Venita Peyton | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Venita Peyton

Wake County - Board of Education


Name as it appears on the ballot: Venita Peyton

Party affiliation, if any: Republican

Campaign website:

Occupation & Employer: Principal Broker/Owner – Greater Raleigh Real Estate, Inc.

Years lived in NC: 27

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?

Although we are on the right course by (finally) giving all parents a voice in the District, however, that change is threatened. Promoters of the former diversity policy were unconcerned with the impact of forced, long distance busing on children in my District. This effort to keep parents muzzled has been led by groups such as WakeUp Wake County, 'Great' Schools and the NCAE. They would rather forfeit change and parental involvement than admit that their policy was wrong for these families. Much money has been made by area 'consultants' and 'book authors' who 'claim' to care for our children that its darn new criminal. None of them would EVER allow their children to be treated with such disdain.

In your district, please identity the priority needs as you see them.

Creating and strengthening parent-teacher-principal relationships.

Identifying community groups who are willing to work learn new strategies and together rather than continue in isolation.

Re-tooling after school programs that focus more on play than a combination of play and learning.

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?

I've advocated for change in this District for over 20 years, and have 20 years experience in insurance and as a Realtor for 11 years. I blew the whistle on disengagement in this reassignment process in 2009 (which was followed up by the N&O). I involved myself in the Superintendent selection and worked with others who identified that minority children were not given the same benefit of learning Algebra 1 as their counterparts.

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?

I'm a Christian.

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?

Raleigh/Wake will become even more just if we demonstrate that all parents and their children matter. It is improper and unjust to have our children unfairly bear the brunt of the 'diverse' school model. The adults who decided would never allow the same treatment for their own children. Regrettably, your paper and only a couple other media groups remain on the outside of the 'change' mantra. Once Superintendent Tata revealed that disenfranchised families wanted proximity for their children, the WakeEd Partnership and Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce began re-inventing their tune.

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?

Diversity is in the eyes of the beholder. I've lived in my home for nearly 25 years and noticed the changes in my neighborhood and surrounding communities. We have a good mix of incomes, owned and rental housing and races. The only persons who fail to see diversity are the ones who would rather hide behind reports and data. If they were a little less 'self important' and unafraid to step out of their BMWs and mini-vans, they would see what I see. We are more than a couple of zip codes.

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?

Children may begin the school year being judged as 'low-achieving' but its up to us adults, educators and parents to cancel the label. Superintendent Tat's plan will allow for parents to choose. If you're really interested, I invite you and the other naysayers to spend a week living with a family on Bragg, Lane, South East, or Lee Street or to ride on a bus to and from Leesville Rd elementary and Middle, or Apex, with the hope of erasing the idea that children from the same complex can't learn.

It didn't seem to be a problem that they continue to be bused together, yet, you suggest that they can't learn together.

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?

Once school selections are finalized and the neighborhood shows that they really do want a major change, then I'll work very diligently with the Superintendent, his staff and other board members in making neighborhood schools a place for full family involvement. The change is unsettling to those individuals who have made thousands of dollars as 'paid consultants' and book authors by saying that we have a great system – despite our children failing. Just as a foundation supports Broughton HS, I believe there are foundations that will support inner city schools – as long as the mission is honest and the money is properly spent.

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.

Our whole school construction plan needs overhauling. Until then, I can't put a price tag on what's needed. Even staff is using an old formula in determining how and where schools should be built.

There are many empty buildings that could/should be recycled. Riverside Alternative School on New Bern Ave once housed a business. A senior complex of Person Street was once Maury School!

Whatever we do, must include a reduction in the number of mobile units, which may drastically be impacting a student's learning.

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?

In the final analysis, the County Manager encourages or discourages the school budget to the County Commissioners. Each agency wants more money, however, as usual, those who don't have to pay the bills choose to believe that the County has unlimited funds. If we were to receive more, it would be at the expense of other agencies – which could be catastrophic. The questions are: Do we want money reduced to Health and Human Services, such as Medicaid (despite federal mandates)? Should they reduce money to EMS or the libraries? Should the Sheriff's staff be reduced to only work part-time?

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 too worry that too many charter schools may cause harm to our funds. I'd rather see charter schools with a mission (and experience) in working with children with special needs.

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?

The easiest answers would be longer school days, however, there will be push-back from the teacher groups (unions). In Chicago, some teachers have independently agreed to longer work days – much to the chagrin of the teachers' union. We need more discussion on how an extended day model can support a student's learning without being too tiring or costly.

Additional year-round schools may be a possibility, however, most parents will want to have their children on the same schedule. None of these questions can be adequately determined without significant community input.

To learn about other candidates' stances on the issues, read their 2011 Candidate Questionnaires.

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