Name as it appears on the ballot: Jamezetta R. Bedford
Date of birth: September 29, 1958
Home address: 401 Knob Court, Chapel Hill, NC 27517
Occupation & employer: CPA with Coleman Huntoon & Brown PLLC
Top priorities align with the current school board's: Facilitate a successful transition to a new Supt after 19 years; fundamentally focus on literacy and instruction to close achievement gaps (yes plural); develop a plan for world language learning pre-k to 12 which gives our students a global advantage; work on the new Common Core and NC Essential Standards curriculum so our teachers are ready August, 2012 to implement it; and figure out how to provide technology that improves learning and increases teacher efficiency in this depressing economy. I also am a strong advocate for exception children, their teachers and their families. We have much work to do in all of these areas.
No one board member can take credit for the district's achievements. I have been privileged to be a member of the board which: 1) established the Bridges program, a day treatment class for high school students who need assistance with mental health needs along with their academics; 2) approved the collaboration with OPC Mental Health, Orange County Schools and a local provider to create Triumph Academy for middle schoolers with mental health needs; 3) adopted a policy last spring re class size for special education classes that represents our practice and exceeds state minimums; 4) pushed for a weather policy to protect athletes and students from heat and other weather related injuries; 5) has protected the classroom during difficult economic times; 6) established smaller "academy" learning environments in our high schools; and 7) has been united in implementing Professional Learning Communities in our schools to improve teacher collaboration and provide interventions for students who are not learning. I do take credit for advising the CHS parents on best approaches to getting the Arts Wing built. The former Supt and many board members did not see that as a priority at all. I did and the parents, along with many teens, used the democratic process to realize that dream. All of these build on providing a quality education for every child.
A just society takes care of its weakest members, typically the elderly, the disabled and small children. In a just society, the color of your skin, the relative wealth of your family, your gender, your religion, your nationality or your sexual orientation do not lead to discrimination. I stand strong in support of policies that are just and schools that nurture all of our children, emotionally, academically and socially.
I know that Dr. Forcella is visiting classrooms, meeting faculty members, and attending myriad events in order to evaluate our instructional program. He is meeting with community groups and leaders to understand our history and culture. But, I want him to help us change. We need to be a district that has effective program evaluation and accountability. We must improve classroom instruction, especially at the secondary level. We must figure out how to teach all students to read and to read well. I expect to have a proposal for different staff development for faculty. In the spring we will have a community event(s) to facilitate the development of a new strategic plan. It is through improved instruction that we will continue to close achievement gaps. I fully support Dr. Forcella's work to move us to the next level.
The use of PLCs and interventions for students who did not learn the lesson has been improving achievement for our subgroups in reading, math and science. But, the critical element is literacy. Our White and Asian (excluding Burmese refugees) students read extremely well as a group. This was true before and after adding two literacy coaches to each elementary school. Yet African American, Economically Disadvantaged, Latino, Limited English Proficiency and Exceptional Children's scores continue to lag. They are smaller, but the gaps still exist. This model has to be rethought. It may be a training issue. It may well be a curriculum issue. Literacy is the core issue. And, we only began any directed focus on literacy in the middle schools last year. We have little to offer high school students. We have to make some big changes.
We have also partnered with the FPG Child Development Center to create 3 and 4 year old preschool classes that have appropriate programming as a strategy to close the achievement gap. We have not received any additional federal Headstart dollars and the state funding is in limbo. We think this is a good strategy, but nobody is doing any evaluation. Can you believe it? We found that out just in the past year and a half. Not good. I believe it is helping, but we have no real data.
Keeping the teacher assistants in elementary schools and cutting in other areas will help us to continue to push ahead with achievement and help our teachers at that level. Providing intense staff development on the new curriculum will help. Teachers do need more time to work together. Some students need an extended day to catch up. Simple things like standardizing forms and having them online help ease the time crunch for teachers. This year the Public School Foundation is funding $40,000 in stipends for 2 teachers at each elementary to champion quality instruction utilizing SmartBoards. Kids like the technology and these building leaders will make it easy to capture and share lessons with each other in the building (and across the district) and to use the technology in the best manner to improve learning. But, if there is not a change in the state legislature come 2012, we will not be improving and moving forward. It does take money to provide staff development, to retain good teachers, to add the social workers and school nurses, to buy books and software packages, etc. I read an editorial that said something along the lines that North Carolina can never be accused of throwing money at education. Agreed.
7. I am pushing for a revised world language program in pre-K to 5th grades and I support Dual Language programming. Bi-lingual students have an incredible global advantage which is needed in this economy. I fully support NC Virtual Public School and our students enrolled in droves! Due to surprise invoicing form DPI, we had to limit this enrollment. That is really sad and I'd like to think of ways to budget it so students who benefit from this can take advantage. Dr. Forcella told us of using technology so a Chinese (I can't really recall exactly which language) teacher in his district and an Arabic teacher in a neighboring district were teaching in classrooms in both via technology. We need to do that. Then students who want German or Chinese could take it even if the enrollment at their school were low. Across the district schools we'd have sufficient interest to cover the cost of the teacher. CHS could have benefited from this with some science AP classes as another example.
I also believe that we need a nontraditional calendar for some students who are behind and nonproficient. They need an extended day for BOTH academics and enrichment. And, our Phoenix Academy High School has proposed offering night classes. We must move forward in that. If some of our young teens, especially those who are parents, could work during the day or care for their baby and then attend at night, we could have more graduates! That's just a few ideas.
8. The board just recently updated all of our discipline policies due to state legal changes from this past session. We were mostly already aligned with the new laws intended to keep students in school and we did not have any zero tolerance policies. We have Phoenix as a top option for most students who have been long-term suspended. The board has used technology recently to enable a long-term suspended student to do their lessons via Plato at home (we provided the computer and support) with assistance by the teachers also using technology. It's not perfect and I doubt that student did the work in the end, but it's a start. I do take a stand though that some students who are extremely violent and/or shot guns, cannot be educated safely on our campuses, because they are a real danger to the other students and staff. And, for a few others, their real need is drug rehab programming first and academics later. I know that there is little available in NC.
9. Our Volunteer Office is a great resource for training and recruiting volunteers. Many parents are involved in the elementary and pre-school levels. We can reach out with invitations and events for parents to come to school; ask different parents to go on fieldtrips and be aware to include all parents. We often need to offer transportation. The work in the housing community centers and at Abbey Court are good examples of teachers and university/community workers partnering to do homework with students that evolved into including older siblings and then the families. But, it is important that even if a parent cannot volunteer, the schools will educate that child. The Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate program is award winning and we thank the community mentors!
10. The schools have only SAPFO to manage growth. We do also have agreements with the towns for a right of first refusal on some land that has yet to be developed. Most is undesirable for a school though. There is very little land available appropriate for a school. Fortunately UNC-CH has reserved a school site on its Carolina North acreage. And, there is room for Middle School #5 adjacent to Morris Grove. CHS is designed for an addition to add classrooms for 400 more students. And, the plans are approved by Chapel Hill for elementary #11 at Northside pending funding by the county commissioners. For the next 10 years, we are in good shape, though we are currently overcrowded at the elementary level. We need to be more active in the town planning process. Residential development costs more in services than the taxes collected!!! The towns do not bear any of the burden of school construction (it is a county obligation) so we do need to work more with them to educate them on the break-even point where more building will be harmful to the schools.
I grew up an Army brat, moving every couple of years to different states, not just across town. I believe we do need to redistrict when we have imbalances in enrollment at schools to prevent both overcrowding and large differences in SES enrollment. The parents cry over it, yell and email and vote their feelings. It's nice that folks love their current school, but they do not deal well with change. The students do fine. The school board has moved during the past 8 years from site based management to consistency across schools which as a side effect facilitates redistricting as we've opened a new school about every three years.