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School board candidate Meredith Ballew reflects on advocacy within CHCCS

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Meredith Ballew, who is running for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education, poses for a portrait on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023, at McCorkle Place.

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series on Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Board of Education candidates. The Daily Tar Heel is not endorsing any CHCCS school board candidates.

Meredith Ballew, a Chapel Hill native and mother of two, said one of the main reasons she is running for CHCCS Board of Education is to utilize her experience and skills to advocate on behalf of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Her daughter, Charlotte, is a junior at Carrboro High School and her son, Griffin, is autistic, and she said has faced challenges learning during his time in public schools. Now, he is a sixth-grade student at a local private school.

Ballew said there are usually two paths in CHCCS for students with disabilities: in a self-contained classroom with an adapted curriculum or a general classroom with support plans.

She said her son fell somewhere in the middle of the two paths, and he felt lost as a result.

This prompted her to get involved with the CHCCS Special Needs Advisory Council, which works to address the opportunity gap for children with disabilities in public schools. 

Anne Harden Tindall, a longtime friend of Ballew’s, said Ballew was committed to having her son in public school and was grateful that she had the time to try to make a public school classroom work for him. But, when that did not work, Tindall said Ballew’s response was not to blame the school system and get angry. 

"It caused her to sort of really dig in and understand how the school system has been serving students," she said.

Lindsay Bedford, a fellow SNAC parent, said Ballew is incredibly knowledgeable about the special education curriculum, how it works and the policy that surrounds it.

"She is committed to approaching the district and the administration and doing what she thinks will improve education for those students, and having conversations, and learning, and throwing out ideas, and listening to their ideas and collaborating in that way," Bedford said.

Ballew attended Chapel Hill schools from kindergarten through high school and moved back to Chapel Hill with her family in 2020 after earning her master’s degree in public policy from New York University.

"She has the dual credential, I would say, of both being a parent of kids that are students in CHCCS and being an alum of the school district herself," Jeff Nieman, the district attorney for Chatham and Orange counties and one of Ballew's endorsements, said. "And there’s just something inherent about having that kind of personal investment in the school system she’s looking to lead that matters."

Ballew sees equity as a major issue in education and she said that it is time to start making a dent in the opportunity gap that exists between racial and socioeconomic groups in the district.

She thinks there are numerous policy positions that help bridge that gap. She supports universal free breakfast and lunch services, universal pre-K, providing before-school and after-school care, summer programming and increased individualized instruction time for students who need it.

Ballew said her love for this community runs deep and that she wants to see a culture of inclusion for all students that appreciates differences. Ballew also said CHCCS should maintain its status of excellence while working to expand opportunities to all students.

"I didn't come into this process claiming to have all of the answers," Ballew said. "But what I can say is that I'm a person who will always listen to multiple views, I will always dive in 一 in terms of research and trying to understand how different issues impact different populations of students and families 一 and make my very best effort to make a decision that will make the most positive impact on all of our kids and families."

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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