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The Daily Tar Heel

5 Candidates Try for 3 Seats on School Board

Nick Didow and Valerie Foushee are running for re-election against newcomers Joel Dunn, Chon Shoaf and Lisa Stuckey. All five are vying for three seats in today's election.

Didow listed several components to increasing achievement including recruiting, developing, supporting and retaining outstanding staff, and combatting overcrowding by building new schools.

Didow said developing strong partnerships with local governments and UNC also were important.

Dunn said his main concerns are maintaining Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools' overall quality and raising the educational standard for minority students. He said having top-notch facilities and retaining staff would help address these matters.

Foushee stressed that the school board's primary goal is to assist students.

"Student achievement is what drives everything the board does," Foushee said, adding that students' backgrounds should not determine their academic success.

Shoaf said he was concerned that black students scored 20 to 50 percent lower on high school academic achievement tests than white students in Chapel Hill-Carrboro high schools.

"The biggest issue for me is the minority student achievement gap," Shoaf said. "I would say `Rather than let's reduce class size, let's take that extra teacher or two teachers that it takes to reduce class size and let's devote that toward minority students.'"

Stuckey said she "wants to make sure that all children are successful, and that includes closing minority student achievement gaps, making sure students are challenged and making sure students in the middle are not left out."

One point the candidates agreed on was that voters should approve the $75 million bond referendum -- $47 million of which will be allocated for the county school systems -- that also will be on the ballot today.

The proposed bond package allocates $25.6 million to build two new elementary schools in the district as well as $2 million to fund building renovations.

Although they agree the bond package is necessary, some candidates said the money would not be enough because Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools are in need of additional high school in the near future.

"It's looking like we're going to have to find some intermediate term high school capacity until we are able to construct a third high school in the district," Dunn said.

Shoaf said he would like to see measures taken as soon as possible for the construction of a third high school.

Stuckey said elementary schools and renovations are needed in the district.

Didow said he hopes the Schools Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, which limits development in the the county based on school capacity, will be passed to help the system deal with growth.

But all five candidates are opposed to a merger with Orange County Schools that has been suggested as a possible solution to overcrowding woes.

"More generally, I think each of the school districts and school boards have done a commendable job of providing the kind of public schools that each of our respective communities desires and expects," Didow said.

Shoaf added that Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools, unlike Orange County Schools, pay a district school tax, making a merger logistically difficult.

"Currently we pay about $1,100 per student more in this district to educate our children than they do in the county," Shoaf said.

All of the candidates said they have no concerns with the level of diversity at local schools.

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Dunn said, "The board has tried to achieve a level of racial, ethnic and socioeconomic balance between the schools because we would like to have the schools reflect, as much as possible, the makeup of the community."

The polls will open at 6:30 a.m. today and close at 7:30 p.m.

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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