LAURINBURG — Incumbents and first-time candidates for election to the Scotland County Board of Education discussed the state’s approach to implementing student achievement standards as well as ways to inspire students to perform during a forum held by the Scotland County Democratic Women on Friday.
A state legislative committee recommended this week that the State Board of Education replace the nationally-developed Common Core standards now accepted in 40 states. Common Core is currently in its second year in North Carolina, and board incumbent Jamie Sutherland, running for a first full term in the May primary, spoke for giving the standards a chance.
“We re-normed every test we have last year and the scores looked absolutely awful compared to the year before because we re-normed them to accommodate Common Core,” Sutherland said. “So now we’re talking about doing away with it again. At some point we have to decide what direction we’re going and stay in that direction.
“We’ve only had Common Core for a year or two, there are some things that need to be worked out, but we need to hold steady to something. I’ll be honest, I hope they just leave it alone and try to move forward.”
Also running for an at-large seat on the board, Alisha Brown spoke as a parent watching her elementary and high-school aged children struggle to achieve the loftier state-mandated goals.
“It confuses the heck out of the children and when it confuses the children, who do they go to? They run to mom and dad,” Brown said. “I don’t know about anybody else, but I can barely remember the algebra problems that I had in high school … if they haven’t really grasped it by now, they may really be lost when the next grade comes up.”
In response to a query about the school system’s dropout rate from one of the 25 Democratic Women’s group members present, at-large candidate Summer Stanley suggested that it may not be fair to compare Scotland County on equal footing with more affluent areas.
“We do have different subgroups and a different population here, which is why I think we need to bring in some very specific interventions to target those issues that we’re facing that other areas may not be facing,” she said.
Candidates also offered their views on placing increased emphasis on academics in the school system and motivating students to take responsibility for their own education.
“Something has to drive us, something has to be an incentive,” said at-large candidate J. Gentile Everett. “We have to find ways to tie education into economic freedom and economic opportunity. I can be very candid — I went to college for a long, long time, but I went because I was told very early: this is the only way you’re going to get out of where you are.”
Robert Malloy, running to represent the Stewartsville township, said that students are more likely to set goals and work toward them if they have positive role models. He reiterated the intention expressed during Thursday’s Scotland County Civic League candidate forum to begin adjusting the school system’s population of teachers and administrators to reflect the racial composition of its student body.
“I saw these people — Mr. I. Ellis Johnson, Mr. Speller — I saw these individuals and how they were dressed and how I thought I wanted to be once I grew up,” Malloy said. “There was some connectivity there. I think in our schools many of our children who do not prosper and do well in many instances don’t have that connectivity. There’s no connection that they have to the teachers, they don’t see people in the community who are doing better.”
Walter T. Jackson and incumbent Darrel Gibson, both running to represent the Stewartsville township, were also present.
From her experience as a social worker in the school system, during which time she made over 1,000 visits to student homes, Stanley suggested that it may fall to the schools to compensate for deficiencies in students’ family lives.
“I think one way that we need to address this concern is by showing every student that they’re cared for in school,” she said. “They don’t always have all of their needs met at home and they come to school and they need to feel cared for. I think when they begin to see an environment of care for them, it will begin to instill a sense of care for their own future.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 17. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.