Unfortunately, I was unable to attend our community forum last week due to a prior commitment to the students I teach at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Thanks to my high school friend and colleague, Aku Opata, who took notes for me during the event, I am able to respond to the questions asked of candidates to the Scotland County Board of Education, which have been paraphrased below.
“Do you agree that it is time to find a new solution to funding our schools?”
I am a tax-paying resident of Scotland County, and I cringe every time I my property tax bill. I am open to working with others to discuss possible alternative funding options for our schools. I helped bring in more than $60,000 in grants for one school during my seven years in our district. But, I believe we need to ensure we are spending our money in the most effective, student-focused manner possible. Over the past several years I have seen our school resources dwindle, and our students have suffered. Therefore, without definite, permanent alternatives, I am not in favor of supporting any decision that puts the current funding for our students and schools at-risk.
“Common Core is a popular topic. What’s your stand? Eliminate it or be a part of it?”
As a state, we need to keep the parts that are working, and change the parts that aren’t working. The Common Core standards have some potential benefits for our students: consistency across states, which can help our students who relocate from other states; alignment with college entrance exams, like the ACT and SAT, which could help students reach their goals after graduation; and development of higher-order thinking skills — I’ve been amazed as some of the ways my son is able to think through a math problem and come up with the answer. However, one of the major problems is how Common Core was implemented across our state. So much initial change, without proper support, presents unnecessary challenges for teachers and students. Another concern is that the expectations are not always developmentally appropriate for students. But, there has never been a “perfect” set of standards. If the state gives us mandates, we have to do them. However how we do them is sometimes just as important. We should examine how we implement Common Core so that it minimizes stress for our teachers, students, and parents. And, we need to have ongoing discussions with our educators to understand our local experiences so that we, as board members, can voice our concerns to those responsible for making final curriculum decisions at the state level, as they continue to examine Common Core.
“What educational skills do you bring as a board member?”
I have a broad set of educational skills to offer our board and district. Personally, I am a mother of students who needed extra help to reach their potential. Professionally, I am a team player who is collaborative and focused on data and outcomes. I have made over 1,000 home visits to engage families in education, facilitated over 500 meetings involving our youth, educators, and community partners and made over 2,000 follow-up contacts in our district. I am knowledgeable of our district policies and procedures, our community, and the potential opportunities for inter-agency partnerships to support our students’ success. My research is dedicated to improving family-school partnerships and enhancing education for students at-risk for academic failure. And, my current school administration internship in our district has furthered my experience in creating positive school cultures and school-based professional development opportunities that enhance teaching practices while minimizing cost and time out of the classroom for our teachers.
“We have seen teachers, principals, and central office staff leave our district. What can we do to keep folks?”
Rural areas typically face unique challenges when it comes to the recruitment and retention of high-quality teachers and leaders. Our district needs to identify and implement best practices for retaining quality teachers in rural areas. We could partner with community businesses to informal opportunities for teachers to engage and build local connections outside of the school environment and possibly even offer some local incentives for school employees. Efforts like these would be fairly simple to implement, could help our local businesses, and would set us apart from our surrounding districts. The pattern we have seen of our leadership traveling here from other areas, gaining experience here, but then moving on to bigger, larger districts is concerning. I feel strongly that when seeking leaders, we should make every effort to promote from within. This would not only help with retention but also enhance our schools and community, as local applicants know our students, families, schools, and community best.
Summer G. Stanley is a candidate for an at-large seat on the Scotland County Board of Education. She can be reached at 910-280-0036 for comments or further questions.