Venita Peyton (R)

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Age: 55
Occupation: Real Estate Broker
Website: www.venitapeyton.com

How long have you lived in Wake County?

Over 25 years

Do you have children in the district?

No

Why have you decided to run for office?

I was finally able to help get in a whole new set of school board members with fresher, newer ideas. My whole goal is to em­power the parents in dis­trict 4.

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

The best one they made was to peel back the core and realize that forced bus­ing was inappropriate and unfair to children in my area. The parents that were being impacted were the poor families who didn’t have a hope or prayer of go­ing before the school board to get a change in their school assignment.

What would you say is the worst?

I’m still working on that one since they’re still in power.

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

The very most impor­tant decision in my area is, how do we empower the parents who are here and prepare for the new change that will be occurring within their school assign­ments next year? In par­ticular, we are finally going to be having more parents going to PTA meetings and having parents who are therefore more strong­ly intent on having their child succeed. Even sched­uling some networking opportunities, so they can have little league sports or more of them. Beefing up the after-school programs, so they have play activi­ties that will take care of a child’s mind until a parent gets home. We’ve got a big opportunity to move our children forward, but we can only do it with the help of the children who are be­ing impacted.

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

They’ve tried already different ways over the past few years. The most important one is to make parents feel more comfort­able with the school system so that parents and teach­ers are working together. I don’t think a lot of parents even have known how to address where the child is falling behind. It appears … that many of these tests are driven by how well a child can sit at a desk and take a test. That does not address all the children’s different learning styles. I believe, there should be ways we can measure a child’s abil­ity to learn beyond just sitting at a desk.

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

I can’t tell you much about teacher effective­ness, because I believe a lot of them already are try­ing to be. We also need to find out what is hurt­ing a child’s ability to un­derstand what is going on. To that point, I would like to find a way to include the Wake County Medi­cal Society as another ad­vocate who can help us in this goal to teach children. These medical doctors can tell us some of the things we need to be looking out for. That may be behavior­al problems. Some may be physical problems, some may be mental problems.

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

I’m still working on that. I would like to hear more from the educators’ point of view and I would like to hear more from the par­ents’ point of view.

How do you think WCPSS should attract more minority teachers?

I believe that, first of all, Wake County should look back t h r o u g h their previ­ous hiring practices to find out if the teach­ers who’ve already ap­plied for, and find out if they were un­fairly treat­ed in the first place. We al­ready have a wealth of in­formation sitting in filing cabinets.

There’s a reason why the superintendent is replacing a lot of the people in the central office. Maybe we need to look back at some of our hiring practices from the past.

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

I believe it’s shaping up well. [Superintendent Tony Tata] has offered it to different factions. He’s invited people to come in and get involved with it. It appears that I was right three years ago when I raised this issue, that more parents want proximity first more than anything else. I believe he’s doing well in engaging as many different populations as he can and having the discus­sion before making that final presentation to the school board.

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

I’m not sure about that. I know that we’ve had a number of public schools in this area that have been closed. I believe they all start out with good in­tentions. But I also don’t want to see so many that they drain our budget. They could be very useful for children who have spe­cial needs, those who learn better in the type of envi­ronment where they need more hands-on. I would hope that we don’t get in­undated with good inten­tions and just have people drawing their kids away from public schools. The other thing that both­ers me is that they have to come up with the building funds on their own. That limits the number of peo­ple who could do so.

How would you address the issue of student discipline?

Dial back about a year ago or more, when that particular school superin­tendent was saying, “Oh, we’re going to put these kids out of school on long-term suspension. They’ll get their homework assign­ments by using the Inter­net.” There’s a snowball’s chance in hell that a child who has been disruptive in the classroom is going to wake up at 6:30 or 7 in the morning, go on the In­ternet and be good, and do homework all day long. But that being said, there are instigators and there are victims. Before we completely throw out all the little children who are causing problems, I’d like to know more about what is going on to cause that child to behave that way.

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

I’ve not been told that we don’t have enough to educate them properly right now. I think what we may uncover in the months and years to come is that there may have been waste in some areas, particularly with the free lunch pro­gram. I’m not convinced that only the parents who deserve to be using [the free-and-reduced lunch program] are the ones who are using it.

What was your favorite subject in school?

I don’t know that I had a favorite, actually. My least favorite was gym, because I was always the last one chosen. Athleti­cism was not my strongest point, so I tried to make up for it by using my brain.

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