What's at Stake in the School Board Race?

Can somebody break down the school board race for us? I know this: Incumbents Gloria Faley, Ed Sechrest and Elizabeth Carter are running. Challengers Jamezetta Bedford, Mike Kelley and George Griffin are also running. There are four seats total to be filled.

Personally I have known Gloria Faley and Elizabeth Carter for a long time and I plan to vote for them, but I am having a hard time picking my other candidates. I like Ed Sechrest and I think I will vote for him, but how do I choose from among Bedford, Kelley and Griffin.

All the newspaper articles make these candidates sound very similar. About the most substantive thing I can find is that Griffin and Kelley are critical of a Board decision to eliminate "a self-contained classroom" for "gifted" students in middle schools. Is that a suburban middle-class issue that betrays something about who Griffin and Kelley are? Or is it just plain old vote grabbing? Or is there a real, live issue there (but one which I don't entirely understand)?

I also note that nobody is endorsing merger (of course), and many (all?) are in favor of "sharing resources" with the County school system. But what does that mean (or will it mean)? What resources should we share? Which candidates are committed to making it possible for at least some Chapel Hill/Carrboro kids to take the Carpentry/Homebuilding curriculum at Orange High School (or some similar arrangement)? There are probably some other similar issues around trade/vocational curricula that Orange High offers and CHHS and ECHHS do not.

What is really at stake in deciding to re-elect the incumbents? I have the impression that Jamezetta Bedford shares the same basic philosophy as the incumbents. But how are children in our school system served by that philosophy? Do challengers Griffin and Kelley place less emphasis on the issues that affect working-class neighborhoods in Chapel Hill and Carrboro? I am not throwing around accusations here. I am seriously asking the question: What's at stake here?

Candidates, are you out there? Here is your big chance to win me over!



I have often detected some subtle NIMBYism in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system. Lots of people don't like the idea of black students doing so much worse than white students in our schools. It's embarrassing. BUT their compassion stops when you start talking about programs for THEIR gifted child. As I learned the hard way in college, if we want black folks to have more power then white folks have to give some up. Of course "power concedes nothing without a struggle." We're not really handing it over.

The merger issue has just hit this racism on the head. Like Mark, I don't feel terribly informed about school issues, but I think the idea of merging the two systems seems at least worth exploring. Some of y'all may roast me for this, and that's fine. In the words of our so-called president, "bring it on."

But to bring this back to the school board race. I am definitely voting for Elizabeth Carter and Gloria Faley. I have been curious about George Griffin, who is some kind of education educator. I was impressed that he has studied "white male privilege" in schools, and it would be great to hear more about what he has learned. But at the one School Board forum I attended, he came of as quite a know-it-all, which was a turn off.

Ruby, I think it is unfortunate to consider education a zero-sum game where some will have to lose if others are to gain. We can, at least potentially, commit needed resources for all students without reducing our commitment to any.

I'm sure many have read that Jamezetta Bedford is "the mother of three, ... parent of a gifted child, an average child and an autistic child" and that she was a substitute teacher for many years (Chapel Hill News). But, as Jamezetta's classmate at UNC, I have had the chance to observe Jamezetta's amazing character and dedication.

First, I always find Jamezetta in a cheerful mood. We have a crushing workload daily, but she welcomes the challenges with an amused sigh and encourages me to move on.

Next, I've been struck by her dedication to her tasks. She parts her time between school and her children, but the quality of committment for one does not detract from the other. She just has more of herself to commit to what she holds dear. Jamezetta always completes her assignments and replies to questions with confidence and competence.

Finally, in hearing her speak about the future of our school system, I'm convinced that educational issues are genuinely dear to her and that she truly will be an effective and honest advocate for the students and parents.

I hope you will seriously consider each candidate carefully before voting. But, talk to Jamzetta and see if you can verify my ovservations. If you can, then you owe her a vote for the sake of our children and schools.

David, thanks for the testimonial. I am impressed with your comments, although I am still woefully ignorant of the bigger picture in this race.

Anyone got an analysis?

-Mark Chilton

Well there is that whole MERGER thing... I imagine that will be the single biggest issue for most School Board voters. Although the acheivement gap is still a very pressing problem, and for some voters it will be their one issue. It's at the top of my list.

I would really like to know each candidate's straight answer on the merger question (even though it's the County Commissioners' decision) so I could support those who will consider the merger. However, most voters would probably do the opposite, so it's probably best that that info is not so readily avilable. (Or is it and I missed it?)

I'm not going to use the M word. It gets people so riled up. I am just going to call it The Issue.

The problem is that, as you say, school board candidates won't give us straight answers on The Issue. The League of Women Voters published a voter guide in which some candidates ruled out even discussing The Issue (ie they were so against it that they would not entertain disucssions on it before the school board). Others were slightly equivocal on the point. Perhaps we can read something into their positions on The Issue.

My question about the elimination of a 'Gifted Self Contained Classroom' was intended to get at similar points. The spectre of reduced programs for 'gifted' children is one of the main sources of unhappiness about The Issue.

-Mark Chilton

I am guessing some of you have kids in the school district but for those of you who don't.

The last elementary redistricting when the new elementary Rashkis opened was quite a sight to watch. The whole town (and carrboro) is divided into 100 little pieces each piece has an economic property score (1 being cheapest 4 being most expensive) a racial percentage break down, and a number of children. They try to even things out by race and economics (a good thing in my opinion) so unfortunately you can come close to having neighborhood schools but not quite.

Now the problem comes in.... There is no computer software (or hard set of rules that is followed) - just a bunch of parents with crayons coloring in maps (with conflicts of interests, e.g. they want to keep their kids at their current school) as well as some school board members who want to keep their neighborhood going to the same school. So what is best for all kids may not be what happens.

There are many "goals" about keeping kids close to home but it is not a rule so there are some unfortunate neighborhoods where kids go to a school that is 3 or 4 elementary schools away. Many parents including myself fear a county wide redistricting would be the "mother of all" redistrictings that no one wants a part of.

so some parents like me have issues with distances from home the kids would be going to.

It turns out the base tax collected to number of kids in school is very very similar between the town and county schools so unfortunately for the die hard leftys there is really not much of a redistribution of wealth. The town district tax is 20 cents/100$ - if merger happened today (forget that bogus 17c figure) the county would pay an extra 20.8cent/100$ county tax. In the end you end up dissolving 2 locally elected school boards to create 1 large district (counter to national trends and desires of most parents i.e. smaller school systems) with "appointees" to run it. The administrative savings are minimal- and you've just disenfranchised and pissed off a bunch of people. You must ask yourself do you really want to force your ideology on to someone else rather than have them elect officials to carry out their ideology for them?? Do you know all the answers for all people? I don't. Some think if merger happened it would decrease affordable housing in the county both throught increased property tax as well as increases in property value. An un (or maybe) intended consequence.

There are many many other reasons but if you were told your 5 year old was going 8 miles each way instead of 2, 3, or 5 miles to closer schools and had to organize and fight just to go to the closest school in the current system you certainly would not merge and open yourself up to worse scenarios.

The county school board has so many voices that they need some anti-pschizofrenia drugs. No tax , tax a little if it avoids a bigger tax, a little tax is good, merge but lets not talk about tax. Think about the schools like you would green space - if you had one group that wanted bonds and taxes to purchase green space no matter the cost would you want to merge with someone who didn't want to buy green space. Keep in mind the county is the 4th highest funded district in the state out of 117 - they are not poor in dollars spent on education.


All board candidates said they oppose the merger at the last Chapel Hill Herald forum last week. I have it on tape. The only one who hesitated for a second, was Sechrest. He said he is opposed to it, then corrected himself and said that he needs to know more about it before deciding. The others answered NO without hesitation or elaboration.

Todd Melet

I can't answer your specific question, Mark, and I'm surprised that no one else has, either. It's weird -- I never seem to be able to work up the same level of interest in the school board races as I do about other elective offices around here. To the ignorant like me, the school systems seem to just chug along of their own volition, except when it's time to draw the lines again, or when there's a curricular issue (French in the elementary schools, for instance) that stands in as a little proxy skirmish in the culture wars, and therefore has "news value." The merger issue, as it's being played out, has been taken out of the hands of the school boards, which I think is a shame and it keeps me from working up much interest in the board races. I suppose these school board races really do hinge on micro-issues like the one you cited. Maybe this is a sign of the health of both school systems.

What we need is a good old-fashioned Robin Reale byline on minority underachievment to get the blood boiling around here. Whatever happened to _that_ issue, a real and persistent concern? Merger has been described by at least one person as a civil rights issue, but what's the point of merging with a city school district that still can't quite get it together on minority achivement, if fighting underachievment is one of its goals? Clearly having more money, and being the best-funded district in the state, doesn't make that problem go away.

I pledge to be more informed after the baby is born.

Mark and Duncan -

Sadly I must confess that due to both the young ages of my kids (pre-K and K), the big Merger madness, and a rather large 1000 acre development near my house I am embarrassed to admit that I too have not followed the nuances of the school board race. My resources have been elsewhere. The joint work session that I did attend (with both school boards and county commissioners) did leave me impressed with Faley and her advocacy for the parents and the kids.

That said there is a curriculum issue out there that apparently has 2 camps but I don't understand it. Maybe next time if merger is off the table parents can actually have time to get informed about the differences.

so little time so many issues.

How are teachers supposed to teach the kids who are several years above grade level and the kids who are several years below grade level in the same class?

Nobody tries to do this in college or other adult education. What reason is there to think it will work any better with children?

Interesting web site, I wish I had found it prior to the election. However, the School section has no voices in touch with what's been going on the past couple years. Witness the election results ... some of us are not surprised.

Hi Rich, please see the new topic "The Politics of Education" where we are trying to figure this out: http://www.orangepolitics.org/archives/000079.html


Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.