Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Association of Educators Questionnaire

1. Closing the achievement gap for all students have been the primary goal for the district for over ten years – have we been successful? If so, please justify. If not, what will you advocate to close this gap? [Special Needs Teacher]

While differences between some proficiency rates on EOG’s have narrowed, the difference between average scale scores have remained relatively constant. When a higher math standard was implemented a year ago (as will be done for reading this year), the difference in proficiency rates increased markedly. Proficiency rates on EOC tests have improved modestly and SAT averages are essentially unchanged. Overall, the progress in closing the achievement gap has been modest.

I will continue to advocate for instructional strategies with high yield for all children. I support continued implementation of PLC’s with focus on development of more rigorous pyramid of interventions at each school.

2. With the cost and management of district athletic programs becoming more complex, what are your thoughts on a district AD position? [School AD]

The Athletics Task Force recommended a district athletic director position. While I understand the rationale for that recommendation, it is unlikely that such a position will rise to a high enough priority to be funded in the near term, especially when the budget is projected to continue to be as challenging as it has been this year.

3. After school programs for all students have raised achievement scores across the district, but with recent funding reductions, these programs have been greatly restricted. What are your plans to replace these after school programs and funds? [After School Classified Worker]

I agree that academic after school programs are an important component of our educational strategy to raise achievement. I support restoring funding to these programs this year.

4. A recent Wake County Audit found that principals may have too much authority at their schools – what is your opinion - should central office control oversee local principal authority - should each school be a copy of the other schools in our district? [Local school and central office administrator]

Our school need not and assuredly will not be identical. However, each student should receive a similar high quality education regardless of which school is attended and regardless of movement between schools. Our students frequently move within the district through change of residency and redistricting. Schools should offer similar curriculum and extracurricular opportunities for each child regardless of school attended to ease these transitions. We do offer several specialized programs located within selected schools, but these too should be accessible by any student as needed. None of this should prohibit schools from developing their own sense of a unique community.

5. Each year new and experienced teacher assistants are hired throughout the district, with each receiving the same grade of pay. Explain your thoughts on TA’s being paid for their experience - - - TA’s receiving local supplemental compensation based on experience - - - CHCCS advocating their state legislative representative team to support a state TA salary scale that is tied to raises of state teachers? [Classified Teacher Assistant]

Our staff that directly touch students, including TA’s, are performing the most important part of our mission as a school district. While our staff are dedicated professionals they do need to be compensated for the work they perform and historically we have recognized the importance of compensation through our local supplemental compensation and additional benefits. I will continue to make the case for adequate teacher compensation to our local legislative contingent. I do not have specific information on the impact of a state TA salary scale, but am willing to consider such information.

6. Currently it takes 32 years for a teacher to reach maximum state salary level, when most college professionals take less than half of that period. As a southern state, North Carolina takes the longest time for teachers to be paid for their worth to our students and community. Georgia takes less than 15 years. A reduced number of teacher salary steps, 15 years versus 32 years, have been proposed for a teacher to reach the maximum pay and as a means to retain and draw more professionals into teaching? What are your thoughts on this new pay scale – would you advocate local legislators to have this passed? [Teacher]

Our staff that directly touch students, including TA’s, are performing the most important part of our mission as a school district. While our staff are dedicated professionals they do need to be compensated for the work they perform and historically we have recognized the importance of compensation through our local supplemental compensation and additional benefits. I will continue to make the case for adequate teacher compensation to our local legislative contingent. I do not have specific information on the impact of accelerating the teacher pay scale, but am willing to consider such information.

7. Each year Parent-Teacher Associations raise over $100,000 for schools. Our Public School Foundation awards even more funds to teachers for special classroom projects. What are the ways you feel funds for schools need to be raised to keep equality among our schools? [Recent Grant Receptive Teacher]

I am very grateful for the hard work and generosity that allows us to supplement our limited resources through PTA’s and the PSF. However, I have long recognized that there is great disparity between schools fund raising, especially at the PTA level. While some of this difference may result from intentional differences in philosophy of the role of the PTA (e.g., more emphasis on fund raising at some schools while others emphasize providing service through volunteering), I have advocated for these organizations to attempt to achieve more balance in the fundraising between schools. Neither the PTA’s nor the PSF are under the control or influence of the Board of Education so my advocacy is limited to encouraging change.

8. Discussions on our district’s supplemental pay for certified employees will be coming over the next few years, what are your thoughts on these funds – should they be increased, divided into special assignments, established student success? [Association Building Representative]

Teacher compensation is very important to maintaining a quality school district and is also one of our largest expenditures. With regard to supplemental pay of certified employees, I think there should be a broad discussion among all stake holders in how to use the resources dedicated to supplemental pay to best effect the mission of our district, which is educating children.

9. Minimum living wage is the goal of Orange County, but our district still out-sources classified jobs to private organizations where salaries and benefits are well below state employment standards. What are your thoughts on this cost-saving policy? Will it stop or be continued? [Supervisor] – Classified Personnel]

While I understand the concern expressed, the information provided to the Board suggests that wages and benefits of contractors are similar to those paid by other organizations for similar services. It is my understanding that the salaries and benefits paid by contractors are consistent with a living wage. The Board is charged not only with the education of children but also with being good stewards of the financial resources entrusted to us by the community.

10. When will CHCCS issue portable computers to all of the instructional staff? When will staff and student network storage be increased – 100 and 10 Mbytes are currently not enough – 10 G and 100M is needed respectfully? [Technology Specialist]

I have served on the Technology Advisory Committee for four years and have been a persistent advocate for increased funding for many technology applications. Increasing network storage capacity is not particularly expensive and I will continue to advocate for resources to increase allocations. Portable computers for instructional staff is somewhat more expensive so may take several years to implement. There are many other technology needs in our district. The Board has conveyed a Capital Improvement Plan to the County Commissioners that would implement these and other needed technology investments over approximately six years.

11. Please provide your three (3) key issues that are facing the district and how you will address them if elected? [All Members]

Improving student achievement for all children is the top priority. I support proven high impact approaches to education. The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of programs should be evaluated. Planning for growth and budgetary constraints will remain important issues. I support improving communications with the town on growth issues and working with the commissioners to improve the budget process.

12. How do you see CHCAE supporting your campaign? Would you seek our counsel on issues facing the district after your election? [Association Leadership Team]

I would appreciate the endorsement of CHCAE. In serving on the Board these last four years, I have always valued input from as broad an array of sources as possible. It is through this process that the most thoughtful outcome is reached. I will continue to keep an open mind on issues before the board and seek input from CHCAE and others in reaching a decision.

Herald-Sun questionnaire

Each year, it seems, the district and the county struggle over budget allocations. What can be done to make the process smoother and more effective?

The budget is one of the most important functions of both the school board and county commissioners for it is through this process that the community prioritizes among many needs. Given that importance, good communication between all interested parties is essential. The school district can improve communication between the district and county by scheduling parts of the district budget process earlier in the year so that county commissioners are aware of the needs of the school system as early as possible. Through this process the commissioners will be able to make informed choices about school budgets that take into consideration budget drivers such as state mandated raises in teacher pay, increased utility costs, and other increases that are needed to simply maintain current services.
The school boards and commissioners should also continue to discuss the possibility of direct taxing authority by the school systems. Such authority would more closely link the public discussion of needs and limitations to the school budget, which accounts for approximately half of the county budget.

In an attempt to create smaller learning communities, the district will be instituting academies at the three high schools. Will this be enough to “engage” more students in the learning process?

The three new academies begun this year expand on the three existing academies; they will surely engage more students. Whether these new academies will engage enough students to warrant the financial investment will need to be monitored closely. In particular it may be possible to focus on creating well-designed, unique, and engaging classes that appeal to more students and students from a broader range of backgrounds without the additional costs and questionable effectiveness of a formal academy.

While some progress has been made, black and Hispanic students’ achievement still lags behind that of their white and Asian peers. What more can be done?

Most importantly, we can sharpen our focus on individual students; some black and Hispanic students do extremely well in our schools. Last year, the district began implementation of Professional Learning Communities. Through this framework, the material to be taught is clearly defined, actual student learning is frequently monitored, and teachers can access a “pyramid of interventions” for students who need additional support. Students who need support receive appropriate intervention while those who already know material can be accelerated, thus assuring each student achieves their potential. We also need to continue to focus on evidence-based instructional techniques and evaluate the effectiveness of key aspects of programs.

The school board has said no to plans for a second “First School” for Seawell Elementary. How would you expand services to local pre-K children?

The school board declined to partner with UNC to fund the majority of a new building next to Seawell Elementary that would be used as a “First School”. That building would have been much more expensive to the district than a regular school and was unlikely to be funded by the county commissioners given all the other capital needs of the district. However, the “First School” concept is being implemented at Carrboro Elementary and will be expanded into other elementary schools. Each of our elementary schools is capable of housing a pre-K program on a “First School” model, provided there is sufficient room in the school. Thus, it is important that we relieve the overcrowding that exists at the elementary school level by completing elementary school number 10 by fall of 2008 and begin elementary school number 11 shortly thereafter. We cannot provide any services to pre-K children if we don’t have the physical space. Also, we already have a high quality traditional pre-K program that will need to be merged into the “First Schools”. “First School” is a new concept so program effectiveness will need to be monitored.