Full Legal Name: Gary Lee Leonard
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Gary Leonard
Office Sought/District: School Board District 4
Date of Birth: December 26, 1955
Home & Mailing Address: 415 Fall Creek Church Rd., Bennett, NC 27208
Campaign Web Site: garyleonard2010.weebly.com
Occupation & Employer: Language Arts/Social Studies Teacher – Chatham Charter School
Years lived in Chatham County: 54
Home Phone: (336) 581-3305
Work Phone: (919) 742-4550
What do you believe are the most important issues facing the school system. If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
The most important issues facing our school system are reducing the drop out rate, the budget cliff in 2011-12, and striving to excel with less. We must do a more effective job in mentoring our students, especially in the early years of school and also the early years of high school. We must continue to intervene when students experience problems and help them get back on track. The budget cliff will require sacrifices and tough decision making. We have to research and develop innovative best practices to offer a quality education even though we have experienced a recession. Our administration, curriculum specialists, and curriculum coaches must continue to give our teachers the support they need to make our teachers successful.
What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the board? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
I have been an educator for thirty-three years and worked in different schools and have learned to adapt to the students, the school, and the community. I have worked with budgets in my capacity as Athletic Director at Chatham Central High School, chairman of the Chatham County Recreation Advisory Board, and in my church. On these and other committees, I have had to learn to work with others and make tough decisions.
How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I believe in listening to and working with people. I also believe that hard work and good communication will solve most problems before they occur. I have found this to be true in my teaching experience, my experience as a coach and Athletic Director, and with my work with the community.
The Independent‘s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
I have always tried to treat people with respect. My job on the board would be to strive to make decisions that benefited all areas of our county. I will continue to try to do this by listening to and representing our citizens.
Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
Budget cuts are extremely hard to make. We have been dealing with cuts in the past two years and unfortunately, it appears that we will be looking at more. These cuts will impact students and schools, but they could have to be made. I will pledge to try my best to ensure that our students’ educations will be impacted as little as possible.
In paying for new schools and other county needs, what role would you like to see assigned to:
More charter schools?
Other revenue-raising or cost-cutting methods?
Our county commissioners have done a wonderful job of continuing to fund our schools during the recession. We must continue to look for ways to increase the educational quality of our public school system. I feel that our county commissioners are working hard to make educating our children their major priority.
Do you believe Chatham County schools are understaffed?
Class size is a major factor in making progress with students. I feel the most important factor is the people working directly with the student. With the budget cuts, our people have had to work harder, and I believe they are doing a good job. There are areas that we continue to look at where we need more help. We will look to make adjustments in staffing to offer this help.
What steps, if any, would you take to reduce the dropout rates, and improve college admission rates?
Our AVID program has done a wonderful job in helping students in the program prepare for college. I would like to see more intensive mentoring of our students, especially in their freshman year of high school. We also need to continue to focus on early intervention with our elementary students.
Spanish speaking students present unique educational challenges to the district. Evaluate how the district is meeting the needs of these children. How could the district better meet their needs? What are the obstacles to these goals and how can they be surpassed?
Chatham County Schools continues to look for ways to help our language learners acclimate themselves to our schools and to our language. Our ESL teachers work closely with the students and also other teachers to offer help in this adjustment. Siler City Elementary has developed a dual language immersion program that has been very successful.
The School Board has recently updated and revised updated and revised their Drugs and Alcohol policy with stronger consequences for students who violate the rules. Do you believe drugs and alcohol pose a threat to Chatham County students, and if so, what steps will you take to see that the policy’s rules are backed and enforced?
Drug and alcohol abuse is a problem throughout the country. Our policy has been revised, and I feel we need to continue giving our administration the support they need to deter drug and alcohol abuse with our students. We also need to continue to educate our students about the dangers of this abuse. A more intense mentoring program with our students would also benefit our system with this problem.
There have been discussions about Chatham schools moving towards a “digital learning environment;” does Chatham County need to invest in technology for the classroom (including iPads for students) when the budget indicates staff positions will be cut in the 2011-2012 school year?
We will need to take a very long and hard look at our needs for 2011-12 to see what we are financially able to do for our students. Our main objective is to offer our students the best possible education we possibly can and give our teachers the tools they need to provide this education to our students. I feel that our teachers are the key to the quality of our programs. Chatham County Schools has exceptional teachers that work hard to teach our students each day.