Name as it appears on the ballot: Tony McKnight

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Years lived in Orange County: 22

1. What are the three most important education issues facing Orange County schools? If elected, how will you address those issues? Please be specific.

Closing achievement gap disparities between racial/ethnic groups. Focusing on our Title I schools within the district to make them successful. Recruitment and retention of diverse highly qualified teachers.

2. What in your record as a public employee or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the Orange County Board of Education? (This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.)

Over the past 8 years while serving on the Orange County Board of Education my focus has always, and will remain in advocating for a positive learning environment for all Orange County students. My decisions in the areas of budgeting and programs have been guided by what’s best for our students.

3. The INDY’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal? I will continue to be an advocate for the children and staff of Orange County schools, in my decision-making of the district in a fair and equitable manner.

4. Orange County Public Schools had a low dropout rate, 1.55 percent, in the latest available data from 2013–14. But that rate, while low compared to the statewide average, is also the second highest among Triangle school systems, after Durham County. What steps can the Orange County school system take to improve its retention rate?

More prevention programs such as, Family Engagement, Early Intervention in the areas of Literacy, Mentoring programs, and continued community engagement.

Actions by school-system administrators led to the resignations of Efland-Cheeks Elementary teacher Omar Currie and assistant principal Meg Goodhand last year, over the King & King book controversy. Currie’s treatment by administrators angered the LGBTQ community and many supporters. Do you believe the Orange County school system should have handled the situation differently?

The board and administration handled this particular matter appropriately. The administration convened committees to review materials, according to board policy.

If so, how? Are you willing to stand up to parents who wish to shield their kids—and therefore, all students—from discussions and educational materials about gay people?

We must be cognizant and respectful of all views, opinions and be guided by policies of Orange County Schools.

5. According to the latest available data, 13.4 percent of students in Orange County schools are living in poverty, and the number of kids getting free and reduced lunches has risen to 43 percent. In your experience, what are some challenges that economically disadvantaged students, in particular, face day-to-day?

Absenteeism, gaps in learning. What can the school system do to ensure that poor kids have all they need to excel at their studies? That we have teachers that are dedicated to learning of all students no matter of their socioeconomic status, and that those teachers have the adequate resources to teach. We can ensure that every child within Orange County Schools has a breakfast every morning by putting in place a free School Breakfast program. Research studies indicate that breakfast has an impact on student achievement. Establishing Enrichment programs in summer based academic instruction. Focusing in the areas of Reading and Mathematics in early stages of education such as Pre-K, and Kindergarten.

6. Last year, Orange County schools earned three Bs, eight Cs, and one D under the state’s revamped scoring system. Do you think the current state grading system is fair and truly reflects school quality?

I do not that feel that the new grading system reflects the schools quality nor does it reflect the school’s achievement or growth. What do low-performing schools need to do to operate at a higher level? And what does the school board need to do to raise these grades? Set higher expectations for our students, more accountability of teachers and building administrators, Become more data driven to determine areas of concentration. Allocation of resources to schools based on need.

7. What do you think the system could do to keep down suspension rates in Orange County schools?

The District has put in place Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports-which are evidence based programs that will assist in potential out of schools suspensions. We need to focus on early interventions, in identifying at-risk student in the early stages by using our teachers, guidance counselors, and social workers, to assist identifying causes and roots of behavioral issues. Institute conflict resolution groups for students, administrators, and staff.

8. 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.

I will continue to collaborate with fellow board members, receive information, and analyze prior to making decisions that will impact the learning opportunities of our students.