Christine Lee | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Christine Lee

Candidate for Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board


Name as it appears on the ballot: Christine Lee
Full legal name, if different:
Date of birth: 12/25/1961
Home address: 3530 Forest Oaks Drive, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Mailing address, if different from home: P O Box 4614, Chapel Hill, NC 27515
Campaign Web site:
Occupation & employer: Physician, Eye Institute of NC, PC
Home phone: 919-933-4562
Work phone: 919-572-0050

1. If elected, what are your top priorities for the school board?

Ask the board to reconsider the recent policy change giving credits and grades in CHCCS year long courses in high school. Because every student counts, I would like to advocate for every student. We need to give opportunities to allow and challenge every student to develop his or her full potential. I would like to instill the love of learning by establishing positive learning environments early in the educational process.

2. What is there in your record as a public official or other experience—e.g., career, community service—that demonstrates your ability to be effective as a board member? Please be as specific as possible about the relevance of your accomplishments to your goals for the board.

As a physician and surgeon, I help all patients from every walk of life, from all ethnic and racial groups, and from all socioeconomic backgrounds. I am sensitive to other people's needs. As a physician, it is my opportunity to willingly provide care and understanding. Also, as a business owner in healthcare, I am always looking for innovative and creative solutions to our changing, progressive global community.

I served as the Chair of the School Board of the Chapel Hill/ Durham Korean School from 1995-2001. Although the school was smaller in scale, the board was responsible for finding a location, financial sustainability including budget and fundraising activities, recruiting students, recruiting and retaining quality teachers, and maintaining all communications to all parties.

In addition, I am currently serving on a board of a non-profit, charitable organization called Sea Rock Foundation, which contributes to funding for health care education.

3. The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to the board help further that goal?

Serving on a school board is a privilege and service to our community. I would advocate for every student. I am willing to listen with an open mind, critically examine the issues, and create innovative solutions to improve the educational system, which will make our students even more successful. I will work toward building consensus, and I will work with people of different perspectives for our common goals.

4. What steps, if any, would you advocate to improve educational outcomes for at-risk students and to reduce dropout rates? How can the district close the achievement gap?

It is critical to start the process early in our educational system, at the early elementary level, or even earlier at pre-school, formerly known as First School or now known as Ready School. The early goal in education should be to master of knowledge and skills, not just to pass tests. We need to have early interventional systems, like "Response to Intervention", in place throughout the year for all grades. We also should use our family specialists to assess each student to figure out the necessary components for that individual student to be more successful, including providing computers and other resources. Of course, inviting parents and other family and community members to become even more involved with the students' educational process is important as well.

In addition, we have allocated over $1,250,000 for "At Risk Student Services" for 09-10. The Board needs to carefully evaluate this fund in terms of value and success.

5. The district faced a tough budget this year. What would you do differently in hindsight? What was cut that shouldn't have been? What survived that should have been axed?

It is never easy to cut budgets. In hindsight, apparently there is over $700,000 under spent from last year, and it would have made sense if we had incorporated that into our financial planning, thereby resulting in shallower instructional cuts. We lost 32 teachers, and I am sure that we are already feeling that impact. I would like to spend that money from last year to hire more teachers and to provide more educational resources and training for teachers.

I have a personal objection against the fact that retired teachers, who had then come back to teach again, were not allowed to return. Although I do understand the reason behind this, they were the most dedicated, finest teachers that we had. I wish that we had produced a more creative solution in order to have kept those teachers.

6. In keeping with that line of questioning, what can the district do moving forward to make sure schools not only maintain the status quo but become stronger even when they receive less funding?

Schools need to encourage more private charitable organizations and businesses to be involved in our educational process, whether they are grants for teachers or for innovative teaching programs. The community connection program with the Kramden Institute is an excellent example of beneficial external involvement, which has now provided computers to 71 families in our school district. Our town of Chapel Hill also has contributed in the process of offering wireless access to some of our disadvantaged communities.

7. How will the policies you push, if elected, help develop students for the new economy? What kind of nontraditional education is now needed and how would you help provide it?

We are living in a progressive global community, where we are inundated with a lot of information. We need to teach our students how to think more critically. We need to help our students improve communication skills, both oral and written, and help them develop lasting integrity and character. Because of our increasingly diverse community, I would encourage and support more foreign language options for our students in middle and high schools in order to foster an understanding and appreciation of other cultures.

8. How should student discipline be handled? What are your views on the district's current policies for long-term suspension? Do you think they are fairly applied? Along those lines, there have been reports of children receiving little, if any, education while on long-term suspension. How would you ensure those children are given an opportunity to be educated?

It is unfortunate that we have to consider long-term suspension; however, I do believe that it is necessary in certain cases. When it is necessary, we need due diligence and extremely careful examination of the situation to ensure that it is fairly applied. During the course of a long-term suspension, I would recommend that students adopt independent study formats and that schools provide educational materials for the individual student so that opportunities to continue the educational process are available.

9. How would you increase parental involvement in the schools? What should be the nature of that involvement? Where should the line be drawn?

Many studies show that parental involvement is critical for students' academic and personal success. Schools need to welcome our diverse group of parents and communicate effectively with our parent group. There are institutional, cultural, and ethnic differences within both the parent group and the teachers and staff, so communication may not always be very effective. When we recognize the need for each other and that we are working towards the same goal, this partnership will be crucial in building better education for our students.

10. What should the district's budgetary priorities be? What areas are currently underfunded? How would you find the resources to better fund those areas?

I would like to ensure our classroom sizes are still manageable for the appropriate age groups. Teacher-student ratios do play critical roles throughout students' education. I would like to use the money from last year, which was under spent, to hire more teachers.

11. As Chapel Hill's population grows, what should guide future school planning. Can the district afford and obtain the land necessary to build these schools? How should the district manage its growth? How does redistricting fit in?

With careful trend analysis, we can follow and predict our population growth in regards to the age group of children. We do need to coordinate these efforts with the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, as well as the Orange County Commissioner, to assess our needs and plan for this future growth together. In the near future, we may need to pursue Elementary School #12 and perhaps another middle school.

12. Both CHHS and ECHHS have new principals this year. How will you measure their performance?

First, patience and support from everyone will be required as new principals settle in and establish their presence. Principals need to build confidence and have good working relationships with teachers and staff, as well as students and parents. Eventually, we will need to create a fair evaluation process that involves teachers, staff, students, and parents.

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