NAME: Nancy Cox
OFFICE FOR WHICH YOU ARE RUNNING: School Board District 3
HOME PHONE: 419-6369
OCCUPATION & EMPLOYER: Starting a small business
WORK PHONE: 419-6369
HOME ADDRESS: 4 Falcon Nest Court Durham NC 27713
PARTY AFFILIATION: Democratic
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE ADDRESS: www.nancycox.webs.com
E-MAIL ADDRESS: email@example.com
1) If elected, what are your top priorities?
One: Close the achievement gaps.
I have been a member of the Superintendent's Raising Achievement Closing the Gap committee for two years representing PTA council. This is a state mandated committee, whose sole focus is to develop strategies between the school district, parents, and the community, to close the gap. An example of a productive strategy is the recent awarding of a grant to Durham Association of Educators and DPS, by The National Association of Educators, to work specifically with African American Males. The committee did a good job of soliciting input from the community via forums like the Kitchen Table Conversation on African American Achievement. Now we must be sure that we work collaboratively with the various community-based groups who have a positive track record of meeting the needs of this group of students.
Continue use of the Personalized Education Plans, PEP, which are developed for a student at the first signs of academic failure in a class. If a child does have a failing grade, the teacher meets with the parent and child to create a plan and this plan is monitored. Many teachers and schools are using other early intervention strategies –we have to be sure we are providing opportunities for teachers to share across the county. For example, at DSA, the Guidance Department offers an organizational class that has benefited students – is there an opportunity for them to share this smart approach?
Research shows that the gap is largest on the first day of school. PTA Council has partnered on the Transition to Kindergarten work and we have been able to successfully carve out a significant role to include parent leaders as partners with DPS and Durham's Partnership for children. The goal is to reach parents early on by establishing relationships with daycares and other child care settings, in the school's geographic region, so that relationships between the school and the family can be developed thus insuring a smooth transition into the school community. Parent leaders will continue to be a resource for kindergarten parents as they acclimate and become partners with teachers, staff and other parents.
As part of the T2K work, we must be quick to assess social, emotional and cognitive skills and immediately put in place learning plans to move children forward. We are making strides in this area. While financial and family struggles do effect children's overall well-being, as educators, we can't use this as an excuse –we know how to teach children who are low SES, there is ample evidence across the nation that it can be done. We need to support our teachers to make it happen and our community must provide the necessary wrap-around services to support the family; there is plenty of opportunity for everyone to be involved. The work currently being done in the East Durham Children's Initiative is a good example of a smart, integrated approach – I am happy to be a part of the community engagement and family support committees and believe that Durham is poised to make a breakthrough in supporting some of our most challenged students to be successful and to identify new strategies applicable to our entire community.
Research shows that the effectiveness of the teacher makes the difference in whether children progress or lose ground. While I believe all teachers are committed to insuring student success, we may want to identify those teachers who have a proven track record of success in working with low SES and minority students and provide incentives for them to teach at schools that are currently not seeing the gains we desire. This can be a controversial move and thus will absolutely require the collaboration of teachers in developing a workable plan. For teachers currently at these schools and who want to remain, we need to provide them with the professional development and support they deserve to see the success they desire for their students and school.
Money is an issue but we also know that offering an extended day makes a difference in challenged schools. Creative partnerships with organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, 4-H, and faith based initiatives, could help make this goal a reality. DPS was recently invited to apply for a grant to provide this opportunity at one of our middle schools; matching funds were required, our business community has a role to play in these situations.
Two: Recruit and retain our teachers.
I had the pleasure of working at the Durham Public Education Network helping the community understand the issues around recruitment and retention and how they could help to make a positive difference. I coordinated the 2005 Education Summit which brought national speakers, teachers, and DPS staff to the podium to help the community process the ramifications of poor retention rates. Facilitated workshops allowed the community to identify strategies that they could take personally, and as groups to do a better job of supporting our teachers. The community wants to support our teachers and DPS must take the lead in creating these opportunities.
Fortunately, Durham implemented the new teacher mentor program in 2005, a move supported by DPEN. Since its implementation, DPS has seen a decrease in its aggregate turnover rate for 1st, 2nd and 3rd-year teachers from 28% to numbers in the 12% range. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, this program has already been curtailed and may be cut all together. We will need to look at partnering with our retired teachers through DAE, DKG and others to see if they can provide support. Grant funding should also be identified.
More must be done to support teachers despite the efforts of groups like the Volunteer Center and Durham Cares. For example, teacher surveys continue to show that time is a challenge – volunteers can come into the school and relieve teachers of administrative tasks. As a former teacher, I can attest to how much of my time was taken up by administrative tasks, for example, planning for field trips. This work could have been done by a parent or volunteer and would have made a huge difference. The budget is tight, but perhaps dollars can be found to at least pilot a Volunteer Coordinator position so that we can identify best practices with the goal of replication when dollars are available. Many PTAs operate coordinated volunteer efforts –we need to be able to extrapolate what they are doing and share with other schools as there will certainly be a greater need for parents and community to fill these kinds of roles.
I would like to see a partnership between an organization such as, the Durham Association of Educators, and other teacher groups such as, the Educational fraternities and sororities, and DPS, where quality conversations can take place around the results from the Teacher Working Conditions Survey, with the goal of identifying strategies to address teacher concerns that would include support from the parents and the community. We need to listen to our teachers and act on their recommendations.
I am supportive of the professional development strategic plan being developed under the leadership of Alvera LeSane and especially applaud the Take One program that encourages 3rd year teachers to explore the certification process toward being a Nationally Board certified teacher. I also appreciate that her office ahs uncovered the disparity in the distribution of NBCT and look forward to supporting initiatives to remedy this situation.
Finally, I would also like to see the District undertake staff development toward cultivating successful parent/teacher and school/community partnerships. Unbelievable as it may seem, for the most part, Schools of Education have not yet implemented a course on this important aspect of teaching. Fortunately the NC PTA is pushing the legislature to adopt standards for all NC Schools of Education and are partnering with NCAE in this effort. A specific example of partnering with NCAE around this topic is a workshop day being offered at the NC PTA State conference in April. Durham is a part of a leadership, development, collaboration with other districts through the Triangle Leadership Academy which offers sound workshops on the topic of effective parent/school partnerships. In addition to advocating that we take advantage of these offerings, I am aware of other local resources, for example through Durham's Cooperative Extension and on our own Council of PTAs ( I personally have workshops developed) and will advocate that we make this a priority in our staff development plans.
Three: Authentic role in decision making at the school site, and at the district level, for parents and community.
Unfortunately, we have dropped the ball in insuring that one of the most viable mechanisms for community and parental decision making remained healthy and that is the School Improvement Team. The SIT is a state mandated committee that must have full representation and is charged with the development of the School Improvement plan, the blueprint, if you will, of where the school is heading, how they will get there and how they will measure whether they are both on track and successful in the end. We need to reinstitute training for all new members of a SIT team to insure that everyone understands their charge and I propose that DPS work in collaboration with any number of willing groups who can provide leadership training for all SIT members so that we can get back to authentic engagement of our parents and community members in the work of the school.
We need to insure that parents have a role in the subcommittees of the SIP. Parents are, per the national model, also supposed to be members of our Positive Behavior Support Teams, something that has been brought to the administration's attention and has yet to be widely enacted.
DPS does offer opportunities for parents and community to be informed and these measures should be applauded and fully utilized, for example, Key Communicators, Ed-newsletter and broadcast of Board meetings. Community groups must work to be ambassadors, for example, while representing my neighborhood on the Inter Neighborhood Council, I coordinated a visit each month from a youth-services organization, including DPS, to inform the delegates of ways that they could support their schools. I also produced a brochure with suggestions on actions neighborhoods can take to support their schools and the children in their neighborhood. Liz Tolman is starting a website where parents can share stories about the great things happening in our schools and we all need to take advantage of this opportunity.
However, DPS does need to do a better job of including parents earlier on in the development of programs, policies and other important decisions. Too often parents and the community feel that they are brought in once the big decisions have been made and asked to simply support the plans as they are underway. Another concern shared by parents is that we are given the opportunity to provide input but then we are not included in the next stages of crafting the plans. There are some great examples of solid parental participation such as, the Title 1 District Advisory Council – I had the pleasure of serving for two years and felt empowered, as a parent, to not only offer my suggestions, but to have a hand in planning and implementing programs that benefited all schools. While we must respect the expertise of our professional educators, DPS must recognize that we are not like your typical business and we certainly aren't producing a product. Parents and caring community members want to have a voice in decision making and thus strategies to allow their participation must be identified. Durham is a community characterized by its involved citizenry and DPS must understand the old adage – "If you don't give people a role in decision making, they will assume the role of critic." More importantly, when folks have a hand in developing a product, they will hold themselves accountable, remain committed and become the best ambassadors.
One suggestion is that the work meetings of the Board be moved to a time that better accommodates participation of parents and that we consider televising and taping these meetings. The agenda for these meetings needs to be advertised further out and the minutes made easily accessible on the DPS website. We do need to educate our parent leaders on the importance of plugging into this opportunity to influence policy development; I have worked to do this at my schools with great success. It is at the work meetings that parents and community have the best shot at influencing policies and programs; we are currently missing an opportunity to enrich the quality of our decisions by foregoing valuable community input.
Now, I am not so nave to believe that all critics have honorable intentions; I am always ready to listen, believing that I have something to learn from everyone I meet, but we need folks who are ready to provide information and solutions. Still, it is incumbent on the system to insure that we remain open, employ systems that allow all voices to be heard and included, in meaningful ways, in the work that must be done together.
2) What is there in your public record or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be an effective leader? Please be specific about your public and community service background.
First, classroom teachers are leaders, leaders who very much have a servant leadership approach – as I told my students, "My goal is to assist you in achieving your goals." In my capacity as a teacher, I have served as a representative to the Superintendent's Teacher Advisory Committee, on the staff development committee, workshop presenter on a myriad of topics including: cooperative learning and William Glasser's Choice Theory in the Classroom. I am also a published author on a program called, Advisory, which insures that every student is known well by an adult in the building who creates community within a small group of students and is the liaison between home and school – NMSA. I have been a presenter at several conferences specifically with this work
As a parent, for the last 12 years, I have been actively engaged by serving in leadership roles on the School Governance teams as well as on PTA. I have also served on the Durham Council of PTAS as the Vice President of Programs and I coordinate the County-wide PTA Art program called Reflections –we have a student from Hillside, Chelsea Townsend, competing for National recognition for her Dance Choreography. I have also been a key Council Board member on our new Exceptional Children's PTA program serving parents of children with special needs.
In many cases representing PTA, I serve on School District committees such as: the Superintendent's Raising Achievement Closing the Gap, Title 1 Parent Advisory Council, and the Disaster Management Committee, and in the community with: East Durham Children's Initiative –Family Support Committee as well as the city/county Results Based Committee on Children Ready for and Succeeding in Schools –I am founding member of this committee.
I also serve on two Boards of community based groups, the Help Increase the Peace program through DCIA and Barriskill Dance Theatre. I am a member of the Education Committee of the Animal Protection Society and served on the advisory committee for the future, Museum of Durham History.
I am the delegate for my neighborhood to the INC and via an Education Ad-hoc committee, organized a presentation each month from a youth serving organization so that the delegates could be informed and share with their neighborhoods opportunities to support the work of these groups. I also created a brochure of tips on how neighborhoods can support their local school which I hope to make available to a wider audience.
I had my own home-based business with 8 team members, and through the leadership development opportunities, have read extensively on principles of leadership and attended several conferences with nationally recognized leadership experts: Martha Beck, John Maxwell and Tom Barrett.
Finally, a great honor recognizing my leadership in Education, is membership in the Beta Iota Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, an international Women Educator's sorority where as serve as nominating Chair.
3) How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am Democrat. One of my top priorities, spelled out above, is to insure that parents, teachers, students and community, have an opportunity to participate in the decision making process in the school and district level. I have advocated that the district first identify all of the opportunities we currently have available for all stakeholders to be involved in decision making such as; parent groups like PTA, committees like the Superintendent's Raising Achievement, and school governance teams, and then to assess their effectiveness. In assessing effectiveness, we need to look at which opportunities allow participants an actual voice in the early stages of the development of a program or policy, which opportunities simply encourage parent reaction or feedback and at those that only require parent support, participation or perhaps advocacy. We will also need to determine what is missing.
I would also very much like to see, and have advocated for, at least a bi-annual meeting of the leadership of the various councils that meet with the Superintendent: the Faith council, Principals and Teachers, Community (perhaps through the Superintendent's Raising Achievement) and Business council –there is a missed opportunity for collaboration because these groups work in isolation of one another.
One example of where the work of which I have been a part on the Durham Council of PTAs has panned out, is the recent meeting of the interim Superintendent, Hank Hurd, Terri Mozingo, Chief Academic Officer, and Minnie Forte-Brown, with the leaders of PTAs or School Governance teams, to present issues surrounding the budget. This will be the first time that parents are informed, early on in the process, and thus can effectively advocate for funding at the school and state level. Previously, the District took little initiative to inform parents but relied on parents to rally for funding. The result was an angry mob of parents at the Commissioners meeting in June where it really was too late for us to make a difference in the outcome. I believe this is a part of the reason for the tension in the relationship between the School Board and Commissioners. I understand the Commissioners may not appreciate the message that parents are delivering this go around, but it is a vast improvement to partner with parents versus having to "deal" with parents and I do hope the Commissioners appreciate this. I will continue to advocate that the District insures that principals know how to review budget issues each month, throughout the school year, with the PTA leadership and the school governance teams so that we, as parents, can advocate effectively throughout the year for the resources students need and teachers deserve to have to do their work.
A second example is goes back to my work at the former Durham Public Education Network, whose focus was on assisting the community in understanding the issues in public education and then engaging and facilitating the community's support of public school children; I coordinated the annual Education Summit. I worked to insure that we had a venue that would attract a diverse group of people and thus appreciated Cecelia Steppe-Jones partnership at NCCU's School of Education. We worked to have two pre-events, one focusing specifically on the Business Community's resources and the other, a celebratory event which brought together DPS, elected officials, NCCU leadership, Business leaders, UNC and Duke School of Education representatives, as well as the PTA Council and Durham Association of Educators. I was able to secure nationally recognized leaders in the focus area of teacher recruitment and retention and insured presentations by DPS staff and teachers. Finally, we had a diverse group of facilitators, included students from Early College and achieved our goal of having a diverse participant group working via breakout sessions to identify what the community could do to support recruitment and retention.
I hope that you will see, through the examples I have provide, that I am serious about insuring that participation in decision making. Fortunately, being as involved as I have been, I have developed a large network of folks and can readily tap into this network to insure that decisions in the work that I do, are made by a diverse group of people. Again, by taking time to create representation in decision making, I know that the product is stronger and that the stakeholder mentality, that is necessary to insure initial success and ongoing commitment, is in place.
4) Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
The district has begun to look at grading policies and I appreciate that this work was informed by teachers, I am not as confident that parents were involved but I do appreciate that it was the focus of a Kitchen Table Conversation allowing community input. Related to this topic is the issue of homework. I know as a teacher and as a parent that we have got to look at our policies regarding homework.
We are incredibly fortunate to have Dr. Harris Cooper with Duke's Program in Education, as a partner, because Dr. Cooper has done, to date, the most comprehensive review of research and literature on the positive correlation between homework and student achievement as well as homework and skills such as: time management, organization, and work ethic, and between homework and student attitudes toward school. In addition to organizing a program for parents with Dr. Cooper, have researched it on my own and of course was a teacher that worked very hard to give meaningful homework.
My views on Education as a social justice issue push me to ask our community to consider the reality that some families are better equipped than others to provide the assistance and resources that are often required to successfully complete assignments; especially those that are on new knowledge or the application, synthesis or evaluation of recently taught skills or knowledge; these are higher order thinking skills. For homework, students should only be asked to practice skills recently taught. The goal of homework is for the teacher to be able to assess, the next day, whether the students have mastered the content –the classroom is the place to take learning to the next level, under the guidance and frequent checking-in by the teacher. If students come to school and they have not mastered the skills or can share and explain information, then the teacher now knows that he has to re-teach –valuable information. We can't continue to put parents in the role of teacher and this is what I know happens in my own household. Other kinds of homework that I would find acceptable are: self-expression, those assignments feed creative dialogue the next day in class; reading with parents, and for older students, on their own. The best "home" work assignments are those that engage the family in sharing information about the family, i.e. "Mom, can you tell me more about dress codes for girls when you were a student?" in relation to a study on equal rights or that ask families to discuss issues or require students to share what they are learning with a focus on their opinions, preferences, questions etc.
Deborah Meier, a prominent education advocate and researcher, put it like this, "If we sat around and deliberately tried to come up with a way to further enlarge the achievement gap, we might just invent homework." I know that this idea, on first pass, will seem completely counterintuitive and that is because we have all bought into the idea that homework positively correlates with student achievement. I hope that I have outlined the difference in the type of homework that is acceptable. Again, using our expert resources, including the views of our students and teachers, and our own experiences, this is a conversation that we need to have.
5) The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
A just community, in terms of public Education, means availability and access to resources across the district. Two years ago this fall, Shana Adams and I put out an invitation to artists in the community, and supporters of the arts, to work towards increased collaboration between DPS and the arts community. Like Ms. Adams and I, those that answered the call understood that currently we do not have an equitable distribution of arts resources across our schools. Those schools that are close to the city center enjoy supportive relationships with organizations like the Arts Council, SeeSaw Studios and the resources of Duke University. Those schools further out in the county struggle to make these connections. Our group understands and believes in the power of the arts to transform lives and enrich the standard curriculum. Fortunately, we were able to align our goals with the work of the Durham Cultural Master Plan, a joint city-county Board, and we became members of the Education Committee.
As a specific example of the lack of parity across schools, we focused on access to the Cultural Arts in Public and Private Schools program sponsored by Durham Arts Council, and coordinated by Shana Adams. We identified that the allocation by the District to support the CAPS programs to bring artists into the schools is not enough money to fully reap the benefits of the program. Often PTAs, at least those with the financial means, supplement the costs to bring in CAPS artists. Thus, those schools with strong PTAs are able to incorporate the arts into the curriculum and those without strong PTAs are not, as no other sources of funding have been identified. With this example in mind, the DCMP Board allocated dollars to undertake an equity assessment with the goal of documenting the disparity in arts funding and access to resources. Once this work is complete, we will be able to challenge the school system and its partners in the arts community and business to right this wrong.
Along these same lines, Ms. Adams, with support from the Durham Council of PTAs, will be piloting a program to have the Arts committee at a school trained on the benefits of the CAPS program so that they can successfully communicate the need to the school's local businesses with the goal of securing funding.
We believe that businesses understand the need to cultivate creativity, self-expression and problem solving skills, that are indicative of the creative process, in our students, as future members of a dynamic, flexible and creative workforce.
I believe that my personal involvement in spearheading the effort to draw attention to this area of inequity is an example of my dedication to a just society as defined by both making resources available and accessible to benefit our school children.
6) What is your stance on sex education in Durham Public Schools? Should it be taught, and at what grade level?
Based on Policy 3020, adopted July 1999, DPS has a comprehensive Sex Education Curriculum with parent consent required and parents may request that there children opt out of parts of the curriculum. It begins in 7th grade and I think that is appropriate, although I could see offering it in the 2nd semester of 6th grade. One major concern I do have is that many middle school students do not take PE and Health as they are allowed to take two, year-long electives, such as chorus and a foreign language. I agree with this policy but do worry that students are not receiving formal education in healthful living when it comes to the benefits of abstinence, and the risks associated with sex, especially unprotected sex. We may need to assess just how many students this affects and may want to consider offering something after school or in conjunction with community-based groups. North Carolina has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates – this is important information.
7) Teacher quality continues to be an issue in many school districts, including Durham Public Schools. How would you work to reduce teacher turnover, increase job satisfaction and attract more qualified teachers to Durham? What additional professional development or support should teachers receive that they are not already getting, and how would the district pay for this?
Please refer to my answer in question one as this is one of my top three priorities. In addition, I would like to consider one other related issue that may help to cut costs while attracting and retaining quality teachers.
We are very fortunate in our area to have folks who are certified teachers but are in a stage of life where they do not want to work full-time. They may be here for a short time, while a spouse pursues additional training or education in the area. We have many young teachers who are starting families and raising young children, or perhaps taking care of aging parents. Many are pursuing additional education. Many of these folks would enjoy working part-time/job sharing and we really don't provide this arrangement. I think we should do a survey of our current staff to see how many would like this arrangement and a community assessment to determine how many certified teachers would like to work part time, and or job share. The main cost savings would be that we would not have to offer benefits such as health insurance. I am a member of an educational sorority, and many teachers have retired, but would enjoy being able to work part-time. I personally know several certified teachers who still have the desire, but are not willing, or able, in some cases to try and balance the challenges of being a full time teacher with the demands of family life. Of course I would not want to take away full time work from teachers as the first option.
8) Test scores continue to show an achievement gap between students in an ethnic or racial minority in Durham and their white counterparts. How can Durham's school board shape new policy or initiatives to improve the performance of minority students? Please refer to my answer in question one as this is one of my top three priorities.
9) Despite population growth, enrollment in Durham's schools dropped 9 percent this year. How will you work to make DPS more attractive to parents and families?
Through PTA Council, I have spearheaded an effort for PTAs to create a transition to kindergarten committee that will work collaboratively with DPS and the Durham Partnership for Children on their Transition to Kindergarten initiative. There is a missed opportunity for parents to welcome, and help acclimate, families new to the school and to support their increased level of involvement in their child's individual learning, their child's classroom, the school and the district. The Council team has been all about building parent leaders and we are excited by this new opportunity. Reaching out to parents of 4 year olds will go a long way to helping them choose DPS and working through the preschools and daycares makes sense. We do need to also collaborate with young-adult oriented groups whose members are new parents and parents of young children, such as Mocha Moms, MOPS and Traction, to assess what it is that they need to know to feel confident in choosing DPS and then provide those answers.
I believe that continuing to offer choice programs is a way to encourage parents to choose DPS and especially favor novel high school options such as Early College, Middle College and the Performance Learning Center.
I appreciate the efforts of Public Affairs including, Channel 4, web presence and communication mechanisms such as E-newsletter, as well as their physical presence at events in the community. I do believe that increased collaboration with community-based groups will allow DPS to market through these group's constituents, an example is the end of summer reading celebration at the Durham County Library where DPS is now a strong partner.
DPS needs to support community-based efforts to promote the system such as Liz Tolman's upcoming website featuring stories by parents, volunteers, and teachers regarding great things happening in DPS – look for a guest column in the N and O soon; I was able to brag about Githen's, school-wide, Science Fair.
A final suggestion has to do with middle schools, which tend to be a weak link in most communities. We must do a better job, county-wide, of transitioning children and families from elementary into middle school. Along these same lines –we have to do a better job of promoting the fabulous things about our middle schools, and opportunities for our students in our middle schools, to the public, in order to break down the negative perceptions, which again is common in most communities, in regard to middle schools.
In terms of transition, team building and community building activities need to be incorporated early in the school year. Activities must focus on creating belonging, school-identity, shared goals, service to one another and to the greater community, and celebration of all student's individual talents and skills. Extra efforts need to be made to engage parents and to keep them involved. I am working on a proposal, of which I have shared an outline with district administration, focused on building community through natural affinity groups at our schools and will continue to hone this program and offer to DPS, whether a member of the Board, or not, as I cannot express strongly enough the need to purposefully create community. I will mention again, that my advanced work in Middle Grades Education, including working at the former Center for Early Adolescence, and my work as a trained facilitator in building community, will hopefully be of benefit to the Board for this particular effort.
Finally, I do want to reiterate my belief that when parents want to be a part of a school where they feel they have an active voice in determining such things as: the programs, curriculum, and staffing allotment (not personnel). This is an appeal of charter schools in particular and there is no reason why our public can't offer this to parents; evidence is in the long standing work of the Comer model which has parents as equal partners in running the schools.
10) Should the state provide vouchers to parents who choose private (K-12) schools for their children? If so, for what amount? No. I can wrap my head around this idea in large, urban districts, such as New York or Chicago, where accountability due to sheer size of the system may be difficult, but in a district the size of Durham, we are able to employ other mechanisms for providing parents with choice; specifically our school choice program. Instead that money should go to allow districts to innovate within such as we have done with Middle High, Academy of Medicine, New Tech High and the first Montessori Middle School in the State opening this fall.
11) Durham's school system is facing perhaps one of the most challenging budget years in recent history. What direction will you give to school administration to balance the budget? In what areas would you recommend cutbacks and which services should remain untouched?
We must cut everything possible before cutting core teaching positions, electives and assistants. Although I am of the opinion that the Central office operates a pretty lean machine, I would advocate losing central office personnel before school level personnel. We need to do a better job of explaining how some of our central office positions are funded. Many are required and supported by federal dollars that are non-negotiable in terms of how they are spent; Title 1 funds are an example, as are positions affiliated in serving the special needs population. Others are state mandated positions, for example, the literacy coaches at each school. As a community, what we can do is make our own assessment as to whether this is the best use of federal and state dollars, and if we don't agree, we can advocate for changes or at least greater flexibility in how we spend those dollars.
I do believe that the Board and Central office understand that anything that is non-essential to what happens in the classroom has to go, and this would include an examination of support dollars for some central office staff –everyone needs to be prepared to make sacrifices.
The District is already looking at scaling back on non state and federal required tests –this will save money in several ways; we need to be sure to listen closely to teachers and principals to steer these decisions.
Principals have shared that we need to look at cutting programs that require fee based license agreements, especially those that require personnel for which there is no funding, these would include software programs that are no longer providing the results desired or have been replaced by newer or even free programs.
We need to look at extending the life of textbooks and moving away from a reliance on textbooks as other options become available, texts on disks for example; especially in light of the state cuts in textbook funding.
We have got to continue to work to regulate our heating and air - too many examples of parts of buildings being too hot and others too cold – too many dollars are going out the window. It may be, that in the winter, we ask our students and staff to dress warmly the thermostat can be turned down, just like many of us have done in our own homes.
We need to work with the city and county to identify buildings that can be renovated instead of building new, and we need to look at the special financing that is available for this kind of renovation. A positive example that should be followed is the Holton School project. We need to partner with the city to share recreation facilities; an example is the new park being built on the campus of Githens Middle School, and with the County to possibly share library space. An elementary will be built next to the new Regional library near Parkwood – perhaps we will be able to make adjustments to our media center needs in this future school.
We probably need to hire another full time grant writer and we need to help our teachers to apply for grants and to use resources like Donors Choose.
Finally, I support the effort to grow leaders within our system – a pipeline of leadership, and reward these leaders for remaining in Durham, as it is very costly to provide staff development to teachers and principals who ultimately leave the district.