Forum Open Thread: Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education

Welcome to the open thread for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education candidate forum happening on October 11, 2015. Comments on this post will open at that time.

There are eight candidates running for four seats:

  • Joal Hall Broun
  • Rani Dasi
  • Gregg Gerdau
  • Pat Heinrich
  • Margaret Samuels
  • David Saussy
  • Annetta Streater
  • Theresa Watson

You can observe the forum at http://orangepolitics.org/elections-2015/forums/chccs.

We hope you'll use this open thread to post your thoughts and reactions. Also, if you want to propose additional discussion topics, you can reach the editors during the forum via TwitterFacebook, or the contact page. The forum moderator will have final say in question selection.

Issues: 

Total votes: 124

Comments

Re question #2.  Questions that are within the power of the school board will help differentiate candidates better in my opinion.  Since federal law requires non-discrimination on the basis of national origin and prohibits schools from asking the legal status of students, and the school board can better spend its time focused on what is within its power.   Regarding immigrant children, CHCCS supports all children domiciled in the district.  That is the only criteria that can be used for registration.  Now if you want to ask whether CH and Carrboro should be sancuary cities, that is a different question (but also not one the school board decides).  

Edit to add:  The school board has rarely (perhaps one or two in my tenure) adopted resolutions of this nature.  We just decided to spend time on things we can impact.  

Two thoughts I did not see (yet).  

1.  Dr. Forcella has been an advocate of the focused dialogue, which allows a more balanced and diverse set of voices to be heard.  

2.  It depends on the message of those upper-middle class parents.  If they are arguing for action that is not in the interest of all students (even if called something else, like parent push out perhaps), then it should be discounted.  But there are many thoughtful, caring, community-minded parents in our district that have great ideas about how to make the schools better for everyone.  Definitely should listen to those voices. 

Candidates, do you support a local board policy prohibiting school on Saturday?  Durham adopted one.  CHCCS did not.  

Edit:  Saturday school was generally well received at the elementary school level.  Well attended and engaged per multiple reports.  Just an observation.  

What was the context behind CHCCS's decision?  On the whole I'm opposed to holding school on Saturdays and we've heard community feedback opposing Saturday school, but without local control of calendar, how would that affect flexibility?

Adopting a no-Saturday school policy would:

1. Signal the board's intent to the community to not have school on Saturday.  

2.  Direct administration to only propose calendars and make-up days/time/waiver that do not include Saturday school.  

Because it is a local policy, the board could also give itself a waiver but I do think such a policy would have at least the above effects.  

 

The Board is accountable to the entire community, and must actively listen to the parents and community members. Weekends are an important time for families - both those of our students and our teachers. Many supplemental school activities and sports activities are held on the weekend.  Instructional time must be at the core of any make up time.  The Board will also need to continue to advocate for more local control over the District calendar and implement other plans like adding minutes on to the day to avoid a Saturday makeup.

I worry that Saturday school can be insensitive to some groups in our community. I also worry that Saturday school may be a significant burden to those parents whose work schedules and caregiver schedules are arranged to support a Monday - Friday school schedule.

For these reasons I'd support a policy that prohibits Saturday school.

I have yet to see an answer that addresses what could have been done differently last Spring or doesn't duplicate the changes that have been already made to this year's calendar.  Don't mean to pick on you Pat, but it's much easier to say you oppose this (I don't know anybody who is FOR Saturday school) than address the real restrictions we're under. 

There is no easy answer. The board already avoids Saturdays, school breaks, and national holidays to the extent that it can. Adding meaningul minutes to the day to make up for weeks of missed school after events happen in late February and March can impinge on students, teachers, staff and their families to the same extent that having school on Saturdays does. Elimination of teacher workdays and delayed openings impacts professional development and catching up with regular duties. Returning the calendar to local control will help somewhat, but even that may not ealily take care of events such as those last wiinter.

I think a better solution is to find a way to make the busses run in a effectve if limited way during these events to eliminate lost days. My experinece in 23 years in the Triangle (including the "blizzard" of 2000) is that major routes and even some secondary ones are open within a day or two after the storm. When I lived in the northeast and midwest, snow emergency routes were used to keep traffic flowing to schools and work. Can we work with the town and county to put streets leading to schools high on the priority list? Can we make use of these, the other open roads, walk a bit further to/from the bus to get in a day of school. This may require a late start and early close to account for longer transport times, but it's better than a completly lost day.

If a policy against Saturday school can be easliy waived, I think it ends up sending a confusing message to the community. Better to make a policy stating the board's priority for days to use as makeups. This would be clear and transparent to all.

Candidates: some in the community have advocated that the school board file or join legal action against the state.  Please explain in what circumstances you would support such action.  

Key concern would be cost of the action.  Given our budget constraints, it would be hard to justify taking money away from instruction so we would need to have a case with a specific issue that legal counsel determines we have a strong chance of winning and the outcome would more than replace lost district monies.

That would be a very strong action to take . . and a tough question. I think there are a number of considerations. Some of those that come to mind are:

1. We believe doing this is in the best interests of our students and our community.
2. We have the support of the community.
3. We are confident that working with our partners and allies in Raleigh would not lead to a successful outcome.
4. Our partners in Raleigh felt that this course of action was reasonable given the circumstances and would remain our partners.
5. This action would not cause undue negative attention that would cost us significant funding, resources and political capital.
6. Our legal counsel indicated that we would have a strong chance of winning.
7. We could afford the legal costs without draining significant funding from student instruction.

I'm sure there are more considerations that I haven't thought of.

That would be a very strong action to take . . and a tough question. I think there are a number of considerations. Some of those that come to mind are:

1. We believe doing this is in the best interests of our students and our community.
2. We have the support of the community.
3. We are confident that working with our partners and allies in Raleigh would not lead to a successful outcome.
4. Our partners in Raleigh felt that this course of action was reasonable given the circumstances and would remain our partners.
5. This action would not cause undue negative attention that would cost us significant funding, resources and political capital.
6. Our legal counsel indicated that we would have a strong chance of winning.
7. We could afford the legal costs without draining significant funding from student instruction.

I'm sure there are more considerations that I haven't thought of.

Would this be an action that would have stronger outcomes if students and parents were plaintiffs to enforce constitutional guarantees of education?  I believe this is something where the cost/benefit would need to be weighed and we would need strong legal guidance.

At least now SSS can get benefits.  Not only prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but also gender identity (should be close to having updated all the policies to include this).  How to handle bathrooms and locker rooms for TG students and staff?   

Candidates: Do you support the bond for older schools?  Do you support the current plan for use of the bond funds in CHCCS?  

I support the bond for the older schools.  But that is not the only work that needs to be done.  We need to have better long term planning and communicate to the community the bond is not going to fix all of the existing needs for repair for the schools nor is it going to help with the future maintenace of the existing schools.

There seems to be an oft repeated (just commenting here, not directed at any one candidate) myth that the need for the bond is because of deferred maintenance, or primarily because of deferred maintenance.  The older schools were not designed to the same standards as the newer schools, so they have deficiencies, if you will, with regard to safety, compliance, and fitness for purpose in addition to major age-related deterioration that no amount of prospective planning for maintenance could have mitigated.  

That said, there has not been sufficient funding to keep up with the Capital Improvement Plan.  Yes, there is a plan proposed by district administration and approved by the board.  It runs 10 years out with additional projects listed that are needed but unfunded.   Once approved, it is presented (5 yrs) to the BOCC, who fund one year at a time.  Better planning that results in increased funding of the CIP is a need, which falls to BOCC.  

When a new school is built, it does not need funding generally from the CIP immediately but when it does, the needs would go on the CIP like all the other schools.  So, if candidates wnat to propose a different way of funding the CIP, please elaborate on how that would be done and where the funding would come from, if not from the current revenue streams from BOCC.  Or are you saying, that BOCC should provide more CIP funding?  Or that CHCCS should divert funds from operating budget to CIP?  

Strongly support the bond.  Wish it could be more. 

I think the plan has been well considered but I'd like to get community feedback from preschool parents on centralizing the preK program.  Outstanding questions are:   how will the location impact parents who have multiple children?  Will we lose paying parents from the preK programs?  Are there more central sites we can consider?

I do support the bond. Not approving it and further deferring maintenance will lead to increased costs later. We need to address these issues now before they have the opportunity to lead to safety issues or larger problems in our schools.

I also believe that we need to account for the cost of annual maintenance as we repair existing schools and build new ones. Otherwise in another decade or two, we will be in the same situation. We will have a capital maintenance bill that will rival the entire annual budget of the school system, and we will need another bond to address several years of deferred maintenance.

Pat: not sure I understand what you are proposing.  Please see further comments and questions above as a reply to Joal.  

I support the Bond and wish it could be more as funding is not completely sufficient to meet all of our needs.   The 3 phase plan that was presented to the BOCC must be monitored closely by the Board  and we must course correct when necessary and be mindful of our most serious projects that need to be prioritized.  

I wholeheartedly support the bond even though it is not as much as I wished for. I believe the board and the district need to ensure that the community understand that the funds CHCCS would get from this bond is not for maintenance (that's handled through annual CIP funding), but to renovate and replace out of date and inadequate infrastructure, and to provide some added capacity for growth, Additional communication should be done on plans for CIP funds (thanks to the BOCC for committing additional $1M/yr for five years) to address maintenance needs for all of our schools.

Feedback from school improvement teams shows that people don't fully understand the priorities and phasing of the ten year plan for older facilities, and some don't understand/agree with the rationale behind centralization of the pre-K programs. Now that we know how much money will be available in the near term, the board and district need to communicate the phasing of the plan while developing the details for phase I and re-educate the community on the entire plan after that.

Interesting idea.  Would it work in CHCCS?  Who are the likely partners and funders?  

Nice job by all -- I was at the OP editors meeting where the idea for these forums first discussed 4+ years ago, and I still struggled in trying to write coherent responses in 10 minute increments (you would think that would be easier than 90 seconds of talking).  I admire everybody who is able to answer tough questions with some depth and thoughtful response.  

James, thanks for your comments. 

Thanks James!  Very thoughtful questions from OP and I really appreciated the opportunity to be a part of the Forum!

Thanks James!  This was a great experience and OP had very thoughful questions. I am thankful for the opportunity.

I second James' comments.  I think this is the toughest format of all the fora.  After this one, it's gotta be the home stretch.  

Thanks to all of you for your willingness to serve and going through the election process.  

Thanks James . . . that was my experience as well. Having more time to be more deliberate in answering questions makes this forum more difficult. Hopefully that effort is reflected in more thoughtful answers from the candidates.

Thanks James for your comments.

I hope all current and prospective Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board members will consider attending—and will encourage their school administrators and educators to attend—SafeSchoolsNC's inaugural LGBTQ Education Conference, especially given recent events at East Chapel Hill High School. Registration is available at http://tinyurl.com/safeschoolsnc.

 

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