Eric Squires (R)

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Age: 48
Occupation: Retired Computer Engineer

How long in Wake County?

Since 1962

Do you have children in the district?

No

Why have you decided to run for office?

Wanting to give back. My career in computers and information manage­ment as well as manage­ment itself—I got to see a lot of statistics and got to see how corporations as well as government entities did well and didn’t do well and the more I saw about the school board and the more I saw about educa­tion, I figured this would be a good place to apply.

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

If you talk to anybody who knows me, I don’t tend to look backwards a lot unless it comes to learn­ing from things. I’m a lot more interested in where we’re going with the school board than where the school board has been.

Parents need to feel like their voices are being heard. Likewise, if a deci­sion comes out that doesn’t please everybody — and I don’t know what decision ever has really pleased ev­erybody on a school board — you need to make sure that you’re up front and honest with everybody. That way, they at least trust you, even if they don’t agree with everything.

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

The third district is quite spread out, like a lot of them are. We have a couple of different schools in our district that are ex­tremely high in terms of socio-economic needs. The challenge isn’t just for the schools and the teachers and the administration in trying to make sure that all the kids get challenged at their level and above. We also need to look at how do we zone the areas? And I’m not just talking about school district zones, I’m talking about Wake Coun­ty zoning. If we have an area that is really high in free and reduced lunch and if we’re building hous­ing units in that area, then we don’t want to keep ca­tering to the same side of the equation. We need to balance that out. I know the school board doesn’t make those decisions.

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

You can measure the achievement gap in Wake County. We have the num­bers to show that. We also have the numbers to show that certain kids start at the same point but then they develop off of two dif­ferent al­most par­allel lines of develop­ment. So we see not only the perfor­mance gap but we see how it increases from grades 4, 5, 6 and on. That’s as much data as we have now. In talking with Superinten­dent Tata, it’s like he says, we need to drill down that data more. My question to him was, “Is this some­thing that’s going to take five or 10 years or are you talking about coming up with ways of sampling and testing that we can actu­ally find out some stuff in a year or two?” Until we have that data we’re kind of shooting in the dark.

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

When you talk about the teachers and you talk about the students, I’ll put it this way, the number one thing for any learning en­vironment is going to be safety and security. If the kids feel like they have a stable environment that they feel safe and secure in and the administrators feel the same way, profession­ally as well as physically, then we’re going to have an environment we can grow in. When we don’t feel safe and secure because we’re changing districts ev­ery year and we don’t know where to in­vest in our schools be­cause we don’t know if they’re going to be our schools in a couple of years, then that’s like a child going through a divorce ev­ery couple of years. That’s unacceptable.

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

I do support merit pay. It’s the application of it that has stunk when you see how it’s been used across the country. Merit pay is essentially reward­ing someone for doing a good job. That happens in the entire rest of the world. Why shouldn’t it also hap­pen in teaching?

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

I like it over the old plan that’s for sure. Busing kids is obviously just a tool and not just a tool to mix up the kids across the community. That’s not a good reason to do it. A good reason to do it is academic achievement. If a child wants to go to another district then they ought to have the ability to go to that other district. The parents should be able to have the choice in work­ing with that.

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

I think charter schools are a great idea. The reason for that is that every sys­tem, even government sys­tems, need checks and bal­ances. The charter school system is a way to pair it­self with the public school system and show different teaching methods and try different things and then go with what works. If we don’t then we just have one big monopoly and nobody is really watching it. Your money is never well spent in an area where there’s no competition at all.

How would you address the issue of student discipline?

You can take a really fine point on it and say, “Ev­ery child is different.” And that’s true. As far as a larger view of student discipline, the purpose of education is helping to equip our kids for their next level. Not the level of the politicians or the government or the bu­reaucrats but for the kids. Kids are at different levels and some of them require different discipline. That’s all there is to it. No one is going to learn in a situation where they don’t feel safe and secure or stable. Get­ting back to that, that’s the environment that we not only need to show to our kids, but make sure that our kids feel that. There’s no way to have discipline in the classroom if the teachers aren’t backed up.

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

Obviously, we can’t just approve all the funding as the educational board. Otherwise, we’d probably have 10 times the budget because we all love kids that much. One of the things that’s an important part of the job is public per­ception. When people look at their tax bill and they see how much money goes to­wards the educational side of things, including the building of the schools and everything else. Bottom line is there’s a tremendous amount of people in Wake County that have no kids in the school system, yet they’re paying the taxes. People need to know how much it means to a com­munity for the kids to be well-educated, for them to feel secure in getting the best education possible and for them to be adding to the environment of the community. We need to let them know as we make the system better, we protect everyone’s land prices.

What was your favorite subject in school?

Physics

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