I believe we can work together to support our teachers and students and have quality public schools suitable for "one of the best places to live."
A Supporter of Local Schools:
I am a forty-plus year resident of Wake County, a product of local WCPSS schools, (York Elementary, Daniels Middle School and Enloe High School), and an active involved parent of two public school students, and have served as a PTA officer and volunteer.
I have a proven record supporting of public education. As a legislator I sponsored legislation promoting STEM programs and civics education; legislation to protect children from on-line predators and identify theft; and was endorsed local teachers.
An Experienced Advocate:
I am a volunteer in the community helping enrich students and assist parents with advocating for their children - working with Wake County PAGE to provide enrichment activities for gifted children, and helping parents advocate for the services their children need.
I am a dedicated mentor and instructor for youth – a past youth league coach, Sunday school teacher and youth group leader, volunteer with the county spelling bee, and an AAU volunteer scorekeeper and announcer.
In support of active, healthy youth, I work professionally to provide financial assistance to help students in low wealth families attend active, outdoor summer camps and nature programs.
I have had a long career in government advocacy, effective in promoting important issues through municipal, county, and state governments and helping families navigate bureaucracy and regulations.
Effective school board members must take their responsibility to work as a member of a team very seriously. The board only has power when acting as a group and individual board members cannot accomplish anything working alone. To effectively move the school district forward and improve student achievement, board members must be involved and cannot be passive bystanders or lone wolves. They must be able to listen respectfully to their colleagues and also persuasively advocate for their own positions, building consensus where they can or at least move a majority to their view. This also means being able to form compromises if they cannot win a majority to their viewpoint. Failure to do this results in ineffectiveness and abuse of the public’s trust in you to be an effective representative of their views and a leader for education.
Our schools have many critical funding needs due to chronic underfunding by the legislature in violation of its state constitutional duty to adequately fund our public education system. (See Leandro v. State, 488 S.E.2d 249 (N.C. 1997)).
The state legislature requires that all schools reduce class sizes for grades K-3, but doesn’t provide the funds needed to hire the new teachers or build the new schools needed to create more classrooms for the same number of students. Nor does the state provide adequate funding for textbooks, digital learning tools and instructional supplies, forcing school districts to rely on free or “open-source” materials, to develop their curriculum at their own expense, and to leave teachers without the tools or supplies they need.
Our schools also have a critical need for more counselors, nurses, and social workers. For example, one school nurse might serve several schools and only be available one day a week.
One way that we have successfully started to address these needs has been to work with our county commission to supplement school operation costs, so that we could increase the ratio of these vital workers to our large number of students, and to accelerate school construction projects. However, for many of these state needs our only option is to work with citizens in the community to strongly advocate for responsible education spending and to educate state policy makers about the legitimacy of these needs and the importance of funding them.
Most teachers in the Wake County work for the love of the job rather than the pay or professional benefits, so improving job satisfaction is important. Currently even dedicated teachers are feeling anxiety and apprehension about returning to classrooms in Wake County while COVID-19 community infection numbers remain high. If teachers are not provided a safe working environment we will lose many of our best teachers and not have the professionals needed to educate our children.
Some of the issues that would improve professional development and improve satisfaction are the same as the ones discussed in the question below about teacher training and retention, such as pay comparable to what teachers are paid other communities similar to Wake County, tuition or loan assistance to help pay for advanced education degrees, more calendar flexibility to help with work flow.
We also need to invest more in textbooks, digital learning tools and instructional supplies that teachers need to do their jobs, but which have been lacking in recent years. The absence of these, or reliance on substandard resources, forces teachers to develop their own materials, many times paid for out of their own pockets, and creates disparities from school to school in what children learn.
Neither important nor unimportant
Research shows that Pre-K programs are incredibly impactful for children’s educational development as well as their health and welfare. Pre-K programs effectively improve early literacy, getting more children ready for reading and learning faster than peers without this head start. Pre-Ks also perform valuable health screenings that can help prevent child obesity and identify potential developmental issues in children that can be identified, caught, and corrected earlier before they would otherwise create struggles for students, holding them back while their peers advanced in their learning.
Many state policies have negatively impacted recruiting and retaining qualified teachers. Pay is always an issue with North Carolina ranked 29th among the states in per-pupil funding. Wake County does better thanks to local salary supplements provided by the county government, but still lags far behind comparable communities like Fairfax, VA, San Diego, CA, Dallas, TX, Memphis, TN, Jacksonville, Fl, etc.
North Carolina should offer a more robust state tuition credit or loan forgiveness program for teachers willing to work in low-performing schools or in communities of critical need, similar to the NC Teaching Fellows program that had been so successful before it was scaled down to its current level. Restoring pay for teachers with Masters degrees or offering similar tuition assistance or loan forgiveness would also improve teacher training.
Any steps that can help increase teacher job satisfaction will help with retention. Something as simple as giving local districts more school calendar flexibility under state law would allow let schools give mid-term exams before year end holiday breaks and could allow a better balance of planning, grading, and work flow that is consistently identified by teachers as an area needing improvement.
One size does not fit all in education.
First and foremost, I am a mom. My husband and I have 2 boys in elementary school. We moved to Wake County partly for its reputation of having good schools. Over the 8 years we have lived here, we have seen much deterioration and have heard terrible things about middle and high school here. That is coming up in our future! My hope is to be part of a school board that can make some needed changes and right the ship so that the public schools again become a better choice for all the students who live here, including my own.
I served 5 years on Capitol Hill as a communications director to a prominent US Congressman. From being in the thick of things in Washington, I know how the political process works and how to get things done. I know how to take a principled stand and how to sort through complicated information and be responsive to the people I would represent. My real estate experience has taught me the importance of listening, anticipating problems and customer service. I know how to distill facts and ask questions that get to the heart of the matter and put things in perspective.
I look forward to being a part of making Wake County schools great again.
We must listen to the community and develop a path to our educational goals with the funds and resources available. We must strive to be good stewards of Wake County residents' tax dollars. We must be responsive and attentive to problems and concerns brought before us.
After looking to all federal and state emergency funds available, and lobbying for whatever we can get from those sources, I would push for a full and complete audit of the school budget. We need to develop an honest and transparent budget in light of severely reduced tax inflows. We need to look for places we can cut costs that are not detrimental to the educational goals we have for our students. I bet we can find several! We also have to be cognizant and prepared for pushback on that. Every dollar the government (and the school board) wastes goes into someone's pocket. That someone always howls when that money isn't there anymore, but we need a sustainable fiscal plan going forward. I anticipate that will be a huge practical and political challenge, but we have to face reality. We CAN still educate our kids with less. After the COVID-19 lockdowns, and the economic aftermath that is coming, we will have to. But if charters and homeschoolers and private schools can control costs, so can we.
I would ask them. They are highly trained professionals and they know what they need to do their jobs. We have to figure out how best to support them and we have to give them the autonomy and trust they need to teach in a functional and joyful way.
Neither important nor unimportant
It's importance is determined by parents. It is important that the option be made available for those who choose it.
I am not a teacher. My husband has been and my mother was one. There are other candidates for school board who have taught and know this area well. No school board member knows everything. But I know and trust people who fill in my knowledge gaps and will guide my decisions in this area. I am not a teacher, but I can be taught!