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Wake school board candidates discuss issues

Posted September 24, 2009
Updated October 5, 2009

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— To provide voters with as much information as possible before they go to the polls on Oct. 6, WRAL.com recently asked people running for the Wake County Board of Education to present their views on issues facing the school district.

Eight of the 12 candidates responded to the request. The candidates who didn't reply are Debbie Vair in District 1, Chris Augustine and John Tedesco in District 2 and Karen Simon in District 7.

Budgets likely will continue to be tight in the next couple of years until the economy fully recovers. What specifically will you do as a member of the school board to ensure the quality of classroom instruction doesn’t suffer if more cuts need to be made?

District 1

Chris Malone: We can find ways to save in construction, for one. When Winston-Salem is building their biggest high school for $35 million and we are routinely higher, as much as $60 million, then we can do better. We can also return approximately 30 percent of the $66 million used for busing to classrooms once we got to community schools. Don't trade teachers for diesel. And that's just to start.

Rita Rakestraw: There is some question as to whether we are getting enough stimulus dollars. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools seems to be more aggressive in getting federal stimulus dollars to help pay to rehire teachers who were laid off. We need to apply for every last dime of federal stimulus dollars as we can, so we can rehire as many teachers as possible who were laid off. This would result in lowering class sizes. Research shows that all students have better achievement rates when they are in a smaller class setting.

District 2

Carlene Lucas: As a member of the Wake County school board, I will ensure that the quality of classroom instruction doesn’t suffer if more cuts need to be made by creating educational foundations that will supplement local and state funding. Additional revenues raised through foundations can be used for teacher training, summer programs, extra specialists in schools and other intervention programs. I also will partner with community centers, local businesses and colleges to share space and educational programs, partner with parents, civic groups, faith-based organizations and businesses to tutor, mentor and provide internships to students, make sure all resources are allocated effectively to prevent cutting teacher salaries and prevent increasing classroom size and create more career academies, smaller learning communities and early colleges.

Horace Tart: We have already considered and taken a hard look at our budget. In the past year, because of both state and county cuts, we have taken bold steps to cut in several areas. After two years of study by about 40 different people, we have started “Professional Learning Teams.” This has been very successful at leveling the learning field for many students. We must find other ways to improve teaching and learning. One way may be to use more student mentors. We will just have to wait and hope there are no further cuts.

Cathy Truitt: We must look at the data in order to understand where cuts can be made that will not affect the quality of classroom instruction. If more cuts have to be made, high-quality classroom instruction must be preserved at all costs. It would be important to look at using various sources of federal funding to stabilize classroom instruction, even if the funds are not permanent. Of the Top 5 uses of stimulus funds going to states, 52 percent of the funds went to save jobs in education. It is simple, really. Our first priority must be keeping high-quality teachers in classrooms and support classroom instruction. Hard cuts are easier to make if we protect classroom instruction and student learning.

District 7

Deborah Prickett: The school board must take care of our teaching staff and principals who run the schools. Reverting to a neighborhood school model would allow businesses and communities to assist in helping the schools. Before a new school is built, it needs to be in a high-growth area showing need and not just randomly assigned. For instance, the Brier Creek area, which is a growing urban center, does not have a middle or high school. WCPSS has a quality teaching staff in this area partly because of the value that Wake County parents have on education and the surrounding universities and colleges. Teachers have been dealt a hard hand to play with this challenging economy and the constant stressors of reassignments, but these dedicated individuals strive to put children first. When receiving federal Title 1 funds, this assistance should go for programs that specifically target the at-risk children in need. Another way to ensure quality instruction is by using the EVAAS (Education Value-Added Assessment System) method for providing appropriate instruction strategies and best practices in assisting all levels of students. This is a diagnostic program purchased by the state for use in the schools. These indicators would give teachers a proven way to measure individual student progress and develop personalized education plans. WCPSS has chosen not to use this tool, and it would be no cost to implement.

District 9

Debra Goldman: As a member of the Board of Education, my first priority will be the education of our children. There are many places to make cuts in the budget to allow for more dollars to make it into our classrooms. We do not need to raise taxes to do any of this, we can operate within the budget.

Lois Nixon: Work to improve the Board of Education’s working relationship and communications with the Board of Commissioners so that the Board of Commissioners better understand the consequences on the classroom of their budget decisions. These consequences include impacts on student achievement, but also impacts on housing values and economic development in the community – if the quality and excellent national reputation of our educational programs decline. I want to re-establish the trust and improve the dialog between the county boards and also include the municipal officials in discussions of the impacts of growth on the schools.

Recruit and engage the community as volunteers in the school system. We already have a strong network of parent volunteers working through PTAs in our schools, but 70 percent of residents don’t have children in schools. Many of these people have talents and expertise that could benefit our students. As a volunteer program director, I’ve learned that volunteers generally get involved because someone asks them to volunteer. Let’s ask for volunteers! For example, with seven colleges and universities in the county, we could recruit and train college students to be literacy coaches and mentors for students who are in danger of dropping out of school. This team approach would likely benefit both the college student and the WCPSS student!

Provide more support for classroom teachers who have lost teacher assistants and have larger numbers of students in their classrooms. One way to do this is to hire bus drivers full-time so that, between their morning and afternoon bus routes, they could monitor the playground and lunchroom – giving teachers a bit of extra time to work on preparing classroom lessons. If a bus driver can maintain order while driving a big yellow school bus, surely they can manage lunchroom behavior!

Related to this, increase and target needed staff development for teachers. The stress of larger classrooms and other reduced resources requires that our teachers are more effective and efficient in their instruction. A new study released last month shows that excellent teaching is contagious! We need to support the spread of excellent teaching in our schools.

Take advantage of every possible source of grant funds, including federal stimulus funds. And I will encourage elected officials at the municipal, county and state level to search for innovative methods to fund schools beyond the property tax.

Do you support the school district’s existing policy of using student assignments to balance socioeconomic diversity across the school system? If not, how would you assign students to existing and new schools, particularly as enrollment in Wake County schools continues to grow?

District 1

Chris Malone: Policy 6200 has been a failure. The school board has supplanted it as the primary goal for the existence of the educational system over providing academic proficiency for the students. For our children no less. When 78.6 percent are graduating and only 54.6 percent of the economically disadvantaged, then you have failed. There is no justification for it. We should go to neighborhood/community schools – a primary location and a close-by secondary when dealing with overcrowding. Think Wake Forest-Rolesville High and Heritage High, both in Wake Forest. Year-rounds can be maintained but be voluntary, and no siblings should be on different tracks or in different school. That illustrates a lack of respect for families and a sure sign of bureaucracy run amok.

Rita Rakestraw: Over thirty years ago, leaders like Senator Vernon Malone helped to make diversity a priority in the Wake County Schools. That’s been a big part of Wake County’s economic success. The goal of diverse schools is to make sure that we don’t have schools that are thriving, and then failing schools that we have to pour millions of dollars into.

In Charlotte-Mecklenberg where they abandon diverse schools, they are spending $50 million more in taxes for their schools than in Wake County, in part because they are pouring extra money into these low performing, low income schools without the desired results. They are paying teachers $5-15,000 more to teach in these schools and they are paying for extra programs. And Wake County is doing better than Charlotte-Mecklenburg on almost every measurement, teacher turnover, graduation rates, SAT scores. Wake spends $50 million less to educate more students.

District 2

Carlene Lucas: I believe we need to balance socioeconomic diversity across our school system, but not through forced busing. We can, instead, implement controlled choice, a plan that allows parents school choice yet balances socioeconomic diversity. With controlled choice, parents are given the opportunity to choose their child’s school. The plan creates geographic zones and allows parents to select schools in order of preference in the zone of their residence. Each school will have a limited number of seats, with an available number of seats for free and reduced-price lunch students and an available number of seats for other students. A lottery system will be used to assign seats at each school. Students unable to be assigned to their first choice due to unavailable seating will be assigned to their next choice with available seats. In the case that a student is unable to go to school of choice, the student will be assigned to a school and put on a waiting list until their school of choice becomes available. Once a student receives a school of choice, this will remain their school unless a parent specifies otherwise. Transportation will be provided to any school in a student's zone. This plan allows parents to determine their child's education. All schools should have unique and specialized programs to attract parents and students. If some schools are not being chosen as much as others, that school will be evaluated so we can see why parents are not choosing it. We can then find ways to improve the school. School choice alone is not going to improve our schools. We need to offer quality instruction as well.

Seating is limited according to free and reduced-price lunch so that we can improve the socioeconomic diversity within our schools because, without diversified schools, our schools will become segregated, therefore resulting in unequal opportunities. Students attending schools with the majority of students economically disadvantaged will not receive the same opportunities as other schools. These schools will lack adequate resources, students will be held to lower standards, and it will be harder to attract and retain high-quality teachers.

Horace Tart: I do support our diversity policy. We simply cannot separate the county into a system of haves and have nots. This will lead to a segregated school system based on income. District 1 and 2 are the lower-income part of the county. If these students have to remain in schools in their part of the county, they will be in lower-performing, less diverse schools. There are only about 7 percent of the students reassigned for diversity reasons. Most of the reassignment is a result of crowding or the building of new schools.

Cathy Truitt: More than any current issue, socioeconomic diversity must be resolved with a win-win approach that is proven, sensitive to the needs of all students and allows parents to have some say about decisions that affect their children and families. I do not support forced reassignment because it is not working. It is time to better educate ourselves about issues and be willing to change our minds in order to find strategies that work.

I would assign students to community schools and expand magnet programs to balance socioeconomic diversity. Specifically, I will work to bring better socioeconomic balance to schools by expanding magnet program options; aggressively pursue a balanced approach to community schools and magnet programs; build schools where we have growth and involve community leaders to ensure that we use taxpayers’ monies wisely; promote parent and community involvement in establishing school board direction and policies; and reduce and stabilize disruption to children and families, which will make it easier to improve discipline, reduce dropouts, increase student motivation and raise student achievement.

It is time we listen to the students, parents, teachers, principals and communities. I am opposed to forced reassignment because it is flawed and has failed to achieve diversity. In 2000, six schools exceeded 40 percent poverty. In 2008, more than 50 schools exceeded the 40 percent policy. In my own neighborhood, we have a school with 73 percent poverty. Forced reassignment is not working.

People want what’s best for children. But more importantly, they want their concerns to be heard and acted upon. They are tired of feeling powerless over decisions that affect their children and families. In a free country, where my sons and other sons and daughters of America have put their lives in harm's way to protect our right to live our lives in freedom, it is unthinkable that parents have so little say over where their children go to school. Students need positive relationships over time in order to learn at high levels of rigor and relevance. I believe it is critical to support expansion of magnet programs as a positive means of maintaining diversity. Students love their magnet programs, and we need to use our successes in order to move all schools to 21st century levels of learning.

District 7

Deborah Prickett: I do not support the existing reassignment policy 6200. The practice of busing students all over Wake County to create so-called “healthy schools” is not working, thus hurting the very children it was targeted to assist. In addition, this policy is not family-friendly and creates disconnect in communities. Families have been forced to subject their children to multiple school changes and basically have little to no stability when it comes to school assignments. Policy 6200 has been in effect for almost a decade with no proven results. Graduation data proves that the subgroup “economically disadvantaged” has a 56.5 percent graduation rate, which is below the state rate of 59.2 percent. Furthermore, 95 LEAs (Local Education Agencies) in North Carolina out of a total of 115 have a higher graduation rate for this subgroup than Wake County. Neighborhood schools are needed at this time. For the most part, communities are diverse already. Also, by having students attend schools in their neighborhoods, academic deficiencies can be addressed by interventions such as after school programs, helping both the students and the community. Parental involvement would increase. This factor proves to be of utmost importance, as parental involvement is the No. 1 factor in student success. The Harvard Family Research Project is a good resource for data about parental involvement and its effectiveness. All children should have access to a quality education.

Now, our system looks like a gigantic puzzle, with the county sectioned into 700 nodes. This puzzle will need to be taken apart and accessed to view the various diversity patterns and unique needs. The system is too complicated at present to extract this information with the existing policies in place. Some schools are underenrolled, and the growth figures failed to meet the projected WCPSS numbers. More families are choosing to look at charters, private schools and home schooling as options due to the frustration with the present system. As a starting point, assignments should first be done by neighborhoods (within specified miles proximity) working with the schools that we presently have in place. Parents and community partners are needed to work as a team with board members in this process.

District 9

Debra Goldman: The existing plan is not working. It is not benefiting the children that it was designed to serve. In some areas, the existing diversity is actually being destroyed by this policy. The Board of Education needs to take a more proactive approach. There are many tools available for predicting growth and student success far more accurately than those currently being used.

Lois Nixon: Yes, I support student assignment to balance school populations. We must ensure that every school is a place where teachers want to teach and students learn. Allowing some schools to fail has long-term consequences for our students and our community, and costs us more money in the long run. It costs more to incarcerate than to educate!

Critics fail to recognize that year-round schools provide space for 25 percent more students and have saved taxpayers over $350 million in construction costs. Critics want to go back 30 years, eliminate year-round schools and require us to build 15 new schools. Guess what? Your property taxes will increase to pay for these schools we don’t need if we maintain our current policies. Let’s put our money inside the classroom.

Do you believe more year-round schools or an aggressive building plan is the best way for the school district to keep up with enrollment growth?

District 1

Chris Malone: Year-rounds are great for some. Two of my children go to one. I do not believe, though, the community should be forced into them, unless all schools became year-round, but there is no support for that, and it would have a whole new set of problems. Finally, regarding building, we have to be cautious in how we manage our approach. Planning has been an issue, as witnessed by the H6 mess. Growth has not been what is expected of late, and we should be thoughtful and give care to how and when we build.

Rita Rakeshaw: Year round schools save taxpayers money. The average number of kids who fit in a traditional middle school is 1,100. The average number of kids who fit in a year round school is 1,400. Year round schools have become a necessity in keeping up with growth and the lack of adequate funding from the Board of Commissioners (BOC) and the state. The average high school costs $70 million to build. The average elementary school costs $30 million to build.

District 2

Carlene Lucas: The best way for our school district to keep up with enrollment growth is to begin by partnering with businesses, community organizations and colleges and universities to share space, use trained educational specialists to share curriculum and provide internships to students. We can also offer more alternative learning models by offering students online classes, internships, afternoon school, learn and earn and early colleges.

We need to explore every other viable option before building. Year-round schools should not be forced, but if we find that more parents are choosing these schools over traditional, then more year-round schools should be heavily considered. We need to still give parents a choice between traditional or year-round, keeping in mind that quality should come before convenience.

Horace Tart: Year-round schools are the best and most economical way to keep up with growth. We would need about $300 million more to build enough traditional schools to accommodate all of the students. About 70 percent of the people in Wake County do not have children in school. They pay a bulk of the taxes, so we need to consider them. Also, there are many families who love year-round school. I believe it is no difference in denying them their choice than those who want traditional calendar.

Cathy Truitt: Our current economic crisis and resulting financial problems must be considered. People are losing jobs and struggling to make ends meet in their own budget. We must be reasonable in our approach, understand the frightening amount of debt we face as a country and community, and be fiscally responsible. Data, good planning, good decisions and building consensus are critical as we look at ways to keep up with growth.

It is time to re-evaluate our approach to facilities and form a study commission, which includes county commissioners, representatives from each municipality and members from each community in order to understand the critical issues which confront not only our growth, but our placement of facilities so that we can, as a county, come together on a five- to 10-year plan for sites, number of projected schools to be built and where those facilities need to be built. This commission should decide on how get feedback and build consensus for the plan in the different communities, how the plan should be reviewed and adjusted over that 10 years and how this plan will support moving educational programs to 21st century levels.

Year-round schools will continue to play a critical role in keeping up with enrollment growth, but they should not be used to force assignment or manipulate families. People see through the manipulation. We need to build consensus around these needs and make decisions that are financially doable. We must address growth and facility needs in an honest manner. We cannot have a repeat of another billion-dollar bond that fails to significantly add new seats for growth.

District 7

Deborah Prickett: Year-round schools can be effective, but making them mandatory should not be an option. In the Leesville area, the majority of families did not want the traditional elementary and middle schools to be converted. This was at a price of $100,000 for the initial conversion and $150,000 each year thereafter for related costs. This has not helped the growth situation in this area and has created a negative domino effect, as evidenced by the enrollments at the surrounding schools of Sycamore Creek Elementary, Hillburn Elementary and York Elementary. Parents and communities should be involved in making the decision about the best school calendars for their areas.

On the other hand, the school board members need to give the county commissioners accurate and up-to-date information concerning student enrollment. Businesses and contractors must be involved in the process of making sure that the high-growth areas have adequate schools. A proactive approach is preferred to a reactive approach. We must be careful in spending tax dollars, and seek suggestions and help from other school systems and outside experts when needed.

District 9

Debra Goldman: I believe that neither of these options is the best option. Our year-round schools are not filled to capacity, and thus are not operating efficiently. An aggressive building plan is not needed. Growth has slowed and must be re-evaluated with better studies and tools. (See the answer to question 2)

Lois Nixon: In addition to the $350 million already saved by our current 56 year-round schools, the policy to continue to open new schools as year-round will save taxpayers an additional $285 million. In my conversations with Wake County taxpayers, even those who are not big fans of year-round schools support these savings provided by year-round schools as a responsible solution to keeping property taxes lower.

Critics also fail to recognize that their proposals to eliminate current policies will damage the quality and reputation of our schools and make it more difficult to attract the best businesses and the highest-paying jobs. Do we want to imitate Charlotte-Mecklenburg, where they pay higher taxes, spend more per student per year, with lower student achievement results, and they even pay higher salaries to teachers to work in failing schools? NO!

The working relationship between the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners has been strained in recent years. What do you think needs to be done to repair that relationship, and how would you ensure both elected bodies are working toward common goals?

District 1

Chris Malone: School construction and tax revenues seem to always be at the core of their issues. There will never be resolution to everything, but we can lessen tension by bringing on new board members who don't feel the need to give themselves taxing authority, but are more interested in education. The current board looks at county tax revenue as something they should have partial control of. They chafe at having to go to the county commission for funds. Turning over the process of construction to an independent, non-political authority or loop the county commission into the process would be one idea. The county does hold the liabilities. Holding onto the assets may have value. A thorough review is called for.

Rita Rakestraw: 90% of leadership is listening. I will communicate with the BOC early and often. I will have a professional attitude and not take things personally. When trying to come up with a consensus it takes a give and take attitude. I’m willing to make compromises, but I’m not willing to give up on my ethical beliefs and moral standards.

District 2

Carlene Lucas: It is important for the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners to communicate openly and more effectively to make sure the educational needs of our children are being met. They each need to have a better understanding of the other.

Horace Tart: The common goal for both bodies is to do what is best for all of our children. We must work together to accomplish those goals. The staffs of both bodies have been working together. I believe there are some county commissioners who are pursuing personal agendas. They try to make the school board look bad to the public. The school board is used as a whipping post. If there is a problem, it is always the school board’s fault. Sometimes, it is best to stand up to the county commissioners and tell them when they are wrong.

Cathy Truitt: The following steps need to be taken to repair the relationship between the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners: First, build a shared vision for 21st century, globally competitive education for Wake County students. Second, educate students, parents, teachers, principals, communities and business leaders about the urgency and characteristics of a 21st century, globally competitive education for every student, given the current economic and global crises we are experiencing. Third, involve stakeholders in creating a five- to 10-year plan to move toward 21st century learning that is fiscally responsible, doable and uses data to guide decisions and monitor results. Fourth, immediately conduct a system-wide survey of students in grades 3-12, parents, teachers and critical community partners. Use that data to benchmark important issues, such as student safety, challenging learning and stakeholder satisfaction, and then monitor improvements over the next three years at a minimum. Finally, be honest and transparent. If mistakes are made, take responsibility and corrective action. Communicate. Focus on issues, ideas, processes and decisions that need continuous improvement. Collaborate and work together.

District 7

Deborah Prickett: As a candidate for the school board, I have talked to and seen many of the present commissioners in attendance at meetings, forums and other events. This is encouraging, as they seem to be taking a real interest in this election and the direction of our schools. With new school board members with fresh ideas, views and attitudes, a good working relationship can develop. I will listen and be open to forming new, positive working relationships with the commissioners. County commissioners have prioritized their goals, and education is a leading consideration. Both groups need each other to take the big picture and turn it into reality.

District 9

Debra Goldman: We must rebuild trust. We must do due diligence and show that the Board of Education is capable of making wise decisions and expenditures.

Lois Nixon: In 20 years of service as a Wake County employee and submitting annual county budgets, I developed a good working relationship with the Board of Commissioners. I would not expect that relationship to change. I understand how the county budget works, and I will use this knowledge to facilitate more productive discussions and solutions.

I also have a reputation as a bridge-builder and intend to provide leadership to rebuild the school system’s relationship with the community and the Board of Commissioners through improved communication and more frequent interactions. I want to take advantage of the three-year pause in the reassignment process and get more parents and community/business leaders involved in setting the rules for the future policy for reassignment. We must become more family-friendly in our policies and be more sensitive to some of the unintended consequences for families.

The Board of Commissioners, the Board of Education and the community have a common goal to provide the best possible education for our students. We may disagree on how to achieve that goal, but we must remember that obstacles are what we see when we take our eyes off the goal.

Who should have ultimate oversight of the school district’s operating and construction budgets - the school board, the commissioners or a shared/split responsibility?

District 1

Chris Malone: The county has taxing authority and has to provide the funds we utilize. Still, 72 percent of Wake County taxes go to the school system. Therefore, the school board must be held accountable for what it spends its money on. A reasonable budget would be a clear improvement. Once the county agrees to the annual total that will be provided the school system, then it's up to it to manage its resources to meet the needs of the students, its primary stakeholders.

Rita Rakestraw: I support the County Commissioners becoming more involved in land purchases for public schools. They are the ones who have to come up with the tax revenue. Why not have them take more ownership and responsibility in building schools, with the school board’s input too of course?

District 2

Carlene Lucas: The school board should have oversight of the schools district's operating and construction budgets. North Carolina is one of 11 states that do not give school boards budget and taxing power. The school board delivers our educational services and knows our educational needs better than the commissioners. Even if given the authority, the school board should go through the budget item by item and make sure resources are being allocated effectively before considering any tax increases.

Horace Tart: The school board’s facilities and operations department has been building schools for many years. They have the staff, experience and contacts in place to be productive and efficient in school construction. The school system may have over 50 projects going at one time. The commissioners may have very few projects going at one time. The county commissioners do not have the staff in place but have to contract out everything. I studied the commissioner’s budget, and it showed they go over budget 10 percent of the time and do not bring projects in on time 20 percent of the time. They may not have such a good track record.

Cathy Truitt: At this point in time, I believe a shared/split responsibility approach is better, safer and can achieve greater fiscal accountability to taxpayers and citizens. People are losing jobs. Money is tight for everyone. The Wake County Board of Education is in a state of chaos. Parents are alienated. We need to move forward toward a 21st century vision of education for every student, classroom and school.

District 7

Deborah Prickett: The school board should not be purchasing land. This is best left up to experts or should be a contracted service. Also, there could be other contracted services that may be cost-efficient. There must be a relationship with businesses and community leaders. Partnerships with building contractors and developers could be beneficial in meeting the needs of growth so that new schools can be placed in areas of need and planned for in advance. The checks and balances that are in place can be effective when teamwork is evident. County commissioners and school board members must be willing to listen and exchange ideas for the betterment of the county. The school board must spend tax dollars wisely. As a native of Raleigh, I’ve witnessed many school bonds, some requesting very large amounts of money. The school system is frequently in need of money, as if the planning is not well thought out. The extra money has not solved our growth or academic challenges. When you throw the constant reassignments into the mix, it makes for a very complex situation. Making ethical decisions and consulting with experts will be a goal in creating changes and developing good working relationships. Hopefully, this will free up more time for the school board to spend on assessing and implementing appropriate and innovative educational strategies.

District 9

Debra Goldman: I do NOT believe that the school board should have taxing authority. The operating and construction budgets should be a shared responsibility, with each entity having different areas for which they are responsible.

Lois Nixon: As a member of the Board of Education, I would like to take another look at the Chamber of Commerce and Wake Education Partnership recommendation that school construction be turned over to the county (with appropriate construction standards, quality and capacity standards and educational program standards agreed to in advance, as part of a Memorandum of Understanding).

The Board of Education must continue to be responsible for the operating budget and the educational policies, even though it is the responsibility of the Board of Commissioners to provide adequate funding. We also need to be vigilant in getting our fair share of the state’s education budget; K-12 has been falling behind in comparison to higher education budgets.

Both boards must recognize that most concerns about WCPSS policies are responses to two things: rapid growth and a history of inadequate funding. The Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education must work together to bring Wake County funding up to at least the state average. Currently, we are not getting our fair share of state and local funds. Wake County can do better, and the two boards must work together to ensure that our students are not left behind when they graduate and compete in the global economy. At the same time, we need more support from our municipal partners in locating and funding of our schools and dealing with the impacts of growth. And finally, I want to fully engage the parents and community members at large to become more involved in the decisions that affect our school system. We need their support and advocacy in solving the problems we face.

In many areas, there are opportunities to take a new look at the data, and involve the community in developing policies and programs to maintain and even improve our system’s excellence so that all of our students set goals to graduate trained for jobs in our changing economy – perhaps service sector or green jobs – or ready to pursue a successful college career. For all of our students, we must search for pathways to success, not roadblocks to excellence.


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  • Carrieb37 Oct 6, 2009

    This is a tough election. The choices are not so cut and dry. If I were the parent of young children, I would resent having the school system decide for me whether or not my child goes to a year round school. Unfortunately,does not seem to be working for black children, even with the best teachers and lots of money poured into the education system. I guess by looking at Charlotte-Mecklenburg's example, things could get worst for Wake County PSS if we re-segregate our schools. My heart goes out to parents who cannot afford private school. I say the real solution is to redirect the money allocated to school systems for each child to the parents and let the parents decide where they want their children to be educated. I think a host of premiere schools would crop up and eventually the graduation dropout rate would start to decline. In this age of information, I cannot see the deprivations of historal segregation being a factor in 21st century school systems.

  • Tina1 Oct 5, 2009

    DISTRICT 2 - VOTE TRUITT!!!! ENOUGH Busing in the name of diversity!!!!!!! NO MORE REASSIGNMENTS!!!!! The current diversity policy DOES NOT work. Everyone has an equal chance to succeed from a financial aspect. We've worked hard to live in a neighborhood that has good schools. Why must we pay the price for someone who maybe hasn't done the same? Gone are the days where you can buy a house that is in a good school district. Reassignment SUCKS!!!!!!! It's not putting the childrens needs first. It only makes things look more P.C. ENOUGH ALREADY!

  • 4ever40 Sep 28, 2009

    I'm in District 9 and while I don't completely agree with Lois Nixon's comments - her responses were obviously more thought out and thorough, and Debra Goldman's responses seemed to be just knee-jerk reactions from a frustrated mother- no specifics on her plans and ideas other than "other tools available" - What tools??? My vote is for Lois (I agree enough for her to get my vote)- and at least she has a detailed plan she's willing to share. Who knows what Debra's plan is?? Oh yeah, other tools...Scary she can't think of anything more to say than that in this free opportunity to reach out to her constituants and share her plans to improve the system.

  • Cajunwon Sep 25, 2009

    "Lois Nixon: Yes, I support student assignment to balance school populations"

    I disagree. Busing these students in to District 9 schools negatively impacts the education of all students. I heard Charlotte found that returning to community based schools saved significant money and improved overall education statistics.
    With the new early bell, the bused students are not able to eat their free/reduced breakfast and make their way to classrooms on-time -often disrupting classroom instruction by 30 minutes. The new early bell and busing do not work well together. At the close of school, the buses are not able to coordinate High School, middle and elementary schedules, causing lower grade teachers to stay late or cut into their daily preparation time.

  • Unemployed Concerned Parent Sep 24, 2009

    Lois Nixon's answers are thoughtful and well expressed. I've been looking for a candidate that supports diversity AND wants to re-evaluate our assignment guidelines with parental feedback. Her comment on the cost and quality of Charlotte schools is right on the mark.

    Comparing our graduation rates with rural schools across the state is meaningless without an evaluation of graduation standards. Statistics about test scores do not factor in the increase in test difficulty, especially in math. The study done on college preparedness in Charlotte schools is more relevant. Students from Charlotte's affluent schools do much better in college than those from their high poverty schools. That's not providing good access to education for all, and it comes at a higher cost!

  • radical Sep 24, 2009

    I am in District 9. Seems like we have a choice between a mom who is fed up with the current system, and a carreer Wake County Employee. Hmm..

    As far as some not responding. WRAL cannnot make them reply. They can only print the responses received. The others are missing out on a great way to express their ideas for the School board to the public. Probably did not respond because they think their views to these questions would not win them any votes.

  • time4real Sep 24, 2009

    maybe they know wral won't do them any good on election day. probably right!

  • Mommyoftwo Sep 24, 2009

    Candidates failed to reply....why?? Too lazy?? If you're too lazy to answer some simple questions that ALL parents are concerned about, aren't you going to be too lazy to actually do your job??

    And if you think there aren't enough people that read this that will actually vote, you are so mistaken. Every vote counts and your inability to WANT to respond to answers will prevent me from voting for you!

    Go Chris Malone!

  • hkypky Sep 24, 2009

    The article says the other candidates failed to reply to request to participate.

    I didn't see anything wrong with the questions asked here. Would actually prefer to have another couple of rounds of this before the elections.

  • time4real Sep 24, 2009

    where are the rest of the candidates answers? what an armature job of "discussing issues" wral! are these your choices for the elections or were you just too lazy to get answers from the others?