As a candidate, I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing from so many of you across our district with relevant questions, thoughtful conversation and powerful feedback about all things ABSS! I have realized many of the questions/questionnaires – and my responses – provide great insight for our citizens as they decide which candidates can most effectively lead our school district. I trust the information is helpful and welcome the opportunity for more conversation about our schools!
10/22/2020: Alamance News Candidate Questionnaire
CURRICULUM/ACADEMICS/STUDENT & SCHOOL PERFORMANCE
1. Rank in order of relative importance the following goals for the school system.
- increasing student test scores on the SAT and other standardized tests 5
- acquiring computers and other technology for use in student instruction 1
- bolstering student skills in traditional areas such as reading and writing ability 2
- expanding curriculum to include more offerings along the lines of music, dance, and foreign language 4
- providing special instruction for gifted students and for students with learning disabilities 3
2. Is the ABSS academic curriculum generally adequate? Yes.
2a. What academic area(s), if any, do you think needs the most improvement within the Alamance-Burlington schools? [25 word limit]
Our educators should be able to focus on reading, writing and arithmetic while nurturing meaningful relationships with our students. Let’s get back to the basics.
3. School performance throughout the school system, as measured by state-developed standards, has declined, especially over the past several years, with 13 schools – more than a third of all schools within the county – receiving D or F performance grades from the state (with a similar number designated as “low performing”), and only one getting an A during the most recent reporting period (for school year 2018-2019). What can be done to improve academic performance? [50 word limit]
While academic achievement is an important factor in the DPI grading system, it is weighed more heavily than school growth which indicates students have met or exceeded the state’s performance expectations. In 2019, 26 of 34 ABSS schools MET or EXCEEDED growth. Let’s recognize those efforts.
4. Do you believe that students of all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds can meet academic performance targets set by the state? Yes.
4a. If no, please explain why not. [25 word answer] n/a
5. Last fall, ABSS Superintendent Dr. Bruce Benson suggested eliminating the year-round calendar at four ABSS schools (Eastlawn, North Graham, and South Graham elementary schools; and Graham Middle School), saying that the year- round calendar had done little to improve academic performance at those schools and had resulted in higher rates of teacher absenteeism than those for schools that follow the traditional school calendar. Do you support or oppose eliminating the year-round schedule at these schools? Support.
6. There are various "socially-conscious" curriculums being circulated among school systems nationally and proposed for some North Carolina school systems. These include "The 1619 Project," as well as the “Black Lives Matter at School’s Year of Purpose” instructional materials and activities. Would you support or oppose the use of these kinds of materials and activities, if proposed for ABSS? Oppose.
6a. Which do you believe should be a higher priority for the school system: new curriculums, such as those noted above, or a focus on the fundamentals of academic achievement? Fundamentals.
7. Alamance County voters approved a $150 million bond package for ABSS in November 2018; six of the eight projects it will fund are for renovations and construction to increase capacity at the high school level. Do you anticipate the need for another bond referendum for repairs and expansions at other grade levels? No
7a. If you answered yes, please identify where you see the greatest needs and why. (50 words or less.)
The capital improvement plan for ABSS includes $23.1M for additional improvements across the district. With careful oversight, this $3.3M funding commitment between ABSS and Alamance County will address many issues annually over the next seven years.
8. The 2018 bond package also included funding that was anticipated to be used to convert Graham and Cummings high schools from traditional, comprehensive high schools into specialty schools. (Cummings would be converted to a specialty school of the arts, initially serving students in grades six through 12; Graham would be converted to a specialty skilled trades school/expanded early college program.) Do you support or oppose the conversion of these two high schools into specialty schools? Support.
8a. Why or why not? (25-word limit)
I support specialty schools HOWEVER surveys last year did NOT reflect adequate interest from students. More work needs to be done to determine next steps.
9. Do you support or oppose the new high school boundaries, as adopted by the board in January 2017, which are set to take effect upon completion of the new high school in the Hawfields community, currently targeted for May 2023? Oppose.
9a. Why or why not? (25-word limit)
Boundaries need to be revisited to account for current enrollment projections. Community input and impact of feeder schools are also important factors to consider.
10. The issue of school safety has many dimensions. What, if any, ideas do you have for the local school system?
Safe schools are crucial for student achievement. Our SROs will work with administration, social workers, nurses and guidance counselors to create a school safety team.
10a. Specifically, would you support or oppose allowing teachers to be armed? Support.
10b. Some areas have discussed the idea of allowing armed volunteers (with proper gun-safety training) to patrol on local school campuses. Would you support or oppose that concept? Support.
10c.Earlier this year, several community members called on school board members to defund the School Resource Officers (SROs) who work in ABSS schools – similar to calls to defund police that swept the country this summer – and to redirect funding for SROs to other priorities. Should ABSS reduce, eliminate, maintain, or increase the number of schools with SROs? Increase.
10d. Why? [25 word limit]
Safe schools are crucial for student achievement and our SROs are essential to that success. Each school should have a SRO working with our administration, social workers, nurses and guidance counselors to create a school safety team.
10e. At least a part of the impetus for establishing and subsequently expanding the presence of SROs in the past was the potential to address an on-site threat, such as a shooter on campus, whether student or adult. If you support a reduction in the number of SROs, or their elimination altogether, how should you suggest the school system ensure a safe climate on school campuses? [50 word limit] n/a
11. AS OF TODAY, is it time for ABSS classrooms be reopened at each of the levels outlined below?
- Pre-K Yes
- K-2 Yes
- Grades 3-5 Yes
- Middle School Yes
- High School Yes
11a. Potential Elaboration (50 word limit total)
First, I commend ABSS for its commitment to remote learning under extraordinary circumstances. However, our students are struggling academically, socially, and mentally. It is imperative that we work to identify effective ways to transition our students SAFELY back into the classroom.
12. There has been some discussion and debate about whether providing greater "socioeconomic" balance at various schools is an appropriate purpose for redistricting or school assignment. In your judgment, is achieving socioeconomic balance an appropriate purpose for redistricting or school assignment? No.
12a. Why or why not? [50 word limit]
While diversity in schools provides students with a range of cognitive and social benefits, studies have shown SES-based policies have little impact on racial/ethnic segregations. Redistricting is long overdue across our district and school culture, family engagement and community involvement are essential in creating strong schools to alleviate re-assignment concerns.
12b. In practice, is "socioeconomic" balance a substitute for trying to achieve racially-based assignments and/or "racial balance" at certain schools? Yes.
13. How significant is the issue of maintaining classroom discipline – both as a potential factor in retaining teachers and in establishing an academic climate where students can learn. [25 word limit]
Safe classrooms are significant to success – both for students and educators. Consistent and clear disciplinary policies across our district are important.
14. Graham’s city council has asked the school board to consider selling the undeveloped portion of land next to the Ray Street Academy in Graham that is owned by the school system. Would you support or oppose such a sale? Oppose.
15. Would you support or oppose state legislation to grant local school boards the authority to levy property taxes, independent from the board of commissioners? Oppose.
16. In May 2018, then-superintendent Dr. Bill Harrison canceled classes so ABSS teachers could travel to Raleigh to participate in a statewide demonstration at the legislative building, without having to take a personal leave day or forfeit a day’s worth of pay. Would you support canceling classes so that ABSS teachers could participate – on a scheduled work day, for which they would be paid – in a future rally for a similar purpose?
Support. Not ideal timing yet educators deserve an opportunity to be heard.
17. Names the issue(s) on which you've most disagreed with the school board majority in the past few years, and briefly outline your reasons why. [50 word limit]
Re-opening our schools. Our students continue to struggle academically, socially and mentally. ABSS has received $11.6M in COVID-19 resources to support our district. Though our numbers in Alamance County have trended upward in Phase 3, we must work to identify best practices and safety protocols to open our schools.
18. Have you been endorsed by the Democratic or Republican Party in this election? Yes.
18a. If so, which party? Republican
18b. About one-third of school boards in North Carolina are elected on a partisan basis. Alamance-Burlington school board seats are still on at least an ostensibly non-partisan basis. Would you support or oppose legislation to convert the ABSS board to a partisan board? Oppose.
19. On June 29, 2020, six of the seven current school board members signed a letter that called on Alamance County’s commissioners to make arrangements to move the Confederate monument from the historic courthouse in downtown Graham. Did you sign/Would you have signed the letter? No.
19a. Why or why not? (25 word limit)
Focus on best candidate(s) not party affiliation. As an elected member of the school board, I would not have signed the letter. Elected members of the school board represent ALL CHILDREN and should always focus on education, not politics.
19b. Do you think it’s appropriate for school board members to involve themselves in political debates such as this? Why or why not? (25 word limit)
No. School board members are elected to serve our children and ensure the best educational opportunities in our public schools. Our focus should be on educating our children, not participating in politics.
19c. How would you determine when/whether you think the school board should take positions on other issues, like the monument, over which it has no direct control/involvement? [25 word limit].
Our focus – and any positions taken as a collective Board - should always be protecting public education and the children in Alamance County.
20. In your view, what are the three main issues facing the school system during the next 5 years? [50 word limit]
First, education funding must be a priority investment for our county every year. Secondly, we must sharpen our focus on teacher recruitment & retention. Lastly, creating equity across our district is important to create a culture across the district where we are school system and NOT a system of schools.
21. Why are you running for school board? [25 word limit]
Strong schools build strong communities. Being a voice for students, educators, and citizens brings all stakeholders to crucial conversations and decision-making.
22. If there are one or more important education issue(s) about which you haven't been asked on this questionnaire, please feel free to identify it/them and explain its/their importance to you. [75 word limit]
1. Teacher recruitment and retention must be a priority for our school board and ABSS leadership. We must continue to value our educators in post-COVID world with increased compensation, professional development opportunities, leadership support in the classroom and school climates that inspire our educators.
2. Continuing our work with career and college readiness programs is crucially important. Engaging students in programs about higher education, meaningful employment options and our military offers a pathway of choice.
Posted on 23 Oct 2020, 15:38 - Category: Q & A Insights