Jennifer Mansfield (I)

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Age: 43
Occupation: Stay-at-Home Mom

How long have you lived in Wake County?

13 years

Do you have children in the district?

6th and 8th graders, both magnet students at East Millbrook Middle School.

Why have you decided to run for office?

District 3 has not had a representative for parents and just the community at-large for the past four years. I wanted to be that voice for parents and citi­zens and I’ve been involved in school issues for the past at least six years. I’ve got a good understanding of the issues that the county fac­es and the issues that my district faces and I’ve got a long history of reaching out to others who think differently than I do, to try to understand where they’re coming from.

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

That’s kind of tricky because it falls along the two factions of the school board. I was and still am a member of Wake Com­munity Schools Alliance and we worked to get the new school board members elected. I have to say, I’ve been disappointed in how things have been done. I agree with the direction. We voted for change and to address some of the is­sues of inequity that had been going on in the sys­tem. I personally would not have gone in as full-steam ahead as they did. I would’ve tried to get more buy-in from the four mi­nority members just to ease into those big changes.

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

One of the very impor­tant issues is a lack of eq­uity in programs. I think a lot of people assume that if you live in North Raleigh, you’re wealthy and your schools are wonderfully well off. That’s not the case. We’ve got a lot of schools that are losing middle-class families to charters and magnets and private. And yet we’ve not done any­thing to try to make those schools more attractive to parents and to try to serve the needs of all the parents.

I’m definitely a propo­nent of magnets. We really need to do an objective re­view of them and I think a lot of people have been afraid to. It’ll upset some people and I think there has been a lot of resistance to actually, objectively de­cide what role do we want them to serve and then how do we go about mak­ing sure they are serving those roles. It’s about mak­ing sure we all have ac­cess to it and the op­portunities in our base schools are increased.

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

A big step forward has been changing the culture of low expectations for our minority and low-income students. When you have low expectations for kids, they’re not going to rise above what you expect of them usually. If you set the bar high, they’ll achieve it, and if you set the bar low, they know what that means. Then we need to make sure we have the right tools and the right program and the right sup­port to teach the different populations of students.

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

No Child Left Behind requires us to use [end-of-grade] tests and that’s cer­tainly one measure. Gradu­ation rates are one measure. EVAAS measures stu­dent growth, and I think that’s just as important as whether or not the child passes the EOG, especially when you’re talking about teacher effectiveness. The way that it’s currently all or nothing, you either pass or you don’t, really misses a very impor­tant part of student a c h i e v e ­ment and a teacher’s work and how effec­tive they are.

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

I do. The how is the big­gest question and there’s not an easy answer to that. I’m for merit pay, but we need to study something very carefully before we’d implement and we need to get buy-in from the teachers and we need to make sure that it’s fair for everybody.

How do you think WCPSS should attract more minority teachers?

It’s important for all kids to see somebody like them in the school. Both of my sons, now that they’re get­ting to middle school, are getting more male teach­ers. It’s just never really dawned on me that would be something that they would connect with, but you know, everybody does. You connect with people who are like you and you see that you can be that someday. It’s not just mi­norities. All kids need to see that.

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

I have a lot of concerns about it. When parents say they want choice, I’m not sure they mean five el­ementary schools, which are pretty much indistin­guishable from each other except for calendar. People want things to be less con­fusing than they are. They want a year-round and a traditional option. They still want magnet choices. But otherwise I think most people don’t want to have to pick from five different schools and they might not get their top choice. People want to go to school close to home and they want to have that comfort of knowing where they’re go­ing to go to school.

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

Charter schools fill a need that the regular pub­lic schools can’t. We have a charter that has a shorter day and that’s for children who are involved in a sport or some other kind of ac­tivity. We should be glad that does that so parents have that option. There are certain niches that need to be filled and charters do a great job of handling that. We don’t need to try to compete with that.

How would you address the issue of student discipline?

I definitely like that a long-term suspension doesn’t automatically mean the rest of the year anymore. We need to look at more alternative schools for some of these kids. What I hear from parents is they don’t want kids to get kicked out of school for the rest of the year, because they’re going to fall farther behind and be exposed to things like gangs and drugs while they are idle, but at the same time par­ents want their kids to have a safe environment and all children deserve to have a safe environment in school.

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

I wouldn’t be afraid to ask the county commis­sioners for more money, because they can say no if they want to and they’re certainly not going to give us more money if we don’t ask for it. We need to have a plan so that the county commissioners and the public see that we’re not just asking for more mon­ey. We have a plan for how to use that money and what the gains will be.

What was your favorite subject in school?

History. Then I ended up being a history major.

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