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Buncombe County Schools Board of Education OWEN

The Buncombe County Board of Education is the local governing body of the County Public School System. There are seven members of the Board of Education who are elected to serve four-year terms. One candidate is elected from each of the six districts and one at-large. Candidates are elected on a nonpartisan basis. Voters in each district vote for candidates from all districts and for the at-large candidate. The 7-member school board has 5 primary responsibilities: 1. Employ the superintendent 2. Establish policy 3. Determine annual operating and capital budgets 4. Approve student assignment boundaries 5. Oversee the management of the school district’s major systems, including budget and finance, curriculum and instruction, personnel and auxiliary services

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  • Margaret (Peggy) Buchanan

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    Everett D. Pittillo

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    Linda Tatsapaugh

Biographical Information

What experience and qualities do you feel you bring to this office? (YouTube link or text, or both)

What do you think is the most important responsibility of a school board member?

What are the critical state funding needs for this county’s schools and how would you address those needs?

How would you assess teacher satisfaction in the county and how would you promote professional development?

Pre-Kindergarten is: [Importance Scale]

Please explain your choice.

What are the issues in recruiting and retaining qualified teachers?

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Contact Phone (828) 273-0014
email address bigpitt1913@yahoo.com
Position/philosophy statement I am in this to win this for those that felt their voice fell upon deaf ears for far too long.
As a business manager, I have always put others before myself. In doing so I have been taught valuable lessons that have shaped me into a compassionate individual; wanting only to solve problems as a leader. Also having managed for multiple small businesses and corporations this has developed me into a profit maker through budgeting processes and strategic initiatives. This position requires someone with business experience to be fiscally responsible for the taxpayers dollars; developing programs and insuring the facilities are well maintained. My attitude is that "no one can outwork me". Having said this no one would be more vocal or work harder than myself for the children and parents of Buncombe County. Having three children in the county; one goes to elementary, one to middle school, and the other in high school, I know the importance of parents having a voice. I also know the issues that each area is lacking with the educational processes, overcrowding, safety, and aging facilities. Having support through my family and teachers allowed me to further my education; developing myself for the betterment of my family and everyone that encounters me. The very system that I believe needs change to the way it once was, gave me the ability to receive the following degrees: Hiwassee College: Associate Degree, Montreat College: Bachelor Degree Business Management, Montreat College: Master Degree in Leadership, and Harvard University: Leadership Certification.
The most important responsibility for a school board member is to represent their district and county with distinction. Everyone deserves to be heard when they have something to say. What one might think as being insignificant to others could be extremely important to that one faculty member, parent, or student. If a board member does not keep their community at heart, they have no business being in the position to which they were elected.
Currently, the critical needs through state funding revolve around facility overcrowding and aging schools throughout the county. Due to overcrowding with so many migrating to the area some facilities have been ignored; costing taxpayers more in revenue to fix than to expand or replace. I feel as if the county needs to employee a full time grant writer; asking for funding in other areas so we can move monies around in the budgeting process to repair, expand, and replace some of the local facilities throughout the county. A grant writer would also be able to apply for funding of our digital platform that many have found as lacking after our children were required to stay at home for their education.
Currently, I would say that teacher moral is at an all-time low. These individuals have been forced to work tirelessly with a digital platform with little to no training. What was asked of them is what online collegiate professors do to educate young adults. Their safety is also a concern with this pandemic; they are our front lines and we need to ensure their safety. These individuals need to learn digital platforms; giving them the ability to learn from those that are already doing this in business and educational atmospheres. What they need should not fall upon deaf ears and the School Board should work to promote what they need and want to insure they feel comfortable during their job duties. Anyone wanting to develop their self professionally should always be supported financially and encouraged to do so.
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This is very important due to the lack of core family today. Meaning due to cost of living parents are unable to spend time with their children due to working long hours just to support them financially. Also, many are single parents and do not have that other parent in their child’s lives to stay at home and work to develop their child at a young age.
With the amount of private schools going in the area many educators are choosing this path. We are in competition with the private sector where they are offering better pay, better hours, and a better support system. They have newer facilities that are more comfortable to work in. We need to have the best Schools in the State, no different than having a great corporation to work for. If you have the best, promote the best, and support your staff then educators will want to work for your county and district.
Age (optional) 53
Contact Phone (828) 779-2635
Position/philosophy statement Education is the foundation on which we build our lives and every student has the right to quality public education.
As the beneficiary of a public school education and mother of a Buncombe County Schools student, I have personally experienced the value - and challenges - of public schools. I have been an Owen parent since 2008. I have served on PTOs, as Band Booster president, on two School Improvement Teams and am currently on the CDOHS Advisory Council. I have enjoyed volunteering as a tutor, fundraiser and event coordinator in Owen schools. My career has focused on reaching every child and helping them meet their potential as a contributing member of their community. I began working in a wilderness program with young men who struggled with serious emotional and behavioral issues. I served 12 years as executive director of a summer camp and residential school for youth with Aspergers Syndrome or ADHD (Talisman Programs), and the past 7 years as co-owner of the camp. My community leadership positions have included serving on the boards of Church World Service, EcoForesters and the WNC Learning Disability Symposium; and as chair or president of The National Association of Therapeutic Wilderness Camps, WNC Alliance (now MountainTrue), and my church. Both professionally and on boards, I have worked extensively with large budgets, HR, governance, and accreditations. I bring integrity, persistence, and the ability to look deeply into issues and work cooperatively with stakeholders to reach effective solutions.
A school board member must first represent the best interests of their district, particularly the students and faculty of their public schools. This requires staying involved in the schools, asking questions and listening to the full range of viewpoints on issues. Then board members must speak up in discussions, inquire about what they do not know, and introduce pertinent issues. In Buncombe County, each board member should be the expert on their district, but govern with the interests of the entire school system in mind.

When the board addresses financial, legal or personnel issues, the board member may need to weigh competing interests or consider ideals versus practical limits. But always the touchstone must be what is in the best interest of the district (or system) and its members, and how to achieve, or at least move closer to that. This priority must rise above politics and personal interest and focus on our students.
The critical funding needs of Buncombe County Schools are similar to many NC schools. According to the recently-released Leandro Report, state per pupil spending has decreased 6% in the past decade, and is the sixth lowest in the nation. NC utilizes an allotment system, tightly controlling how the funds are spent.

Buncombe County critical funding needs include higher teacher pay, especially allowing for increases for those with masters degrees and annual raises. Support staff also need increases; bus drivers in particular are difficult to recruit partly due to low pay.

The most critical need I have heard across the school system is for more mental health professionals. Currently multiple schools share staff, including counselors, social workers and behavior specialists, while student needs are growing more complex. Many schools also share nurses.

School supplies are also underfunded. Last year politicians played with already limited funds, seemingly for political gain. The General Assembly announced that it was giving each teacher their own funds for supplies. In actuality, they took that money from funds the schools already had for supplies and gave it to individual teachers, negated the benefits of bulk purchasing. This highlights the need for greater autonomy for individual school systems in setting spending priorities.
Teacher satisfaction should be assessed through several means. Principals conduct surveys as part of their annual school report cards; aggregate results may be shared. The teachers’ organization, Buncombe County Association of Educators, can provide information from its membership. And an assessment of teacher retention rates can indicate any changes in longevity which could be due to dissatisfaction. But meeting with and asking teachers directly is the most helpful, even if it is more anecdotal than statistical. Teachers talk with each other and they know the current tone.

Professional development for teachers depends on two things: funding and time. Currently little to no funding is available for development outside of the school itself. In the Owen district, two of the PTOs of which I was a member raised funds for professional development grants, at principal request. Teachers have been paying their own way. Additionally, they have to find - and pay for - substitute teachers themselves. Either the state or the county needs to provide funding for the training itself and cover the cost of substitutes. I would push for more autonomy in how the school system spends funds and advocate for more to be allocated to professional development for all teachers.

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Access to Pre-K for all students one of the seven recommendations in the Leandro Report. As the report references, studies have shown that high-quality pre-kindergarten benefits improve students’ outcomes through the 8th grade, especially in reading and math, but also in language and behavior skills. Other studies have shown the importance of early exposure to reading in predicting student success. In other words, the experiences a child has in their first years have a significant impact on their academic performance at least throughout the elementary grades.

Most important is the individual child’s success and resulting continued engagement in learning. Additionally, schools need fewer remedial resources when students are able to work at grade level. And a student who is able to keep up with their class experiences less frustration and therefore may be less likely to consider dropping out of school.
The biggest challenge in recruiting and retaining qualified teachers is pay. Currently, the average NC teacher salary ranks 37th in the nation. Until 2008, salaries had consistently risen. Following the Recession, increases were first dropped and then added back unevenly. Additional pay for advanced degrees was also dropped, and only partially added very recently. Teachers often report having to work additional jobs or leave teaching simply because they cannot afford to live on their salary.

Another challenge is a decreased applicant pool. The NC Teaching Fellows program supported future teachers by paying college costs in return for several years’ service. That program was eliminated in 2011, then returned in decreased form. College students considering career choices are not encouraged by salaries and working conditions to choose teaching.

Finally, teachers are much less able to access professional development opportunities than in the past. While Buncombe County schools have a well-developed internal program of Professional Learning Communities, there is no funding for teachers to attend external trainings. Lack of professional growth can lead to attrition.

More intentional effort needs to be made in recruiting a diverse faculty that better reflects the student body. The county needs to examine possible roadblocks and develop an effective plan that includes creating a welcoming professional environment and recruiting in ways that will reach more applicants.