Jamezetta R. Bedford | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Jamezetta R. Bedford

Candidate for Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board


Name as it appears on the ballot: Jamezetta R. Bedford
Full legal name, if different:
Date of birth: September, 1958
Home address: 401 Knob Ct., Chapel Hill, NC 27517
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign Web site: www.jamezetta.org
Occupation & employer: CPA, William H. Bunch, CPA, PA
Home phone: 933-5391
Work phone: please do not call me at work
Cell phone: N/A
E-mail: jamezetta@juno.com

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

Plan for growth. Improve student achievement via First School partnership with FPG Child Development Institute, expanding dual language programs and fully implementing Professional Learning Communities. Improve Special Education. Ensure that schools are safe and welcoming.

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.

I currently serve as chair of the Board of Education and served as Vice-Chair last year. I have also served as President of the local chapter of the Autism Society of NC. I chaired the Board committee to select new legal counsel. Prior to election to the Board, I volunteered with the PTA and SGCs over a 10 year span at all levels of schooling. More specifically, during this term, I served as liaison to restructure the Special Needs Advisory Committee to a parent-led partnership between parents and staff. I supported the restoration of a self-contained gifted program at the middle school level (LEAP) and the reformation of LEAP at the elementary level. I’ve worked closely with the county commissioners to provide the funding for elementary school #10 and our annual budget. We adopted updated construction standards and are working on reviewing fund balance issues and a better budgeting process.

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?

I am committed to all children. I am committed to equity for children and staff which does not mean the same thing as “all the same is fair.” Some children cost more to educate, and that is ok. At the same time, all children deserve quality instruction throughout their day. The Board develops and revises policy looking at detail and then the big picture of justice. (By the way, the new Social Justice Academy at ECHHS, will provide high school students a more integrated curriculum and opportunity to strive for and critically consider justice in our community as well.)

4. What steps, if any, would you advocate to improve educational outcomes for at-risk students and to reduce dropout rates?

We will hear a report from our high school principals Thursday. They have realized that there are numerous signals of potential dropout like being overage for grade, but that there is no one profile as we’ve seen gifted students also drop out. They are to develop plans for these students as well. We have intensive review for those students who were passing a course, but did not pass the first EOC exam, summer school classes and portfolio experiences. However, I am dismayed that we do not have any summer program for those who were failing the class. Those interventions need to be institutionalized in Pyramids of Interventions: not just lists, but structured so that they are automatic for students.

Overall, the best antidote to dropping out is to be sure that students read, and read well, by 3rd grade.

I support our preschool classes and partnership with FPGCDI as mentioned earlier. Let’s prevent the gap from being so large at kindergarten!

5. In your view, what is the source of the conflicts between parents and the school system regarding the education of children with autism and developmental disabilities? What should be done to improve the quality of education for these children and how would that be achieved?

I could write pages on this item. I have a 20 year old daughter with autism too severe to be served by our schools. We must be more flexible with resources. We need to listen to parents and work with them as partners. Money is tight. Training can be improved. Our dedicated EC teacher assistants should have a separate career ladder with specialized training and salary provided. Our general education teachers need this EC training as well because so many students are mainstreamed. Transitions are being improved (for all kids, not just EC kids) and then communication is key to improvement. We need our community overall to accept these individuals as part of their school and community.

6. The board has approved Abstinence Until Marriage federal funds. What is the appropriate sex ed curriculum and why?

Students need full age appropriate information that is evidence based. Their life/death literally is at risk if they do not have accurate knowledge.

7. 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?

We are doing much better with suspension and education. The Boomerang program in coordination with the Y, provides counseling, instructional/homework time, service learning, etc. for students suspended 10 days or less from our secondary schools. Our local courts support the program and direct students involved in the court system to participate. For those suspended for greater than 10 days for serious offenses, depending on the student’s willingness to apply and other factors, Phoenix Academy can be a successful alternative. Some students with guns, however, pose too great a risk to our other students. Most do have an opportunity to be educated and it puzzles me that some choose not to take advantage of alternatives. Other students receive intervention too late and are hospitalized. We need to have more mental health services available without stigma for our students. Please,note that Phoenix serves other students at well who need more individual attention and a smaller setting to graduate. They offer the full gamut of classes including AP level work as needed. I am very proud of their work with teens and families.

One of our goals is to have consistency across the district with discipline so that policies do not vary from school to school.

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

When teachers and principals reach out with one to one contact to parents, they feel more welcome. PTAs provide one avenue of volunteer involvement as does our Volunteer Office at Lincoln Center. There’s nothing like a phone call or home visit from a teacher to increase parental involvement. I don’t understand your question about drawing the line? Do you mean how much effort staff should exert? Or that parents should not run the school vs. the principal and SIT?

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

The district’s budgetary priorities are on the classroom. We try to protect classroom personnel as a priority. A change in the past two years with the Board, is to also protect staff development funds. We focus on student achievement, emotional health and physical health. Mental health services are woefully underfunded. I think special education is underfunded. Technology has been funded at $1M for the past 4 years at least and must be increased as we are losing ground. I support teacher raises! In order to direct funds to the most important areas, the Board is having ISD review different areas starting last year (AG, FLES). We feel that instead of focusing on numerous programs and not providing sufficient evaluation, we should focus on Professional Learning Communities. Balancing that with the fact that one size does not fit all, PLCs provide a framework for best instruction and learning. This past June we had to cut some supplies, fieldtrips, etc. to fund the classroom needs. We reduced athletics by 2.5%. I support a transfer tax as a viable means to increase funding while the Board also each year reviews what programs are not effective and need to be cut.

10. A new school recently opened in the district. Do you see additional schools opening in the next 10 years? If so, where? Even with the district’s extra tax revenue, can the district afford and obtain the land necessary to build these schools? How should the district manage its growth?

Elementary 11, Elementary 12, the addition to CHS, revamping of Lincoln Center to an educational facility and Middle School 5 are all needed in the next 12 years. The new construction standards do allow for nontraditional approaches. We’ve been approached by the Arts Center to discuss if their new building might be a good partnership and school. I want us to explore that possibility: pros and cons. Carrboro officials are working with our facilities staff to ascertain if there are potential land sites (that’s where the growth is). Land cost is not the problem. Soaring construction costs are much more of an issue. Scroggs and Rashkis were designed for small additions and we’ve directed staff to report those costs and possibilities to the Board as well. The Collaboration committee (chairs of both school boards and the county commissioners) were approved by the respective joint boards to discuss the use of SAPFO. Is it only a means to be sure the county provides funds to construct schools? Or, is it also a means to manage the speed of growth? Renovation of Lincoln Center as a small high school or other educational complex with the carefully planned expansion of Phoenix Academy will provide for some additional classroom space. Until we have a plan for growth and school construction (looking again at year round schools perhaps), we will not have the funds to begin new evidence based programs for our students.

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