Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools candidates tackled current issues at the Orange County Democratic Party Candidate forum Tuesday.
The forum was sponsored by the Orange County Democratic Party and the Orange County Democratic Women.
Candidates talked about their personal platforms as well as their stance on issues facing the school district, like the achievement gap, community response to Common Core, state funding for charter schools and how to evaluate school administration.
Candidate Joel Hall Broun, former member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, is running on the platform of eliminating the achievement gap, ensuring that every child receives a world class education and making sure that all children receive adequate resources.
“I am running for the school board because I saw a need to change some of the institutional structures in the school systems,” Broun said. “I have a lot of experience making long-term goals work.”
Broun said teachers’ investments in students is a major factor in closing the achievement gap, not just poverty.
“There are plenty of bright people that are poor,” Broun said.
Candidate Rani Dasi agreed with Broun and said poverty is not the only factor in the achievement gap, but said the school board should do more to support family structures, working together with community organization to leverage available resources.
“Education is so critical to everything we do as a society,” Dasi said.
Dasi said her background in engineering gives her the ability to look at the bigger picture and to contextualize issues so as to better solve them.
Candidate Gregg Gerdau said he served on the board of the American Red Cross and as a Boy Scout troop leader.
“I am the servant leader that everyone loves to have on board,” said Gerdau.
Gerdau described one of the lessons he learned in his professional life.
“Yesterday’s formulas for success are today’s reasons for failure,” he said.
Gerdau said he sees a lot of forthcoming technology changes that the school board needs to address, as well as issues with the community value of teachers and of children.
“We need to make some fundamental changes at the policy level, at the resource level and at the partnership level,” Gerdau said.
Candidate Pat Heinrich said his strength lays in his ability to do more with less, which would be important for the school board since it is facing declining funding from the state.
Heinrich said long-term maintenance costs should be considered when making improvements to existing school buildings and when building new schools.
He also said he believes collaboration is necessary in order to close the achievement gap.
“There is no magic bullet,” Heinrich said. “This is a community problem and it’s going to take a community solution.”
He said the school board should take a leadership role in order to orchestrate community involvement in addressing the achievement gap issue.
Candidate Theresa Watson said children need experience and exposure in order to achieve more.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from, you have the ability to learn,” said Watson.
Watson differed most from the other candidates when she said she didn't fully support Common Core.
“I am not one that buys 100 percent into Common Core," she said. "I just think we need to stay focused on what is good for North Carolina.”
Candidate Margaret Samuels said the issue with Common Core had to do more with the communication and the implementation in our state, in agreement with other candidates.
“As a member I will always be guided by the principle of high expectations for all students,” Samuels said.
Incumbent David Saussy said he wanted to increase communication between the school board and the community.
“I think that public education is a central pillar for any community, in particular our community,” Saussy said.
Incumbent Annetta Streater said she would continue to be focus on equality for all students.
Streater has been serving on the board since 2006 and said she will continue to believe that all children have value in regards to closing the achievement gap.
“I am more interested in making sure that enrichment comes in to the schools,” Streater said.
She said she wants to partner with businesses and agencies that provide enrichment programs in order to help children achieve more whose access to those programs is limited by poverty.
Candidates for the school board will participate in several more forums leading up to the municipal elections taking place on Nov. 3.
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