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CHCCS Parent-Teacher Association Council holds school board candidate forum

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The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Administrative Office building in Chapel Hill, N.C., is pictured on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Parent-Teacher Association Council, along with other community organizations, held a candidate forum for the 13 CHCCS Board of Education candidates on Oct. 16. During the forum, the 11 school board candidates that attended discussed staff vacancies, the achievement gap and curriculum maintenance.

Candidates Mariela Hernandez and Michelle Rissling did not attend the event.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP Education Committee, Chapel Hill-Carrboro Association of Educators, El Centro Hispano and League of Women Voters hosted the forum with the PTA council. 

According to a representative of the PTA council, the organizers of the event solicited questions from the public and then the organizers selected questions for school board members and candidates to answer.

In response to a question about levels of staff turnover and vacancies in the district, candidate Meredith Ballew said the salary rate for teachers in the state is unacceptable.

“There’s really no more important work than educating our kids, and they need to be paid like we value that work that they’re doing,” she said.

Taylor Tally, another school board candidate, said the board needs to find ways to differentiate CHCCS from other districts to ensure incoming teachers can afford housing and enjoy benefits such as parental leave.

He also said to improve teacher retention, the board needs to create workplace environments where teachers feel supported by their principals and colleagues. 

“Teachers, in general, need to be valued, need to be respected, and we have to give them the tools to be successful,” board member and incumbent candidate Deon Temne said.

Honoria Middough, another school board candidate, said she thinks it is important to recognize that the bus driver shortage in North Carolina is partially a result of issues with public school funding at the state level.

“It becomes a trickle-down issue where we have a need for substitutes that we don’t have a pool for, we have a need for qualified teachers that we don’t have a pool for, we have a need to recruit and retain more bus drivers,” she said.

Middough said the district could fill some vacant positions in public schools with bus drivers so they do not have to do as much traveling.

CHCCS board candidate Solomon Gibson III said he was concerned about the Learning Environment for Advanced Programming — known as LEAP — due to the stigma that can come with isolating students based on their academic achievement.

He also said he had concerns about school resource officers correctly serving the purposes the board intended them to serve.

Ashton Powell, another incumbent candidate, said he wants the training and practices used in schools for SROs to be expanded into the police community.

“If we are going to have SROs, the last thing I want is for the best of the police officers in engaging and having equitable practices with people of color, people of our community, [to be] only in the schools,” he said.

Rani Dasi, CHCCS board chair and an incumbent candidate, said the board recently hired a director for the district's program for students with disabilities — a position the district has spent a year looking to fill. 

“This will really help us continue our strategy of focus on students with exceptional needs,” she said. “Part of the strategy again, is really having a holistic plan and then making sure we’re executing those within the schools."

Vickie Feaster Fornville, another school board candidate, said the district needs to pass policies that will promote programming to uplift and engage students.

“[We need to] make sure that it’s culturally relevant, we need to make sure that it is historically correct, we need to make sure that we’re including the information that is necessary for them to become global citizens in the 21st century," she said.

School board candidate Barbara Fedders said the difference between the achievement gap and the opportunity gap in the district is who is held accountable.

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She said the term "achievement gap" suggests that some groups of children are not achieving because of something they are not doing, while "opportunity gap" suggests that there is an inequitable access to resources that begins from birth.

“What we need to focus on is the adults in the systems and the structures that are denying kids opportunities from the beginning, as opposed to focusing on what the byproduct of that is,” she said.

Allison Willis, another CHCCS board candidate, said the baseline expectation for improvement should be that students make one year’s worth of growth each school year. She also said one of the board’s greatest needs is accelerating growth among student groups who have not seen the same levels of achievement they should.

CHCCS board candidate Jane Gabin said she is a first-generation student and that she believes that education is transformative.

“You're not going to vote for me because I have PhD in English, but because I really have a value in education," she said.

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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