as living in poverty). This has resulted in an increase in high poverty schools as well as continue white flight from our traditional public schools. More white families are choosing home schooling, private schools and charter schools. Wake County used to have 95% of the market share and now it is around 80 percent. Families leaving the Wake County School system are mostly white families and upper middle class families who can take advantages of other available options.
The WCPSS school board has long worked to keep our schools integrated. When race could no longer be used to assign students to schools, the school system started using income levels reported by families on applications for federally subsidized school lunches, with the goal of having a maximum ratio of 40% low-income students at any one school. In 2010, the board voted to switch from socio-economic diversification policy to a system that focused on neighborhood schools. However, there was a concern this shift would “re-segregate” schools and this effort has been changed to the current model: WCPSS looks at four variables to assign students to schools: 1.) Student Achievement 2.) Stability 3.) Proximity 4.) Operational Efficiency. Nevertheless, we have too much high poverty schools and too many schools that are majority children of color. I am committed to looking for ways to make sure we are providing every child a high-quality education and to negate the impacts of poverty. This is not just a school system issue, but a community-wide issue and one I hope we can better address in the coming years.
5. 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?
Charter school, part of the effort to privatize our school system has been a threat to public education for more than 20 years and is financed and championed by a network of corporate interest. Their goal, to use their financial muscle and propaganda to undermine the mission of public schools and position the nation’s students as commodities upon which to draw a sizeable profit and public schools have become a part of “the education industry”. There are still neighborhood public schools, but now there is an industry that relies on entrepreneurs and market forces. You don’t have to be an educator to manage, operate or start a charter school. Charter school properties are bought and sold, like franchise or just ordinary real estate. They have no organic connection to the local community. The charter industry has profits and losses. They open and close, it is not about education, it is a business! Charter schools can basically take who they want and they are exacerbating segregation and draining resources from our school system. Just look at the racial makeup of students: 68.6 % white students; 10.4% Hispanic or Latino; 9.3% black or African American and 6.2 % Asian. Charter schools are basically racially and economically isolated schools and they do not show any real academic advantages for students.
6. In light of recent funding debates, some Wake County commissioners have suggested shifting school-tax authority to the Board of Education. Do you think this is a worthwhile idea? Why or why not?
This is an age-old debate that surfaces about every four years. Local school boards across the county fall into one of two categories when it comes to raising revenue on the local level. Boards are either fiscally independent or fiscally dependent. Fiscally independent school boards have authority to develop their own budgets and raise the local revenue to support the school system. Fiscally dependent school boards must have their budgets approved by and receive their local appropriations from another governmental entity. In North Carolina, school boards are fiscally dependent upon State and federal funds for about two-thirds of their budgets and on the local boards of County Commissions to levy local taxes for the other third needed for public education.
Of the approximately 15,000 local boards of education nationwide, over 90% are fiscally independent. Even though it’s an idea that is already in place in most of the rest of the country. North Carolina is one of only three states in which school board are “dependencies of general government” according to the N.C School Boards Association.
Several years ago, the NCSBA lobbied on behalf of the school boards and pointed to South Carolina as a model. In a 2001 study found that districts with independence increased taxes at a slower rate. Some believe that it is not a bad idea that the school board do not have taxing authority and are dependent on the Board of Commission. Then there are others who believe such as the BOC that they have the accountability for taxes but not the responsibility for expenditure. School boards often spend inordinate amounts of time and resources justifying their needs and monetary requests to county commissions. In addition to the extra layers of beauacracy this creates, the discussions all too often devolve into bickering over politics, personalities, partisanship, jurisdictional power conflicts, and other alternative agendas rather than the most efficient provision of educational services. Politics and political maneuvering should not be involved in addressing the educational needs of children. School boards are elected to be the education leaders and decision-makers in their communities and should not have to educate and justify their needs to another group of officials who are neither focused on education policy nor held accountable for the school systems’ success or failure.
I think it is time to present this idea to the public for their input. I would support having some county-wide input sessions to see how our citizens feel about this concept of giving taxing authority to school boards. According to the state’s constitution, this would require legislative approval and also a referendum. Before that can happen, we need joint meetings between the two boards and a lot of community input.
7. Assuming the Board of Commissioners retains taxing authority in the near term, what steps do you believe the Board of Education can or should take to repair the sometimes-strained relationship with the commissioners over funding questions?
During the leadership of former county manager, David Cooke and former School Superintendent, Del Burns, the boards had a two prone approach to establishing and maintaining a good relationship. Both boards were encouraged to meet monthly and quarterly.
The Chairs/Vice Chair of the County Commissioners and School Board met monthly and quarterly to address upcoming “Capital Projects and Student Enrollment Funding”
2.) The Business Community (Town/Municipal’s Chambers of Commerce and Town Leaders) was encouraged to partner with both boards to bridge the uncertainties of the school system, while addressing the economy impact of Wake County.
I would like to see the Chairs/Vice Chairs of both boards meet monthly and the entire board membership meet quarterly to address their uncertainties.
The Business Community (investors) interest is important to our economy and should partner with both boards to ensure public education in Wake County School System is the best. The Business Community should monitor and assess the progress of the boards relationship quarterly and give feedback immediately
8. In the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this year, what do you think should be done to make schools safer? Do you see preventing such shootings as a “school safety” issue?
In the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this year, it is my belief that the WCPSS should follow the recommendation of the Task Force for Safer Schools in Wake County. The task force made the following recommendations to have a third party conduct an evaluation/needs assessment of prevention efforts. Institute evidence-based drug education, safety education and training for students, staff, families and local communities. Each WCPSS school should have a full time, highly trained staff in the use of threat assessment to include therapeutic professionals, counselors, social workers, psychologists and nurses. Thereby, forming support teams for students, teachers, families along with restorative justice programs. It also recommends that the WCPSS develop a system wide comprehensive, all hazard emergency operation and security master plan of preparedness and they recommended that no one other than a certified law enforcement officer within their jurisdiction to possess a firearm at any WCPSS school. Lastly create a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) for the school system.
9. In a similar vein, 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?
Yes, I support the placement of school resource officers in the schools. I believe that they should follow the Federal School Discipline Guidelines. Such as creating a healthy school environment by encouraging positive behavior and prevention strategies and providing students with resources to promote mental health and welfare. I do not believe that SROs should become involved in school discipline matters, remove students from the classroom and if so only as a last resort. SROs should be properly trained, supervised, and evaluated to ensure that consequences for misbehavior and age appropriate discipline is followed and it is proportional. School staff, including SROs, should be trained on disciplining students fairly and equally in order to prevent disproportionate impact on students of color, students with disabilities, and at-risk students. WCPSS, SROs, families and students should be involved in the creation and application of discipline policies.
10. 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. Why isn’t WCPSS doing a better job of reaching students of color? Are racial disparities an issue you think the board of education needs to address?
The disproportionate number of black students being suspended is a concern for WCPSS and is an issue that needs to be addressed. Even though this rate has declined over the past few years, four issues still remain. First, too many students are still being suspended out of school without a reasonable alternative. Second, too many students, who perhaps in the past would have been suspended, are still being pushed out of their regular classrooms and into inadequate alternative classrooms and not being counted as suspended but they are not getting the services they need to be successful at school. Third, teachers and administrators are been told to reduce suspensions but not being given the necessary tools to ensure that schools remain orderly and that students continue to receive quality instruction and support (e.g, resources for prevention, interventions, and alternatives to suspension, sensitivity training, etc.). Fourth, we simply do not have enough helping professionals in our schools (see answers above). The ultimate goal should not be merely making suspension data look better, but rather ensuring safe and fair schools and helping students be successful in school and in life.
11. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some points with voters.
The one issue that I think that would cost me some points with voters and that is supporting BOE receiving taxing authority. North Carolina is one of three states wherein the BOE do not have taxing authority and many citizens do not support any additional organization having taxing authority. More citizens do not even believe that county commissioners should make taxing policies or levies.