How long have you lived in Wake County?
I’m a native. I’ve worked other places, but I was born here and this is home.
Why have you decided to run for office?
I became concerned about the Wake County school system. I feel like I owe a lot to it. It served me well in my life and in my career. I became concerned when, specifically, I heard about the system having its accreditation lessened. I became concerned when my sister said she was glad her kids weren’t in the Wake County schools anymore, and I became concerned when I saw that it took three hours and 56 votes to elect a vice-chairman. I’ve worked with boards all over the state and all over the country, and this is just not the way boards behave. I just thought, you know, I’m tough enough. I’m smart enough. I’ve got the credentials. Let’s go do it.
What do you think are the best and worst decisions the current school board has made?
I just met Tony Tata at a training session, and I am more impressed with him than I thought I would be. I think he may be their best decision. He’s not a yes man to them. He seems to be taking everything into account. Maybe his military background pays off there.
The worst thing: I’m extremely concerned about accreditation. That’s the number one thing. But, I’m also extremely concerned about the demoralization of teachers. Teachers are extremely concerned about losing their jobs at the hands of a school board that is operating at the whims of some political force. And to be really frank with you, that force is the Republicans.
What do you think is the most important issue facing your district, and how do you plan to address it?
Accreditation would be number one at the top of my list, and that is guaranteeing a certified teacher appropriate to the needs or the talents of every single child, not groups of children, but every single child, wherever that child lives in Wake County. That probably speaks to the issue of achievement, too. I’m concerned that the Republicans think that achievement for any child is measured by some point on a graph, and it isn’t. Data reports are good, but they do not address the needs of individual students.
What do you think WCPSS should do to address the achievement gap?
I think we’re moving in some of the right directions in terms of the new placement plan. That’s going to be a good test. I still have my concerns about that, t h o u g h , because I think huge p o p u l a tions are left out of that. I’m concerned a b o u t a c h i e v e ment for each and every child, not just nodes of children.
What are your ideas for measuring and improving teacher and student effectiveness in WCPSS?
We don’t know everything we need to know about measuring teacher and student effectiveness. We tend to take a cookie-cutter approach to evaluating teachers. A classroom like English or Social Studies is not effective in the same way that a math classroom is. You can’t measure them all the same way because they are not developing the same skills or talents. I think we need to do a lot more work at that level. Teachers have to be on the frontline of improving effectiveness. It can’t be superimposed. I believe that teachers have to be responsible for getting rid of the deadwood in the profession.
Do you support merit pay for teachers? Why or why not?
I would support merit pay for teachers. The Republicans have a notion of giving merit pay strictly on student a c h i e v e m e n t , back again to those points on the graph, I don’t think that’s the approach. I think that every teacher in a school, every parent in a school and even every student in a school knows who the best teachers are, whether they’re working with the highest scorers on a test or not.
How do you think WCPSS should attract more minority teachers?
Make it the place people want to be. Schools are the place that teachers go to work and they should love going to work and love what they do and be rewarded for it. If all that happened then people would be knocking down our doors to come here.
How do you feel about the new student assignment plan that’s shaping up?
I’m reserving my final judgment. I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far. I like what they’re doing with siblings and grandfathering. I love magnet schools, and maybe that will help us not go through the disaster that Charlotte- Mecklenburg schools went through. They went to a strictly neighborhood plan and threw the school system back into the ‘50s.
How do charter schools fit in to your conception of a healthy school district?
If people want to have charter schools or private schools or home schools, let them have it. But, don’t take anything away from the public schools in terms of resources. The public schools are still the basis for our democracy. If the public schools are not strong, then the community will not be strong. I would want them to meet the same accreditation and certification standards. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t, but I just don’t want them taking resources away from the public schools.
How would you address the issue of student discipline?
The professional staff and the supporting staff need more training in that. Back when I was a kid, when the earth was cooling and dinosaurs roamed, if you got in trouble in school, then you got it twice when you got home. I think we need more and more parental support. But I think the truth of the matter is sometimes the parental support is not there. For some kids, school is the best place they go and that’s where they have to learn discipline, too. A kid who is already beat down and is acting out because he or she is beat down, doesn’t need to be beat down some more. We just need more alternatives.
What would you do to ensure that WCPSS has the funding to educate its students adequately?
I’m not naïve. I doubt that the legislature or the county commissioners are going to give us a lot more, so we need to look at the pot we have and just reallocate. We do this with our own budgets all the time. If we need to do more, then we rearrange where we spend the money. The school system seems to be doing some of that, too, and I think we’re going to have to do more and more of it given the current economic and political climate.
What was your favorite subject in school?
Math. It was always my easiest subject and I loved it. I had wonderful math teachers here in Raleigh.