Progressive school board candidates

I have read some coverage of the School Board race including last night's forum. The Herald had candidates arguing over who is accountable for the acheivement gap, while the DTH had them debating srategies for addressing it. Either way it's pretty much the same story.

We all want to close the gap, but School Board debates seem to be conducted in some code I don't understand to avoid touching the lightning rod of racism - which is really at the heart of the problem. So you tell me, readers: Who are the progressives in this race and why?



Just because a candidate is African American doesn't mean they are necessarily advocates for the African American kids. Jean Hamilton's focus for the past year or so has been on the gifted program, for instance.

My previous comment was not meant as a slam against Jean. I just don't want people to make assumptions about a candidates advocacy soley based on their race, whatever it is.

Laura 10/27
"Just because a candidate is African American doesn't mean they are necessarily advocates for the African American kids. Jean Hamilton's focus for the past year or so has been on the gifted program, for instance. "

Laura 10/27
"My previous comment was not meant as a slam against Jean."

No. Of course not.

More thoughts:
There wasn't much disagreement last night.
Forums are what they are, and I try to remember that not everyone does well on TV.

What was so impressive about Pam was her confidence and her command of the big picture. Pam really is a good listener. In Pam's Herald Sun interview, the HS tried to give Pam a hard time for not talking much on the school board. That's OK--- Pam is confident and smart; she knows when to listen; she knows when to talk. I thought she gave great answers. The one answer I had qualms about was giving the school board the power to set taxes for schools— but all 4 candidates agreed that they would like to work independently of the County Commissioners. It was a big question, and a minute doesn't cover the complexities of the question. (Also, I think there was a question about the District Tax—I missed the question and answers--- ????)

Lisa was solid and good. She sounded like someone who has made our schools her life's work. Given the sheer number of years Lisa has put into our schools, its little wonder that Lisa comes off sounding like administration. Some in PAGE (Partners for the Advancement of Gifted Education) attack Lisa for defending administration. I think PAGE is wrong. Lisa is defending policies that she believes in--- policies that she has researched and helped to develop. Lisa is a good listener--- very committed, very fair.

Neither Jean, nor Jeff, came off as well as the incumbents, which is reason to believe that the incumbents are solid and doing their jobs well. I personally can think of no rational reason not to vote for Lisa and Pam. These two are not special interest board members. They work for all children.

Thoughts on Jeff: It could not have been easy going in last night after being carelessly written off by the misinformed Independent. It will be interesting to see how the Indy explains itself.
In general, I thought Jeff could have taken advantage of his minutes and given longer answers. Jeff considers things carefully. I really do think that Jeff has the right credentials and communication skills to be the person who could explore and access the more academically oriented resources in the community and larger world and get these resources fairly distributed to all children. Jeff's focus on real world working skills is very timely and something our school system needs to strengthen. Knowing Jeff personally, I can vouch for Jeff's commitment to closing the achievement gap. I have zero doubt that Jeff is in this for all children.

Jean Hamilton is still my big unknown. She is still the subject of my biggest bias because PAGE is a huge force behind her campaign, and I don't understand why some members of PAGE want to remove Stuckey and Pedersen (two people who are totally committed to increasing minority achievement). Last night, Jean seemed reasonable, agreeable and open. She seemed like a fine candidate, but, again, Pam and Lisa seem much more qualified. I respect Jean's involvement in the Estes Hills support group for African American parents.

Bottom line, these are four good candidates, none are disasters. Of the four, my gut is that Pam and Jeff are the warriors who could stir up some positive change. Lisa is solid and good. Jean… seems fine.

"I don't understand why some members of PAGE want to remove Stuckey and Pedersen (two people who are totally committed to increasing minority achievement.)"

Mary, can you tell me at what point we should hold incumbent board members and administrators accountable for a lack of progress in closing achievement gaps?

How we vote should not be based on mere "good intentions" or "total commitment". For incumbents, a record of good results should be the standard. Incumbents enjoy a considerable advantage in elections, but the flip side of that coin is that they are held accountable, quite properly, for how well the results of their labors measure up to reasonable voter expectations.

No matter how difficult or complex the issue, there is no excuse for, nor should we try to gloss over, lack of measurable progress in closing the gaps.

It is a remote possibility that Jean will be pro-LEAP or pro-PAGE to the detriment of progress in closing the achievement gap. IMHO, her credentials, her record of achievement, and her potential to effect positive change in closing the gaps trumps the incumbents' record in this regard. I think that in her first term in office--and there's no doubt in my mind that she will be elected--Jean will be acutely aware of the reasons why she was elected, and the hightened expectations of an increasingly restless group of progressive voters.

Now, I am not saying that you are one of these people, and, given your resume, I know that you have done more than your fair share of helping in your lifetime already... BUT... I have a hard time with people who sit on the sidelines and personally do nothing to help close the achievement gap and then come election time, they give those who are devoting a huge chunk of their life to fixing the problem much grief for not finding quicker success.
The achievement gap is deeply rooted in a very ugly history and continued unfair labor practices. So, do you really expect anyone to fix this problem swiftly? Do you see no progress? The last couple of years have been very disappointing, but overall, things are better than they were 36 years ago. My answer to all the Stuckey and Pedersen detractors is to get off the sidelines, join the team, and offer your help now. There's a community out there waiting.

In what ways have Stuckey and Pedersen failed you? In what ways have they met your expectations? On balance, do the negatives really outweigh the positives?

BTW, I think all four candidates offer something unique. There are no bad candidates in this race.

Also (lucky for OP) I probably won't have time to continue this conversation today. Sorry to bait and run.

I served on the Estes SGC with Jean Hamilton last year, so I can speak to the question of where Jean's passions lie. Her predominant focus on the SGC was the creation and sustenance of the African-American Parent Network. She spent countless hours working with other African-American parents to build the Network and, as her SGC term neared its completion, she spoke passionately about her hopes that Estes Hills' leadership would ensure the continued existence of the Network.

I have also heard Jean speak forthrightly to the School Board and the Board of County Commissioners about several other issues: the importance of teacher assistants in elementary classrooms to allow for the kind of quality instruction we must have in every classroom , adequate funding of the CHCCS budget, redistricting and, yes, revision of gifted education services to truly meet the needs of this population. Jean firmly believes that our schools can and must serve all children, especially those who are disadvantaged and most at risk. I think her ability to understand and comment on a wide range of complex issues speaks well of her capacity to address the same range of issues as a board member.

Jean will raise the level of board debate regarding the effectiveness of existing and proposed programs. Her presence on the school board will assure me that tough questions are being asked on all issues, especially the achievement gap. As others have noted, the gap is caused by a myriad of complex factors. Jean has the analytical skills to ensure that the district adopts rigorously evaluated interventions and not those which just sound good.

I can appreciate Mary R's long term view about the achievement gap problem. Looking even more long term, we need to remember that we are dealing with a 400 year old cancer on our society.

However, I have to agree that David M's sense of urgency and impatience are justfied for three reasons.

1. I have been hearing about this problem since I moved here in 1993. Those 12 years have been just a piece of my adult life, but represent pretty much all of a child's primary and secondary (K-12) career.

2. Our minority students lag behind not only white/Asian students in the district, but also minority students in other NC districts. In other words, before minority students in CHCCS catch up with non-minority students, they will first have to catch up with minority kids in other counties. That we have an achievement gap makes us like lots of other communities in this country (and that, of course, is no excuse). But, to have minority students in our community lag behind minority kids in less "enlightened" NC districts is profoundly humiliating.

3. There are places in America where the achievement gap is supposedly being reduced -- in years rather than in decades. Maybe these programs are small and based on carefully selected students. Maybe the data are BS. Maybe these programs actually work somewhere but would not be feasible in our community. But, if someone out there supposedly has a better mousetrap, we should feel obligated to check it out.

The third point brings me to another observation. There are nine people who are either BOE members and/or running for BOE. It seems that when I hear about novel programs for closing the achievement gap (KIPP, Project Bright IDEA, etc.), I hear about them from two of those nine people. The two are Michael Kelley and Jean Hamilton. Both appear to spend a good bit of time researching, learning about, and thinking about solutions to the gap that come from beyond our borders. Ironically, these are the two people who seem to get gratuitously bashed as AG flunkies or accused of "not caring about all children." If Mike and Jean have gotten involved in education just to benefit their own kids, then they have not been using their time very well.


For me, it is unfortunate that PAGE members are a huge force in Jean's campaign--- especially if Jean does not share vocal PAGE members' low confidence in the superintendent and school board chair.

I am glad that you hear Mike and Jean talking about minority student achievement more than others. This truly delights me.

I would be thrilled if Jean becomes the driving force behind mobilizing the community to solve our minority student achievement community problem. I hear good things about Jean. I heard she was good at Youth Creating Change:

I also want to assure you that as someone who grew up in small towns in the south, I have heard grumbling about minority student achievement my entire life. I suspect the grumbling will persist at the time of my death.

I don't think anyone disagrees with you that we need to do better now, and that this community should be embarrassed and alarmed by recent test results.

Have a good weekend.

Hats off to the National Education Association's Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Chapter. They endorsed Stuckey and Hemminger and DID NOT GIVE AN OPINION on the third,


Very respectful not to choose one over the other when they feel both are good candidates.

I see that members of Partners for the Advancement of Gifted Education have contributed even more Hamilton letters of endorsement to the 11/2/05 CHN.

I find it fascinating that this special interest group does not mention gifted education in letters.

Maybe I am wrong, and Hamilton will not be beholden to PAGE, but I am not willing to take the chance. I simply cannot vote for anyone who receives this much INTENSE support from a special interest group.

I agree with you, Mary. PAGE already has one advocate on the BOE (Mike Kelly) and I think that is enough representation for one special interest group. I will be voting for Lisa Stuckey, Pam Hemminger, and Jeff Danner.

Jean Hamilton was the only member/candidate from the Board of Education to attend today's Minority Student Achievement gap meeting. After spending time with Jean, I cannot imagine that she will be 'beholden" to anyone simply because they wrote letters.

For those of you who are so very concerned about minority student achievement, I would encourage you to come to the Board of Ed meeting on Thursday and speak out against the proposal to make passing a course contingent upon passing the end-of-grade test. The students at today's meeting said quite rightly that this proposal will further widen the achievement gap for all students, not just the African American and Hispanic students. The superintendent's response was that we need to make sure everyone is getting the same high quality learning experience and that is what this proposal is intended to ensure. For those who don't know, the state will be requiring that 5 courses have this requirement starting in 2007. I wish we had a board that would fight against the state's proposal instead of expanding it to include 10 courses and starting a year early. That is why I am even more convinced that I will be voting for Jean Hamilton and Jeff Danner and no one else.

Terri, thank you for that interesting report about the MSA meeting and the school board candidate who actually took the time to attend.

I am a big fan of irony and some of this site's posters never disappoint. The one person who stands out trying to do something about the MSA gap is relentlessly stalked and savagely pounded.

Sorry Jean Hamilton, no good deed goes unpunished here.

I am a big fan of ironic hyperbole and some of this site's posters never disappoint.

"Relentlessly stalked and savagely pounded"? Good gosh, Frank, let's call the cops! :)

Just poking fun, Frank, no good exaggeration goes unpunished here.

Frank, the candidate who stands out the most for trying to do something about minority student achievement is a matter of opinion, not a statement of fact.

What have I said that is hyperbole? PAGE gives intense time, energy, and support to Jean. I prefer candidates who are not backed by PAGE. That's my preference, not hyperbole.

Mary R.
"I prefer candidates who are not backed by PAGE."

So, how would you feel about a candidate other than Hamilton who is being supported by these same parents?

Judging from the letters to the editor, I suspect, no candidate has such overwhelming support from PAGE as Jean does. I could be wrong.

In addition to supporting Hamilton, it is my sincere hope that PAGE members will support other candidates.

Lisa, Pam, and Jeff are all committed to improving minority student achievement, and they are all supportive of Gifted Education and LEAP.

You know where I stand on LEAP: I think we've gone too far with LEAP on the elementary level, and far enough with it on the middle school level.

It is my personal preference not to give PAGE an even stronger voice in our school sytem.

In my opinion, PAGE is too powerful already, and I do not want this group pushing for still more separated special learning environments for their children.

I want all children to get the courswork they need, but I also want all children to maintain as much contact with all learners as possible.

This is my opinion, not savaging, pounding, or hyperbole. We have philosophical differences about how AG education should be delivered.

Jean Hamilton not only attended the Minority Student Achievement meeting at Lincoln Center but then went straight from there to the Minority Parent Night being held at Estes Hills. (I attended both as well so I am a reliable eye witness!) She listened intently to a session specifically designed to encourage African American parents to participate actively in parent/teacher conferences. Jean is committed to closing the gap and she proves it by the way she spends her time.

I should add that I am also supporting Lisa Stuckey. I believe Lisa is so dedicated to the work of the school board that she will, among other things, listen carefully to a newcomer like Jean. Lisa realizes that the Board needs to continually revisit the latest "best practices" around reducing the gap and will not tire in that effort.

Last night, the Board of Education adopted a policy requiring each student to pass an end-of-course test (Algebra I&II, Geometry, Biology, Chemistry, Physical Science, Physics, English I) in order to pass the course--even if the course grade is passing. In justifying their votes, Board members made comments like ""This is to motivate students," "It really shouldn't be that big of a deal," and my favorite "“Kids have got to be prepared to be successful in a global society, they've got to be (learning) and the only way we can start is the basics.” And a test is going to do that? Please.

Clearly this is not a progressive board of education. End of course testing is an inspection process that punishes students in an attempt to "make teachers accountable in teaching the N.C. standard course of study." You cannot inspect quality into a product on the assembly line, and you cannot inspect quality into a student at the end of the year.

This was a first reading of the policy and a number of speakers were present objecting to the policy, including parents who pointed out how inadequate communication had been on this issue. The Board did not have to act last night.

Nevertheless two individuals voted against the policy, one of whom was Pam Hemminger. For whatever its worth, I've decided I will cast my third vote for her on Tuesday.

Thanks for that report Terri. I was unable to watch or attend.

For what it's worth, here is an issue that the four candidates can disagree on. I read that Pam Hemminger voted against (I think with Jamezetta Bedford) so I assume Lisa Stuckey voted for it. I think that Jean Hamilton was opposed based on her comments at the Minority Student Achievement meeting earlier this week. I don't know if Jeff Danner has weighed in or not.

I do think that the NCLB/AYP environment imposed upon us by the Bush Administration has us bowing down to the test gods way too often. However, Terri, what do you make of the "safety valve" of using portfolios to show mastery for the kids who do not pass the EOC? Is that sufficient for making sure that we do not "throw out the baby with the bathwater" so to speak?


Jean Hamilton publicly spoke out against the proposal last night. Jeff Danner was there too and he is opposed to the proposal but he didn't make a public statement.

The fall back options seem to make the school board members confident that no child is going to be punished by their decision. What a joke. Students must take and fail the test first before they are offered an alternative method for demonstrating their proficiency. What does it do to your self confidence and motivation when you fail? Some children, those with supportive parents and/or healthy senses of self, will probably take the first failure and set out to prove their competence. Others will internalize the message and use it as one more piece of evidence that they are not as good as others. How can that be acceptable?

As I said last night, I understand the district's desire for assurance that each child is receiving a quality education, but the target for that assurance should not be placed on the shoulders of our children. There are other options. They could, for example, require that teachers in each subject matter use common test items for each unit. That gives teachers some instructional freedom but still requires some consistency in coverage. And it ensures that students, parents, and teachers receive feedback on the students performance in a timely fashion. Or they could require that each child/family select the terminal assessment strategy, eg. objective test, portfolio, performance, etc., best for that child at the beginning of each school year. Under this new policy, if the child fails the EOC test he/she can then chose a portfolio or performance, but those tools are best when they are developed consecutively with the instruction, not after the fact. I'm not even sure how one could construct a decent portfolio at the end of the school year.

If the district administration is so very concerned about accountability, they need to turn the mirror around and look at themselves. Failures at the end of year should be considered system failures and children should not be punished for the failures of adults.

Terri, thanks for fleshing out the opposition arguments. I'm sure it would have been worthwhile to watch the meeting.

My assumption was that portfolios were built throughout the year. Clearly, it would be hard (perhaps impossible) to create a representative portfolio after the fact to "rescue" the student that fails an EOC test.

Now here is a larger issue . . . based on what an attendee said at the MSA meeting on Tuesday, I got the impression that the NC Dept of Public Instruction plans to impose this EOC requirement on school districts anyway. Was that your take?

Yep, DPI is imposing the the requirement for 5 end-of-grade tests starting with the 2006-2007 school year. Our school board decided to make it 10 tests starting with this school year (voted last night to omit 2 of the tests this first year).

Here's what I asked them to consider:
"I understand that this is a first reading of the proposal, but the basic concept of end-of-course tests is deeply flawed. Rather than reviewing this proposal, I am requesting that you put it aside and task staff with developing a request to DPI for district-wide exemption from the new policy. Then if that request fails, you can come back to the proposal making it no more extensive that the state policy (5 tests not 10) and implemented on the state schedule not a year earlier."

I am passing this Minority Student Achievement announcement along for anyone who is interested. District has said that an agenda will be forthcoming. These meetings are held about every two months. Hope to see some of you there.


The next MSA Local Team meeting is Tuesday, January 10 at Lincoln Center.

We will meet from 4:30-6:00 in boardrooms A & B.

The next MSA Local Team meeting is Tuesday, January 10 at Lincoln Center.

Meeting time is 4:30-6:00 in boardrooms A & B.

Topics include Drop-Out prevention and review of the Summit on Equity and Excellence held last October.



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