Name as it appears on the ballot: Ron Margiotta
Party affiliation, if any: Non-partisan race
Occupation & Employer: Retired
Years lived in NC: 11
Given the current direction of the Wake County school system, would you say things are generally on the right course? If not, what are the specific, major changes you will advocate if elected?
During my first two terms as the District 8 School Board representative, I have supported and been instrumental in implementing many important changes to improve our school system. These changes have had a positive impact on families, our communities and, most importantly, on our students. I believe we are moving in the right direction but we have more work to do.
I fought diligently to bring back choice to all families in Wake County. As a result, our school system has seen a 40% reduction in assignment appeals. The limitations on magnet acceptance have been removed, resulting in an increase of minority acceptance rates and better facility utilization. I believe we must continue to empower parents to have input in their children's education and have policies within the system that allow such.
Under my leadership, we have increased educational opportunities for all students and have begun creating a more family-friendly, responsive school system. Various creative educational solutions have been implemented at some WCPSS schools specifically to address academic performance. I supported the use of a better student assessment system to ensure our students are being identified and placed in proper math courses, regardless of their income level. I encourage the use of innovative solutions to raise achievement in WCPSS. I am running for my third term on the Wake County Board of Education in order to continue this critical work to best serve our students as well as the families and taxpayers of Wake County.
In your district, please identity the priority needs as you see them.
As stated above, it is important to continue reforming our school system to be more family-friendly and responsive. This includes a new student assignment plan that empowers parents with choice and stable neighborhood schools.
We must continue to strengthen the academic offerings at the schools in District 8. Placing a foreign language course at every middle school was a great start. I believe our system should have a foreign language offering at the elementary school level as well.
I support the use of technology and partnerships to increase academic offerings to our students. The Virtual Classroom, which was implemented at Knightdale and Green Hope high schools to address a lack of AP offerings, is an initiative that can be readily replicated at other schools. Partnering with colleges and businesses is another resourceful and beneficial approach to increase offerings and raise achievement.
We must ensure to address the needs and challenge students from all areas of the academic spectrum.
What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective as a member of the school board? If you've identified specific issues above, what in your record has prepared you to be an effective advocate for them?
Since 2003, I have remained committed to the families and students of Wake County as the District 8 School Board representative. I have remained actively engaged in my community and throughout Wake County. I recognize that the School Board must continue to promote a spirit of partnership between our school system and the communities we serve and I have worked hard to do so.
As an effective Board member, my focus remains on teaching and learning and to ensure Board decisions are in the best interest of the students. Many educational solutions have been put in place and are being used today to assist teachers in our system to boost student achievement. Under my leadership, the School Board protected the classroom from the State reduction in funding and did not eliminate any teaching positions in our schools. I will continue to encourage the Superintendent, our Board, and staff to seek new and creative funding sources to minimize the impact of budget cuts.
How do you identify yourself to others in terms of your political philosophy? For example, do you tell people you're a conservative, a progressive, a libertarian, or what?
My political philosophy is not germane to the School Board election as it is a nonpartisan race. I don't identify others or myself by party affiliation. The parents and citizens of Wake County want an advocate for their children who shares their values and views on education, regardless of their politics. As we have witnessed in recent years, Wake County citizens from all political persuasions support the new direction of our school system.
The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. If elected, how will your service in office help further that goal?
All parents in our school system must be empowered to have a voice in their child's education. Our system cannot continue to restrict choice and limit opportunities for some parents while affording those same benefits to others. In 2010, the School Board removed the limitations on magnet acceptance, which resulted in an increase in minority acceptance rates. We also amended our policy that effectively ends mandatory year-round assignments, allowing calendar choice for those who need it. We have removed the economic barriers and have extended choice to those previously without options.
While this is a good start, there is much more we can do to help further this goal. Our Superintendent and his task force are in the midst of creating a new student assignment plan that will incorporate the value of choice along with proximity and stability in assignment. The past attempts to balance school populations based on one's income level placed a burden on poor and minority families yet were shown to have no positive impact on education. Our focus must remain on providing real educational solutions and resources to improve achievement.
Please address the following major issues that are before the Wake school board:
How should the school board resolve the issue of neighborhood schools and diversity? Is there a need to balance the two, and if so, how should that be done? Does Superintendent Tata's "Blue Plan" do the job?
We have learned from the Blue Plan 'test drive' that parents overwhelmingly support proximity in assignment. They also want choice to best serve their children. The plan, as Supt. Tata's task force is currently presenting it, incorporates these two values.
As previously answered, the attempts of our school system to balance school populations based on 'diversity' created unnecessary reassignments, much instability, forced calendars and restricted choice. As a school system, our priority must be about educating each and every child to their fullest potential and provide resources, including highly effective principals and teachers, to best achieve success. Removing diversity from a written policy does not remove it from our schools or our communities.
If the Blue Plan is adopted, is it important to you that diversity be achieved – as Mr. Tata proposes -- by reserving a substantial number of seats in high-achieving schools for kids coming from other, low-achieving neighborhoods? Or should proximity to a school be the overriding factor in student assignment even if results in some schools with high percentages of low-achieving students?
It is now known that 'diversity' assignments in WCPSS did not result in improved performance of our students. It failed to close the achievement gap and placed an unfair burden on some families and students. Whether diversity assignments are done based on race, socio-economic status or achievement level, they will continue to cause unnecessary disruption and will have no discernible impact on improving achievement.
What additional programs or resources, if any, do you think are needed to address the needs of low-performing students and close the historic achievement gap between students from affluent and low-income families?
I support using creative educational solutions, programs and resources to improve education for every student. The implementation of the Renaissance model at four of our schools is a great example. Our School Board has also implemented the Global Network and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs at other schools. These models promote collaboration and shared resources, locally, nationally and internationally, to increase student achievement. All of these models were implemented at some of our lowest-performing schools specifically to address and raise achievement.
Supt. Tata recently proposed the idea of leadership academies as well as creating more partnerships with colleges. I fully support and encourage this innovative approach to education.
What's your view of the need for another school construction bond referendum in the next two years? If one is needed, should be about the same, bigger or smaller than the 2006 bond of $970 million.
Under my leadership, our School Board was able to save $100 million dollars from the 2006 bond, which we will use to build new schools to better serve our students and families. This tremendous savings was a result of careful scrutiny of construction contracts. As a Board member, I support fiscal responsibility to ensure your tax dollars are being used efficiently and purposefully to make the biggest positive impact on education.
There is no doubt that Wake County is growing and will continue to grow. We will need to build schools and a school construction bond will be necessary. As a Board, we must discuss and decide on the timing and appropriate amount for another bond.
The current school board declined to seek additional revenues from the Wake County Commissioners even as the number of students in the school system grew. The result is a substantial drop in per-student funding from the county (on top of state funding cuts). Did you favor this approach? If elected, will you continue the policy? Or seek more money from the county?
Our school system was faced with a 6% reduction in funding from the State along with flat funding from the County Commissioners yet we did not eliminate any teaching positions. In fact, we have actually increased the number of teachers. Our School Board also approved increasing academic opportunities by putting a foreign language at every middle school in WCPSS. Even with budget shortfalls, we maintained all student teacher ratios while reducing class sizes in grade 4-5. I believe our School Board did our best to protect the classroom in these tight economic times.
More funding is not always the answer. We must continue to be creative in our approach, remain focused on academics, and be purposeful in using your tax dollars most efficiently.
At the state level and in Wake County, some advocate for more charter schools and for tuition tax credits for private schools as a way of shaking up the public school system and creating more "competition" for students. Others say this approach undermines the public school system. In this debate, where do you stand?
I support expanding educational opportunities for parents. This includes charter schools. I believe "competition" only serves to make you better. There are many successful charter schools and our school system can learn from these successes.
As you look forward, what major changes (e.g., longer school days, year-round schools, pedagogy changes) should be made to public education here and elsewhere in the United States to better prepare students for the world they'll live in? As a Wake school board member, how can you help in this regard?
As a School Board member, my commitment is to serving and advocating for the families, children and taxpayers of Wake County. I will work to ensure all students in our system receive a quality education and are equipped to become successful and productive citizens.
To learn about other candidates' stances on the issues, read their 2011 Candidate Questionnaires.