Gene Galin | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Gene Galin

Candidate for Chatham County School Board


Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Gene Galin

Campaign Web Site:

Occupation & Employer: Communications Specialist, Duke University

Years lived in Chatham County: 22

1. Why are you seeking the office of Chatham County School Board member?

The County is embarking on a vision of economic and community growth and our schools are a critical component of that vision. I want to work with the school system, the Board of Education, the Board of Commissioners, and the vast and diverse communities to help with the success of our students and our County. We must work as a team.

I am prompted to run because I can envision Chatham County as a leader in education. I have made many friends across this County and I share in their desire for quality education. I understand the advantages of a good education and its importance to the community. I want to make a difference and look beyond the constraints of today.  

2. If elected, what is your one top priority for the Chatham County school system? What specific steps would you take to accomplish this goal?

My one top priority is dropout prevention.

Studies show potential dropouts can be identified as early as elementary school and generally are economically disadvantaged. We need to intervene much earlier than we do now, as early as the third grade, with the assignment of a reading teacher in every elementary school. Studies show that children who cannot read by the beginning of the fourth grade will struggle throughout their school years.

We need to get back to basics on this issue and listen to the teachers, parents and administrators. They know what is needed to reach the students at every grade level. We need to concentrate our dollars and resources in the classroom where these children need one on one attention.

Special needs children with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) must be taught by teachers with demonstrated competence in every subject they teach. These teachers have competencies and challenges not required of others. They must be fairly compensated for those extra requirements.

We should continue to expand AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) to every high school grade.

The Academically/Intellectually Gifted (AIG) program must provide a challenging and rigorous educational opportunity and experience for those children identified as gifted. What I see and hear needs improvement are the communication aspects of what this program is and how children are selected. Once we improve that through testing, teacher evaluations and parental involvement, we need to improve delivery methods. I am in favor of in-class, flexible grouping of AIG identified students, groupings by subjects in the middle schools, enrichment clusters in the middle schools too, accelerated course and grade advancement, High School Honors and Advanced Placement classes and courses, appropriate independent projects and study and a mentoring program where AIG students can follow appropriate field instructors such as a math student working closely with a math instructor. I feel our screening process could better identify potential AIG students and I would work to expand the opportunities.

We need to work more closely with communities to get kids to read earlier in life. It's the fundamental building block of learning.

3. What are the three most important things the school board can do to improve and maintain the quality of public education while coping with the influx of thousands of new students as a result of the building boom happening now in Chatham?

1. Hiring and retaining good teachers. My vision is a school system that is among the best to work for. A system that can hire and retain quality teachers. A system that looks for staff input and acts upon it. A system that recognizes and rewards quality teachers. We need a school infrastructure that includes training, resources, tools, and recognition for real achievement in family and community involvement.

2. Building new schools to relieve overcrowding while planning for additional schools. The Board of Commissioners has approved and committed to funding a new middle school and high school in the Northeast. I advocate putting up an online project management status sheet for each project, which would be updated weekly. This would allow all to know where we are in the building process. We must utilize long term planning, land banking and working with the Board of Commissioners, planning board, economic development committee to ensure we can project and meet future facility needs.

3. Improving our children's reading skills and test scores. Studies show potential drop outs can be identified as early as elementary school and generally are economically disadvantaged. We need to intervene much earlier than we do now, as early as the third grade, with the assignment of a reading teacher in every elementary school. Studies show that children who cannot read by the beginning of the fourth grade will struggle throughout their school years. We need to get back to basics on this issue and listen to the people in the trenches. They know what works. We need to concentrate our dollars and resources in the classroom where these children need one on one attention.

We wrap up these three important things by improving communications. As moderator of the Chatham Chatlist, I have learned to appreciate the importance of good communications. It is important to make folks aware of what Chatham County Schools are doing to meet these needs and get buy-in from parents, teachers and the community at large. This is done by improving communications and using an assortment of information sharing venues to let folks know what is going on in their local schools and their public school system. Others may talk about improving communications, while I have been doing it for years.

4.     What is there in your public record or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be an effective school board member? Be specific. What public or private boards/commissions have you served on and what have you accomplished?

As an original appointee to Chatham County's Strategic Plan Development Committee (SPDC), I was active in developing the approved plan ( The plan was based on input from all around the county. IT was approved and signed off on by county and all the local towns and cities. Below is the education system component as outlined in the Chatham County Strategic Plan outcomes and goals.

GOAL 1. Effective teachers and a well-balanced curriculum imparting skills and knowledge which contribute to children and adults becoming productive, responsible, well-rounded citizens.

REASON FOR GOAL 1. To improve our quality of life and attract good businesses, the county needs to educate children and adults so that they are productive, responsible, and well-rounded. To achieve that, schools community colleges, and libraries must effectively teach appropriate skills and knowledge.

GOAL 2. Total community involvement (including parents, businesses, libraries and local schools) in education of children.

REASON FOR GOAL 2. To teach what needs to be taught, and/ or determine what is appropriate to teach, the whole community must be invited and encouraged to collaborate in the effort.

GOAL 3. Small public and private community schools, a vital community resource.

REASON FOR GOAL 3. Chatham County schools' small size and community focus are elements which give Chatham County its character. To sustain them, the community must value them, be intimately involved with them, and use them effectively.

GOAL 4. A system of schools, preschools, community colleges and libraries that are effectively managed to maintain or improve the quality of education.

REASON FOR GOAL 4. The quality of schools depends upon appropriate support. To maintain that quality, appropriate funding, good management (Plans for growth and construction), and full cooperation with relevant branches of county government are essential.

GOAL 5. A program of performance-based evaluation which accurately measures the outcomes of the educational process at all levels.

REASON FOR GOAL 5. As the quality of education improves, schools will keep improving and school will remain efficient only if they carefully measure successes and failures, and narrowly target efforts to improve.

I have also been a member of the Chatham County water board at the time that the board was responsible for becoming financially self-sufficient. We evaluated costs and revenues in arriving at water rates that would support the system.

We were also one of the first county systems to implement a tiered price structure where heavier water users bad more for water beyond a set amount. This encouraged water conservation as well as helping to reduce peaks in water usage. Reducing these peaks helps with managing water production flow. 

As moderator of the Chatham Chatlist and editor of the Chatham Journal newspaper I have created two communication venues that help spread information to our community for over ten years.

5. In paying for new schools and other county needs, what role would you like to see assigned to:

a. Property taxes?

Property taxes must be judiciously looked at since the Chatham does have sizable populations of people living on fixed incomes or low wages and a small commercial tax base. 

To increase Chatham County's tax base beyond residential properties, the Economic Development Committee must aggressively market the county to desirable businesses. Increasing the number of businesses would also allow the county to be more selective about the businesses they accept. 

b. Impact fees?

Current impact fees only cover a portion of a large development's impact on our educational costs. Developers should contribute to improving the public infrastructure including schools. 

c. Year-round schools?

Chatham County is a large county size wise with a small population density. This makes it difficult to offer an effective year-round school program. 

d. More charter schools?

Charter schools present opportunities to teach our children without the burdens imposed by the public school administration.  

e. Sales tax?

This is already a revenue stream and I would not support increasing Chatham County's sales tax rate. 

If Chatham County is a nice place to live, work and play, it will be easier to recruit and support commercial endeavors that are environmentally friendly and return to the community at least as much as they take. This would also allow Chatham County residents to spend more of their money in the county resulting in sales tax dollars remaining in this county. 

f. Other revenue-raising or cost-cutting methods?

To increase Chatham County's tax base, the county must be aggressively marketed to desirable businesses. Increasing the number of businesses would also allow the county to be more selective about the businesses they accept. 

Developers should contribute cash or land to raise the revenue or build the schools their developments impact. 

Cost savings can be realized by incorporating policies such as "value engineering" when constructing school buildings. This practice involves doing a cost benefit analysis of the various components that go into building a school.  

6. Do you have children? If yes, do/did they attend Chatham County schools? If so, please sum up your experience as a public school parent and what you would do as a school board member to improve parents' and students' experience. If your children did not attend Chatham public schools, please state where they do/did attend school and explain why what you would do to make the school system more attractive to parents who reject it as an option for their children.  

My wife, Sheryl and I have three children. All three attend public schools in Chatham County. Our two youngest attend Perry Harrison School. Our oldest graduated from Perry Harrison and is now a high school sophomore at Woods Charter School. Woods is a public school not under the jurisdiction of the Chatham County Board of Education but rather the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. 

I was a substitute teacher a few times at Woods and felt comfortable with their curriculum. We chose to send our oldest to Woods, in part, because of the overcrowding at Northwood. His class sizes are smaller. 

One of the reasons I am running for school board is because I would like to work to see ALL children in Chatham County be able to attend a less crowded school 

As a school board member I would strive to make sure we are providing safe and well equipped facilities for our children to learn in.  

Buildings are just one of the components we need to work on. Hiring and retaining good teachers is especially important. This keeps existing students and parents happy and makes the school system more attractive to all parents. 

7. In general, what is your opinion of the job Superintendent Logan is doing?

Early indications are positive. 

Mr. Logan has been very active and visible in reaching out to the community. I have see him out attending Friday night football games at Northwood. He was the opening speaker at this year's Chatham County Fair. He spoke at the Northwood Arts and Music presentation. 

He and his wife attended the Council on Aging's "Taste of Chatham" in August. 

He has also been reaching out to the business community. For example, last month he spoke to the Siler City Rotary Club. 

I liked that he incorporated input from parents and teachers in the selection of the new principals at North Chatham and Northwood.. 

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

The independent Weekly was nice enough to award me with a Citizen of the Year Award in 2002 for "creating real community out of a virtual one in Chatham County" with the Chatham Chatlist, "where residents find both a voice and access to their neighbors' ears." 

At that time the Chatlist had about 900 members. I have managed and nurtured the chatlist so that it's membership has grown to over 2,600. It was become a daily news and information source for the chatlist community. Neighbors share information about upcoming events and express opinions about issues affecting the county. It is a virtual Chatham public square that draws people from all around the county of all political persuasions and differing viewpoints.  

With the chatlist many of us have found that we are all interested in making this the best county to live in. 

I hope to take some of the skills and knowledge I have gained running the Chatham Chatlist and editing the Chatham Journal newspaper and incorporate them into improving the ways in which the Chatham schools communicate with parents, teachers and the community. While every school is unique in its own ways there are many similarities between the schools. We can all learn and benefit by sharing our experiences. 

As a communications specialist at Duke University I have worked on various projects to help improve internal communications. These include department newsletters, email blasts and stories that are put into print, posted on web sites with accompanying images, audio and video. 

As a former project manager I am well aware of the importance of keeping people informed about the status of projects. I have already suggested at a school board meeting last month that a building status web page be established for each new school with timely updates on a regular basis. This way everyone can easily see where we stood in the building process. 

When I was an Enhanced 9-1-1 Specialist at Verizon, I made over 1000 presentations to various groups ranging from Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs to State Public Utility Commissions. I believe an important part of being a successful BOE member is being able to make successful presentations about the good things that are going on in our Chatham County Schools and publicly addressing the challenges we face. 

By working together as a community we can make our schools for our children even better.

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