Name as it appears on the ballot: Mike Kelley

Full legal name, if different: Michael John Kelley

Date of birth: November 20, 1959

Home address: 205 Ukiah Lane, Chapel Hill, NC

Campaign website:

Occupation & employer: physician scientist at Duke University and Department of Veterans Affairs


If elected, what are your top priorities for the school board and how will you achieve them?

My overall goal for our schools is to enable all students in our community to excel academically through acquisition of the knowledge and skills needed to be successful after graduation. All children should have at least expected growth every year. My top priorities to achieve that goal are to ensure a successful transition for the new superintendent (Dr. Forcella), to implement the most effective instructional techniques supported by high-level evidence of effectiveness, to support implementation of the Common Core Curriculum in the coming years, and to maximize learning opportunities and time, particularly for those students who are starting behind.

What is there in your record as a public official or other experiencee.g., career, community servicethat demonstrates your ability to be effective as a board member? If you are an incumbent, what are your most notable achievements and how will you build on them? If you aren’t, what do you bring to the board that it now lacks? Please be as specific as possible about the relevance of your accomplishments to your goals for the board.

Perhaps the most notable achievement during my eights years on the school board has been leading our district through the successful recruitment of an outstanding new superintendent, the first in nearly twenty years. This is a critical juncture for our district and an opportunity to systematically review our district through the eyes of a new educational leader and subsequently institute changes that will bring us closer to our goals. I have the necessary school board experience, knowledge of the district, and personal skills to facilitate this critical transition in leadership.

I was initially elected to the school board in 2003 and re-elected in 2007. I served as chair of the board from 2009 to 2010 and vice chair from 2008 to 2009. I have participated in multiple board committees including Redistricting Committees in 2006 and 2007, Curriculum Advisory Committee, Drug Abuse Task Force, Health Advisory Committee, Technology Advisory Committee, and board liaison to Head Start Policy Council, Special Needs Advisory Committee, Sustainability Committee, Elementary #11 Design Committee, Collaboration Committee (with leaders from Orange County Schools and Orange County Board of County Commissioners), and the School Improvement Teams at several schools. I have also been a member of the North Carolina School Board Association’s Legislative Committee, which helps set the legislative platform for the statewide organization, and was on a Regional Screening Committee for the NC Teaching Fellows Program. Before joining the board in 2003, I was a parent school volunteer and active in other education-related organizations. My four children have attended 8 of the district’s 17 traditional schools, so I have broad personal experience with the schools.

The Independent‘s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to the board help further that goal?

I share the goal of living in a just community and believe that an essential prerequisite to achieving that goal is an educated and well-informed population. I seek to achieve that goal by providing the educational opportunities to challenge and stimulate each child to achieve their potential so they can be fully functional members of society. My work on the board is rooted in the compassion I have learned as a physician, and the critical thinking and evidence-based decision-making necessary for my work as a scientist. My goals for the schools are those widely held in the community and expressed in the vision statement of the district. Using evidence-based and data-driven methods to select the means to achieve these goals provides the best chance to successfully educate each child. I have also been open and encouraging of input from parents and other concerned citizens with regard to the decision-making process of the board.

For the first time in two decades, CHCCS has a new superintendent in Thomas Forcella. What do you hope he achieves in his first year in charge and what will you do to support his efforts?

I fully support Dr. Forcella as our new superintendent. If reelected, I will work cooperatively with him and my board colleagues to achieve the goals the board has established for this year (prepare for implementation of the Common Core Curriculum, implement a comprehensive literacy program, develop a new plan for second language instruction, effectively use technology, and successfully transition to a new superintendent). As part of the leadership transition plan, Dr. Forcella is surveying the district and I anticipate he will provide the board and community with an assessment of his findings and recommendations on how we might better achieve our goals.

How can the district close the achievement gap? What strides have been made in the past four years, what worked, what didn’t, and what should be done now?

There are many achievement gaps. By measuring the growth of each student, we can now focus more precisely on individual students rather than groups. Students who are not growing receive increasing levels of support. The district’s implementation of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), in which teachers work with a small group of their colleagues, has been successful but requires ongoing effort to achieve maximal effect. Instructional techniques should be those that are highly effective; our literacy instruction may be able to be further improved. I continue to advocate for increased instructional time for those students who are behind, including high quality preschool, efficient use of instructional time during the regular school day, extended instructional hours such as through tutoring or afterschool programs, and summer school. Our district also needs to more effectively use technology to support learning.

How do you make sure that despite budget difficulty, the district will push past the status quo and achieve more? What more needs to be done to help support teachers?

There is no assurance that budget limitations will not negatively impact our educational program. They already have to a small extent. Thus, it is essential that we use the available fiscal resources efficiently while advocating for the funding needed to achieve the district’s goals. Teachers have not received a pay increase for four years while their costs for benefits such as health insurance have increased, average class sizes have increased, and overall staffing levels have decreased.

How will the policies you push, if elected, help develop students for the new economy? What kind of nontraditional education is now needed and how would you help provide it?

In any economy, our goal should be to develop students who will excel even in challenging times. Today’s students have the world’s information at their fingertips but several skills that are particularly relevant in today’s information age include creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, and communication. We need a comprehensive plan to better use instructional technology, particularly to provide opportunities for on-demand asynchronous learning.

How should student discipline be handled? What are your views on the district’s current policies for long-term suspension? Do you think they are fairly applied? How would you ensure those children who are long-term suspended are given an opportunity to be educated?

Our policies related to discipline have just been reviewed and revised to implement new legislation, including consolidation of relevant portions into a Student Code of Conduct. The discipline policies are generally fairly applied and permit multiple levels of review so that students committing similar offenses receive similar consequences. The goal of discipline should always be focused on educating and remediating students. Thus, long-term suspension is appropriately limited to those offenses that are most serious, generally involving jeopardy to the safety of students or staff. Our district offers an alternative educational setting for high school students who are long-term suspended. We need to plan for an appropriate alternative educational setting for the very rare younger student who is long-term suspended.

What would you do to increase parental involvement in the schools? What should be the nature of that involvement? Where should the line be drawn?

Parental involvement is an important component of education and a key element of student success. Our community has many very involved parents who help make our district successful. Parental involvement should be encouraged through open and proactive communications from teachers, principals, the school board, and other school staff. To increase parental involvement, parents should be told explicitly that their involvement is important and welcome. Parents should be reminded of ways to be involved, such as reading to their child. The district should expand its informational materials on what learning is taking place at each grade level and in each course. Parents should be kept informed of their child’s progress and provided with opportunities to receive information to help support their child’s education. There should be early and frequent efforts to communicate with the parents of any child who is not being successful; waiting for the results of end of year testing is much too late. Parents should be welcome in their child’s classroom and as volunteers in the school, which helps build the school community. For example, many parents have skills that can help enrich the classroom experience for all children. However, teachers and staff must direct the educational program and the privacy of other students must be protected.

As Chapel Hill’s population continues to grow, what should guide future school planning? Can the district afford and obtain the land necessary to build these schools? How should the district manage its growth? How does redistricting fit in?

The district does not have authority to regulate growth, only the obligation to educate all students who reside within our district. Increase in the student population results in expensive capital needs and is disruptive to the school district. Concurrent with the economic downturn, student growth slowed but is now approaching rates seen prior to 2008. The next needed school is Elementary School 11, which will be built in the Northside neighborhood. Projections show it will be needed in the fall of 2013 to avoid having to deny issuance of Certificate of Adequate Public Schools (CAPS) under the Schools Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (SAPFO). Initially the county had indicated that ES 11 could not be funded to allow it to open prior to 2014 but there now appears to be a possible funding plan that would accelerate that opening to 2013.

Two approaches should be followed to help manage growth. First, the school district should consider alternative approaches such as more efficient use of existing space. For example, the original design of several of our schools includes provisions for expansion and others might also be expanded rather than building on a new site. Also, the existing school capacity should be fully used. I do not support new construction if there is available capacity that could be utilized through redistricting.

Second, the board should engage the county commissioners (who fund new school construction) and the town boards (who approve new housing development plans) in discussions about the negative impacts of growth on schools. Although SAPFO is available to temporarily slow approval of new development if there are not adequate school facilities to support that development, it is not a tool designed to regulate growth. If the towns are going to continue to allow growth, we need to consider sources of funding that may extend beyond those currently available such as a bond and/or real estate transfer tax.