Name as it appears on the ballot: Ignacio Tzoumas
Date of birth: 06-08-1974
Occupation & employer: Financial Consultant, Self-Employed
Campaign website: ignacioforschoolboard.com
1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools? If elected, what are your top priorities in addressing those issues?
The achievement gap is the number one issue facing public education not only for us locally, but also in the entire nation. Interestingly, it is a problem that cannot be solved with a single nationwide approach, but must be deciphered and diminished with local strategies that address the specific barriers of individual communities.
Specific to our schools, the first step to closing the achievement gap is revamping the disciplinary procedures currently in place. Our school's administration cites that student discipline is shockingly biased against minorities. If the goal is to close the achievement gap in our schools, we must deal with the huge racial divide in discipline first. Only fairness leads to gaining a student's trust and confidence. In turn, a student's trust in their educational system empowers them to realize their value and reach their potential.
The solution lies in reaching out to our diverse community leaders to deliver fair disciplinary procedures through innovative processes of early intervention, appropriate representation and better understanding and navigation of State rules.
2. If you are not currently serving on the school board, what will you bring to the body that it now lacks? If you are an incumbent, what perspective have you brought that the town still needs?
Though I am not currently serving on the Board, I attend Board meetings as well as SIT meetings from various schools. I also meet with community leaders who are active in improving education in our District. This is vitally important because I believe the main objective of a Board member is to provide advice and perspective to our school's administration. I may have an expertise in finance and public policy, but those skills are only effective when complemented with our community's insight and the knowledge of specific district procedures. I also believe that my personal challenges with education as a minority can help immensely when deciding how to tackle the achievement gap and the disciplinary divide.
3. In the last four years, what do you feel are the three best accomplishments of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, and why? Conversely, what are three things you would have done differently?
Three Best Accomplishments
- The hiring of a visionary educator as superintendent for our schools
- The Greenhouse Project that helped shape and create our future strategies with community involvement
- The incredible navigation of prohibitive State legislation to public education during an extremely distressed economy
What I Would Have Done Differently
- Create a more cohesive dual language program that progresses K-12 with simple admission procedures
- Implement a standardized and centralized method of transparent communication for school administration
- Create a formalized procedure for community and parent participation for all schools As of now, the disparities of participation are too wide.
4. Indy Week's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
I am happy to acknowledge that many of the initiatives of Superintendent Focellla's 5-year plan focus on equity. The duty of a Board member is to ensure these initiatives are met by creating metrics of accountability. That said, I believe that my background, personal experiences, and constant communication with community leaders can provide a unique insight on what those metrics may NOT be examining. I also strongly believe that tackling the disciplinary divide will promote a new level of trust in our school system.
5. How do you define yourself politically (i.e. conservative, moderate, liberal, third party, hybrid, etc.) and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am registered as an Independent. I aspire to have a government that provides a fair framework and prioritizes monies to long-term investments in infrastructure such as our public education system. I believe policy should generate opportunity and support the disenfranchised. I believe this outlook qualifies me as a moderate, but in this political climate and especially given the direction of the recent NC State Legislation, who knows!
6. Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools are thought of as some of the best in the state, but state budget cuts have reduced local school funding by millions. How do you, as a local school board member, work within these confines and retain the quality of local schools?
I moved to Chapel Hill over six years ago specifically because of the reputation of the schools. I am a firm believer that public education is one of the best investments of our tax dollars and I want to live in a community with the same values. As our district gains recognition for being one of the most innovative and successful public school districts in the nation, retaining and attracting talent will be easier even with the restrictions that the state has imposed on us concerning teacher pay and career track. I hope to help the evolution of our schools through my experience and background in finance and public policy. Resources are always limited and challenges are continually present but our values here have prioritized public education and I have no doubt that our reputation for educational excellence will continue to grow. I hope to assist this growth by challenging the rhetoric of reform in closing the achievement gap and by pushing for realizable actions that work across our diverse schools. I believe that focusing on the best education for all students will be incentive to everyone involved.
7. With state lawmakers increasingly viewing public schools as a means for cutting costs, how would you advocate for school funding at the state level?
The Board has supported organizations such as the NC School Board Associations to lobby for our state legislature. However, North Carolina has very well funded organizations and PACs that disregard the importance of public education. The best plan of action is to make our district a national example of a quality public education system. Bringing attention to our schools on a national level will provide us with more leverage to affect positive legislation and is the best way for a Board member to achieve their goals.
8. With the local population continuing to grow, how would you plan out future school construction in a manner within local schools' budget means?
We are fortunate that even though the NC Supreme Court has effectively removed the Board's ability to contain growth through the Certificate of Adequacy of Public School Systems (CAPS), our County Commissioners and Planning Boards are committed to taking the Board's recommendations to heart. The successful opening of Northside Elementary and the recent school redistricting have alleviated much of the pressure of our elementary schools with the exception of Glenwood Elementary. Nevertheless, our schools are near capacity and the metrics to determine growth have been proven inaccurate. Now more than ever we need to procure studies and data that provide better measures for growth. We must maintain the close working relationship with elected officials to ensure that poor planning does not slip through the cracks and come to fruition.
9. How do you increase parental involvement in local schools?
The recent Walk for Education by the Public School Foundation was a huge success with more than $120,000 raised. I was particularly impressed with the fundraising model used by Ephesus Elementary, my son's school. Credit goes to many, but I would like to thank Laura Baxley for working closely with the Ephesus PTA and parents to spread the word and commit to one fundraiser for the year. This not only contributed to a record $31,000 raised for Ephesus, but the donations also included an automatic registration and payment to the Ephesus PTA. Now the Ephesus PTA has a record number of registered parents, but it also makes it easier to join in any PTA event without the barrier of registration. This model is an example of innovative ways to get both the community and parents involved. I hope to leverage and communicate this model to all schools so that we can begin the school years with high parent involvement and much needed funds for all our schools.