Tony McKnight | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Tony McKnight

Candidate for Orange County Board of Education


Name as it appears on the ballot: Tony McKnight
Date of Birth: March 27, 1966
Campaign Web Site:
Occupation & Employer: NC DOL- Apprenticeship & Training Consultant
Years lived in Orange County: 12 yrs.

1) What do you believe are the three most important issues facing the Orange Co. school system? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

Student Achievement:
Promoting positive student achievement for all Orange County students. Establishing challenging courses, and curriculum that will equip our graduates for the future.

Recruiting, and retaining excellent teachers for our schools. Increase accountability through more parent, and community involvement within the school system.

Creating diversity training for faculty and staff.

Dropout Rate:
This issue should be addressed beginning at the middle school level. Initiate mentoring programs within the school system, enhancing programs such as technical education, which will perhaps gain interest of those individuals at-risk that will build self-esteem, and motivate them to finish school.

Suspension Rate:
We need to continue reduce the number of students being suspended within our school system. Facility expansions, increasing staff, and student enrollment in Partnership Academy can address this issue for those at-risk students that may otherwise lose valuable instruction time, and therefore resulting in retention.

2) What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the board? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.

I have been an educator, substitute teacher, and coach in Orange County Schools. Presently, I serve on various community boards such as, Orange County Economic Development Commission, Orange County Chamber of Commerce Board of Director’s, Volunteers for Youth Board of Director’s, Hillsborough Civitans President-Elect, Orange County School volunteer, Orange County Parks & Recreation Volunteer Coach, Graduate of Leadership Chapel Hill-Carrboro Class of 2007, and serve as Deacon at my church. All of these organizations in some way impact the quality of life for our entire community, and require effective leadership. As a School Board member, I will continue to be “a voice for the entire community”. Always keeping in mind, that decisions that are made affect all of our children.

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 not running for Orange County School board for my own personal agenda, or self gratification. My children attend Orange County Schools. I run because not just my children, but “all children of Orange County schools” should have equal opportunities in order to be successful. That is my only platform. “Protecting the Future of Our Children.”

4) How many Orange County Board of Education meetings have you attended in the past two years?

I have attended about six meetings, and when unable to attend I have reviewed minutes on OCS website.

5) Academically and intellectually gifted (AIG) and exceptional children present particular educational challenges to the district. How well is the district meeting the needs of these children? How could the district better meet their needs? What are the obstacles to these goals and how can they be surpassed?

The school district has been reactive in addressing in the needs of Academically and Intellectually Gifted as well Exceptional Children within the county. The obstacles in addressing these critical needs is funding availability in providing resource allocations to hire, and retain these highly qualified teachers to ensure all of our students receive the best possible instruction.

6) What are your thoughts on the “Raising Achievement and Closing the Gap” report presented to the Board of Education in November? As a board member, how would you address the achievement gap?

The report was very informative, and addressed some very strong points in regards to raising achievement within Orange County Schools. As a Board member, I would collaborate with other members to address “raising achievement” for all students. This is not only the responsibility of the School Board; it’s the responsibility of the entire Orange County Schools community. This includes-parents, schools, community organizations, and local churches.

7) The Orange County Board of Education recently decided to address an imbalance in economic diversity between Central Elementary and Hillsborough Elementary by setting a cap on the number of students from a given attendance zone who can be enrolled in HES. The board also chose to use federal Title One School Improvement money (available to the district because neither CES nor Efland-Cheeks Elementary made Adequate Yearly Progress in math last year) on pre-K programs. Both decisions have proven controversial. Do you agree with the board’s actions?

As Central Elementary and Efland Cheeks being identified as Title I-School Improvement, under (No Child Left Behind Act). I feel that, assisting parents that have decided to transfer their children to other schools within the district the best possible options for their children. I would have collaborated with other board members, and the superintendent to ensure that Central Elementary and Efland Cheeks administrators, and staff have all needed resources in order to meet Adequate Yearly Progress standards. We need to address issues, and create solutions, not keep bandaging them.

8) Three Cedar Ridge High School students were sent to an in-school suspension classroom after refusing to take the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery in February. That school requires all juniors to take the test; Principal Gary Thornburg was quoted as saying, “I don’t have a lot of patience with people” who refuse to do so. Do you think any Orange County students should be required to take the AFVAB? Should the district make a greater effort to protect the privacy of families who do not want their information made available to military recruiters?

In this particular situation, I think that parents of all students that would be taking Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery test should have been notified prior to testing for a question and answer session. Students are not legally obligated to participate in this testing, and have a right for their personal information not to be given to military recruiters. For those inspiring to join the military, I would deem this testing appropriate.

9) What method would you use to determine how resources should be allocated within the school system? Do you believe that resources are well now? If not, what would you change?

By conducting a discussion with superintendent and school board members after reviewing the budget to decide where there was a critical need in resources. Within a school system such as Orange County, and throughout the state, there are never enough resources. It is my belief that the present school board and superintendent are allocating resources where they are best suited.

10) In 2005, a report identified inequities between the Orange County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro school systems. How well do you believe those inequities have been addressed or remedied in the three years since? What more should be done, and how?

I believe that some steps have been accomplished to improve the so-called inequities by both school systems, and the County Commissioners. Each district receives funding per student capita. Chapel Hill- Carrboro schools supplemental district tax helps the district substantially to meet those needs.

11) How would you like to see school funding and other county needs met: Property taxes? Impact fees? Other revenue-raising or cost-cutting methods? Do you personally support the land transfer tax as a county funding option?

I would like to see school funding needs met, as well as other major needs within the county. In relation to property taxes- the residents of Orange County have addressed this issue several years ago. Impact fees-do help with school funding needs.

12) The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?

My election would build a diverse school board, and community with open minds, great ideas, positive influence, and an ear that listens to the communities concerns, all with one common objective- educating all children of Orange County schools system, into great individuals, and leaders of our future.

13) Identify a principled stand you have taken or would be willing to take if elected, even if you suspect might cost you popularity with voters.

I will represent the students of Orange County schools, and the community. All children of Orange County Schools deserve an excellent education and opportunities for succeeding regardless of socioeconomics, race, or gender. I will be your voice, an advocate. We are all obligated to “Protecting the Future of Our Children”.

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