Cynthia Matson (R)

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Age: 45
Occupation: Campus Director, ITT Technical Institute in
Durham
Website: www.cynthiamatsonforschoolboard.com

How long have you lived in Wake County?

17 years

Do you have children in the district?

Two children in middle school.

Why have you decided to run for office?

Because I want to have a positive effect on academic excellence and assignment stability.

What are the three biggest issues you think the Wake County Public School System faces? In 30 seconds or less, how would you address those issues?

Assignment stability would definitely be the first. Academic excellence. I would like to see parents given more choice in where their children are assigned. I’d like to see more equity in choices offered through­out the district. I would like to see resources allo­cated to schools where the population needs them the most. I’d also like to see more support for teachers throughout the district.

I would do this through better engagement and continuing to keep the system operating in a lean manner administratively so there are more resources for classrooms. I would bring in more programs offered in the district so parents don’t have to go outside the district to get the resources only certain schools offer.

What do you think are the best and worst decisions the current school board has made?

Best: They made a great decision in hiring Superin­tendent Tata. They made the right decision when, in this budget, they did not cut teachers. They made a great decision in creating Renaissance schools and STEM schools.

Worst: I’m not sure there are any negative things to say about the cur­rent administration other than I feel there is always room for more commu­nity engagement and in­put, and parents are the resources we need most. There are a few things I’d like to see, like a new grad­ing system in elementary schools as opposed to the 1, 2, 3, 4 system. I would like to see us try measur­ing annual growth on end-of-grade tests. Not just did they pass, but what were the percentages, accurate­ly track academic gains and losses on a per-student basis.

What do you think is the most important issue facing your district, and how do you plan to address it?

Equity in offerings in my district. For e x amp l e , we do not have foreign languages in all mid­dle schools, yet we have some with six different languages in middle school. That’s what I’m talking about when I say equity for all students: the same oppor­tunities, the same ability to apply to schools that have that offering.

What do you think WCPSS should do to address the achievement gap?

When it comes down to academic achievement, I believe that the annual yearly progress, the AYP, really helps to identify which subgroups of stu­dents on the school level need additional resources. I think it’s a good tool for teachers and administra­tors to use to know where to focus their efforts. I think we need to utilize the data because the data speaks.

What are your ideas for measuring and improving teacher and student effectiveness in WCPSS?

Focus in on what the needs of our students are: perhaps tutoring, lower student-teacher ratios, in­centives for teachers, prin­cipals, even cafeteria work­ers that if students achieve the required gains, they get a bonus. That’s what we’re doing in the Renaissance Schools.

Do you support merit pay for teachers? Why or why not?

Yes, be­cause I think com­petition is healthy and challenges ev­eryone to do their best.

How do you think WCPSS should attract more minority teachers?

I’m a former recruiter so there are many ways that we can attract top talent. One of the best ways is to headhunt talent that is al­ready employed. I believe there is a plethora of good teachers employed right here in the community. I’d like to focus on employ­ing people locally. The best way to do that is to reach out to organizations where they’re employed, as well as LinkedIn and by referrals. It’s who you know. It’s be­ing able to look at our own community to find that talent.

How do you feel about the new student assignment plan that’s shaping up?

There are three primary drivers for both plans [The Green Plan and the Blue Plan]: proximity, stability and student achievement. Based on my long involve­ment with reform so that we can have community school assignment, sta­bility and more academic achievement, I’m in favor of this draft, but there’s more work to do to final­ize the plan. It’s extremely important how the admin­istration went to our com­munity for input. When I started my organization [Assignment by Choice] in 2002, we did not have community input. There was no long-term plan for growth. As a result, As­signment by Choice was able to meet with the ad­ministration and pressure them to engage the com­munity in implementing a plan utilizing information that we researched.

How do charter schools fit in to your conception of a healthy school district?

Charter schools are pub­lic schools. I feel that with continued growth in Wake County, thousands more students every year, charter schools are another option. I’m very glad the General Assembly lifted the cap on charter schools.

How would you address the issue of student discipline?

Quite honestly, I think school uniforms would help with the discipline issue. I’ve seen it work in Greenville. From my un­derstanding, it’s reduced identifiably gang-related activity, cut down on disci­pline issues and dress code violations.

What would you do to ensure that WCPSS has the funding to educate its students adequately?

We can only spend what we earn, so to speak. We have become lean with our budget. Right now we need to be land banking, buying land now for future school buildings. If you look at the market in property and the housing market, it’s not the best time. We need to determine where to build schools and buy that land now. Now is the time to buy at a discount. People are much more like­ly to sell it just to sell it at a reasonable price. Almost 72 percent of our tax dol­lars in Wake County go to the schools. How we uti­lize funds by the way we manage resources is how I expect to bring additional resources into the county.

What was your favorite subject in school?

Social studies, because of the teacher. It wasn’t the subject but how he en­gaged me in learning. As I hire instructors on my own campus, of course they must meet the require­ments for the subject, but to me their energy and how they would engage my stu­dents is the deciding factor for teachers in my college.

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