Occupation: Teaching Assistant Professor, College of Education, NCSU
How long have you lived in Wake County?
Do you have children in the district? No
Why have you decided to run for office?
I think it’s important … that at least one member on that board has public school experience. I’ve taught every grade 7 through 12. I’ve been an assistant principal and principal at elementary, middle and high school. For the past five years, I’ve been teaching at the College of Ed, preparing students to be hired by Wake County Public Schools.
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?
Budget, student assignment and growth. Budget: we have to continue being as fiscally responsible as we can be. That’s where I think being an educator can help with the decision-making process. It seems obvious to people that if you cut class size from 26 to 24, you have to make a corresponding cut with support. That’s where they want to make the cuts, but that’s not always the best for our kids.
Right now, at least for the next six to eight months, we’ve got to flesh out a new assignment plan. Looking at how we assign students to schools, I still believe that what a school looks like in terms of size and challenges does have an impact on teacher effectiveness and student achievement. Again, that’s from an educator’s perspective, and that’s supported by a boatload of research. Growth, assignment and budget are all tied in together.
What do you think are the best and worst decisions the current school board has made? Best: We’re trying to come together to work in the best interests of our students. As a board we have tried to work with staff … to try and manage not having any money. Some of the decisions we’ve made as a board on how to utilize our funds or direct resources, I think we’ve had some consensus on that.
Worst: I still feel it was a mistake to remove collaborative planning time for our teachers. The research truly shows that collaborative planning through schools is very effective.
What do you think is the most important issue facing your district, and how do you plan to address it?
Growth. In north W a k e , northeastern Wake, in District 3 into parts of District 1, right now are just really s tretched with capacity. I think it’s most exaggerated in terms of having too few seats at the elementary level, about 1,800 seats in deficit right now [for 2015]. We need to try to get some early start schools going. That bubble is just going to follow from middle school up to high school.
What do you think WCPSS should do to address the achievement gap?
We’ve got to provide more, not less, training for our teachers. If you look at all of the various subgroups and you start to disaggregate the data, we’ve got a lot of different gaps we’ve got to look at and all sorts of different solutions. The common denominator is that you’re going to have to have teachers that are well trained and well supported.
What are your ideas for measuring and improving teacher and student effectiveness in WCPSS?
I think we have the tools already, between the ABCs [state tests] and No Child Left Behind, which I think will either go away or be substantially modified ,because I don’t look at AYP and the labels that it places on schools seriously.
R i g h t now North Carol i na is one of 46 states participating in the Common Core Standards. They necessitate that states assess their kids with summative assessments and tie those assessments to progress being made a little bit differently than AYP.
Do you support merit pay for teachers? Why or why not?
I really don’t. I’ve seen it be very divisive when it was given just to a school and then distributed amongst the teachers or given to individual teachers.
How do you think WCPSS should attract more minority teachers?
First of all, I think that as a district we need to continue to position ourselves to be recognized as one of the leading districts in the country so then people will want to come here. Second, we need to continue to recruit at the HBCUs.
How do you feel about the new student assignment plan that’s shaping up?
To be perfectly honest, I have not seen anything associated with the assignment plan since it was presented in June at the board table. There’ve been no updates since staff has been working on it. So the staff and the superintendent were pretty much given a directive to go ahead and put together a student assignment plan.
How do charter schools fit in to your conception of a healthy school district?
I think there’s a role that charters can play, and I think the General Assembly was on the right track early on when they said, “All right, we’re going to lift the cap on charters, but charters have to represent and look like the communities in which they serve,” similar to the public schools. But when they finally lifted the cap on charters, that was not included. So they still do not have to offer transportation or provide free-and-reduced lunches or even provide, by requirement, special education.
I don’t believe in the whole concept that charters provide competition for public schools and bring the public schools up.
How would you address the issue of student discipline?
I think it needs to be ongoing. This is the first major revision we’ve had in very many years of our discipline policy. I think we did look at research and did look at data. One of the things that was mentioned — at the second meeting in June — was that we need to form … a committee for an ongoing look at the discipline policy. I think that would be a good idea.
What would you do to ensure that WCPSS has the funding to educate its students adequately?
We need to continue to push the county commissioners. I’ve made several comments this past spring, one in a meeting with the commissioners, that I must not be a politician because I would vote to raise taxes.
The schools are the driver of our economic engine in Wake County, educating the future of Wake County.
What was your favorite subject in school?
Social studies. That’s what I taught — politics, government, economics. Math is important, science is important, but social studies is the discipline because it’s the building block of all the other disciplines.