Michelle Brownstein encapsulated this year's race for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board at a Partners for the Advancement of Gifted Education forum. "It sounds like we're all pretty much singing the same tune," she said.
That's a recurring theme in this race, focused on closing the achievement gap, taking advantage of professional learning communities for teachers and creating consistency across the schools. With candidates playing the same song, our endorsement comes down to which ones have the knowledge and leadership to carry it out.
It's clear that Brownstein, incumbent Greg McElveen and newcomer Joe Green fit that bill.
Through the forums and responses to our questions, Brownstein has shined as the most well-versed on the issues. She has served as an education advocate and realizes the greater scope of the district. Often, she not only answered questions on a local level, but also pointed to how the initiatives fit in with the statewide school board, directing forum participants to where they could learn more and get involved. We think this kind of leadership will serve the community well. If you vote for only one candidate, vote Brownstein,
The board unanimously appointed McElveen in December, selecting him ahead of six other applicants when Pam Hemminger left to join the Orange County commissioners. He has a track record, having worked on the district's Minority Student Achievement Plan in 2000 and helping to develop a long-term strategy for it. He also was chairman of Chapel Hill High School's Minority Student Achievement and Support Committee in 2005-06.
Stalwart Lisa Stuckey and colleague Jean Hamilton aren't running for re-election and we believe McElveen, though only on the board for 10 months, offers some consistency for a group that's achieving positive results.
Green is the only candidate who is a professional educator, and he's been working in the field for 17 years. We think this sets him apart.
By any objective measure, it's clear that this district is achieving excellence across the board. However, when you break down numbers, African-Americans and Latino students, while beating state peers, are not successful at the same rate as their white counterparts. This is the crux of this year's campaign, and Green provides, by far, the best chance to address it. As director of UNC's Upward Bound program, he works to motivate high school students to attend and excel in college.
He has taught high school in Florida, served as dean of students in a Delaware high school and held other college posts before coming to UNC three years ago. As a reader for the AP Exam on history and politics, he helps set the national standard for excellence. While relatively new to the district, he is exactly the type of expert we hope the board would turn to for advice. We are excited by the thought of having him on the other side of the table, not just advising but leading.
MaryAnne Gucciardi's experience running a company in Asia would provide a benefit to students who will need to compete in a global economy.
She has lived abroad for 16 years and would bring that perspective to the board. We agree with her push to further infuse technology into the classroom and her focus on the world language program. Still, we don't think that simply applying for grants and saving costs by using free software is enough to fund her lofty goals, though in a tough budget year this district receives ample funding when compared to peers. Asked what programs are overfunded, she replied, "Every program we have could use more funding." We don't think that shows insightful stewardship.
Susana Dancy deserves credit for her work pushing for an arts wing at Carrboro High School, and we appreciate her desire to get the schools to work together instead of operating separately. She also has identified the achievement gap as a top issue. Put simply, the aforementioned candidates are in better positions to achieve those goals.
Christine Lee also has a firm understanding of the issues. As a former board chairwoman for the Chapel Hill/ Durham Korean School, she understands the commitment that's needed. While she is well versed on the issues, ultimately, we don't think she stands up to McElveen's institutional knowledge, Brownstein's leadership or Green's professional background. In another election year, Lee would be a great choice.