Candidates talk goals, plans for Chatham County Schools

Posted 10/2/20

Editor’s note: The News + Record sent questionnaires to each of the five Chatham County Schools Board of Education candidates on this year’s ballot. The biographical facts and civic involvement …

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Candidates talk goals, plans for Chatham County Schools

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Editor’s note: The News + Record sent questionnaires to each of the five Chatham County Schools Board of Education candidates on this year’s ballot. The biographical facts and civic involvement sections were compiled from each response, but the responses to the questionnaires were included in their entirety and only minorly edited for spelling and grammar. Any question not included for a specific candidate reflects their choice to leave the question unanswered.

Two of the Board of Education’s five nonpartisan seats will be contested this election, with both incumbents — Melissa Hlavac of District 1 and David Hamm of District 2 — facing opposition. Board members Del Turner, Jane Allen Wilson and Chairperson Gary Leonard are not on the ballot this year. In this exclusive questionnaire, Hlavac and Hamm — along with their opponents, Timothy Winters and Ryan Armstrong in District 1 and Dennis Lewis and District 2 — discuss their priorities if elected this year.

DISTRICT 1

MELISSA HLAVAC

Why are you seeking this office?

Chatham County is a large, diverse community comprised of people from a spectrum of cultures, backgrounds and socioeconomic levels. Like some, I’m a first-generation American who spoke only Spanish until learning English at age six in public school. A public school foundation was my boost from one socioeconomic level to another. I was the first woman in my family to graduate from college. Today, I serve as Associate Dean at UNC-Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School where I lead MBA administration, operations, and organizational strategy. Concurrently, I have the privilege of serving on the Board of Education for Chatham County Schools in which both of my children actively attend.

I’m seeking reelection to continue the momentum that the Board has had over the past four years. Given my background, I see issues through a kaleidoscope of lenses: equity, excellence, safety, parental and business. We’ve made progress on a plethora of critical issues including educator pay, new schools, achievement gaps, and equity. While as board members we might not always agree, we respect one another and collaborate effectively to make progress on behalf of the students/educators in the county – a fragmented board, is one that does not advance.

What is your understanding of the responsibilities of a Chatham County school board member, and why do you believe you’re qualified to fill that role?

The responsibility of a board member is to represent community stakeholders and provide a voice for those who might not have the opportunity to be heard. Equally important is to set direction, drive policy, and guide administration on critical issues. The culmination of my experiences — background, ethnicity, higher education career, business acumen, active CCS parent, board of education — contribute collectively to the distinct perspective I offer.

As a seasoned board member, I require no learning curve. I’m well versed in CCS’s policies, finances, operations and board governance. I’ve also developed relationships with Administration, Educational Partners and County Commissioners.

What’s working best, and what’s not working, in Chatham County Schools?

What’s working best and how it translated into stronger student outcomes:

• Maximizes Resources: Established early college leveraging underutilized campus with School of Science & Engineering - students can graduate from high school with an Associates degree.

• Data-Driven Decisions: Strengthened personalized blended digital instruction with NCSBE grant to meet the needs of all learners.

• SMART Goals/Strategic Planning: Increases in district composite scores for Grade Level Proficiency and College/Career Readiness for reading, math, science, and composite; significant decrease in non-required reportable offenses to law enforcement.

• Equity Focus: Launched Equity Excellence for Everyone (E3) for culturally responsive teaching; added community wifi hot spots.

• Impactful Community Partnerships: Chatham Promise partnership with CCCC enabling graduates free in-state tuition. Kindergarten Readiness Camp in partnership with Chatham Education Foundation.

Continuous improvement areas:

• Stakeholder Communication: Need more effective communications to parents, teachers and community.

• Achievement Gap and Equity: Must continuously focus on improving student outcomes among all populations via innovative instruction, individualized needs, teacher training.

• Teacher pay: While Board consistently voted unanimously for increase in pay, it remains an issue as teachers are leaving the profession and fewer people are considering teaching as a career.

• Digital Divide: Pockets of unreliable broadband/internet access exists affecting children and teachers.

What are the most significant challenges facing the board of education in the coming year, and how would you plan to address them?

COVID’s impact on education will continue as a significant challenge this coming year. CCS must provide quality and effective school instruction across all school populations while considering food insecurity and pockets without internet access. Because of the urgent need to shift to remote learning last year, teachers had little time to plan for the most effective instruction. This coming year, the Board will need to ensure a long enough runway for planning and educational consistency for families, while pushing for additional resources at the State level and in partnership with County Commissioners. The recruitment/retention of diverse qualified teachers remains an urgent need as the nationwide teacher shortage imposes performance costs on students and educators. While the Board consistently voted for educator increases, this past year State budget conflicts left teachers cold, without pay raises. Retirement/full benefits is the leading cause of attrition within the State. In Chatham, credentialed educators often resign to pursue a new profession, offering robust benefits, salary growth and at times, deeper respect levels. We must address the bifurcated system to refine pay structure, policy and legislative funding with deeper support from County Commissioners, while urging the State to uphold its constitutional commitment via Leandro vs. NC.

Give us two goals that are specific, measurable and attainable you would have if elected:

1: Reduce the Student Achievement Gap, consequently addressing equity, initiating new curricular and co-curricular programs, and raising (and aiming to revise) the school state rankings.

2: Improve the quality and safety of existing school buildings and facilities supporting the learning environment for children across the county.

Look ahead four years from now…what would you like to see the Chatham County Board of Education to have accomplished in that time?

Chatham County should be a destination for families who seek educational excellence.

I’d like to see CCS:

• Substantially close the equity and student achievement gap across the county, resulting in more effective schools for all populations in this diverse community. This comes in various forms including reducing the digital divide, expanding inclusive perspectives via implicit bias training for educators helping them address various viewpoints, innovative instruction to help each child excel, and providing individualized learning via quantifiable methods. All of the aforementioned should be measured by subject composite scores, school rankings, the breadth of curricular offerings, special population programming, and college readiness among other metrics.

• Become a destination for teachers in North Carolina with competitive pay, creative incentives and improved working environments with ample modern resources to perform their jobs effectively. I’d like to deepen the teacher recruiting programs with the NC universities and be recognized as a lead recruiter of diverse qualified teachers.

• A marked improvement in CCS school environments including improving outdated facilities, refining safety on school campuses with state-of the-art technological systems, more robust equity and cultural staff training to better serve all populations, and growth in the volume of health professionals at each school.

If you are not elected, what steps will you take to serve Chatham County?

I’ve served on the Chatham Arts Council Board and the Board of Education. I’ve co-founded an inclusive art exhibit, Art Means Everything, at Fearrington Barn for PreK-5th graders, and authored/awarded grants for children with food insecurity in Chatham County. I’m also a Chatham Education Foundation Ex Officio Board member. I have a deep passion and affinity for education, arts and children. As my mother has always told me, I don’t sit still very well. As such, I anticipate I’ll continue along these lines to further strengthen the tapestry of characteristics that are woven into the fabric of this special county.

How do you think Chatham County Board of Education and the state board of education have handled the coronavirus pandemic?

Even with COVID’s unrelenting headwinds, CCS’s goals remain unchanged – ensuring safety, while continuing to provide quality and effective instruction. The Board had difficult decisions to make during the pandemic, but did so thoughtfully in consideration of several factors. They measured evolving, incomplete and conflicting COVID data against the broad desire for in-person instruction. Collectively, they accounted for case volume and testing in Chatham and surrounding counties, discussed CDC research, and listened to parents and teacher feedback. They jointly considered the effects on all populations (EC/ESL), children with food insecurity and lack of reliable internet access. They too assessed the impact to CCS employees. The Board weighed all of the aforementioned against decision speed and a desire for consistency during ambiguous times.

At the State level, while I agree with the State’s decentralization of decision-making authority, districts were left without additional funding to bolster the three State paths proposed. Local Board guidance was delayed. Additionally, the Federal government pulled funding to continue robust food insecurity programs. Albeit not ideal, starting the academic year remotely was the right choice for the wellbeing of CCS community. As the landscape evolves, and it learns more, I expect the Board will provide a longer path forward.

What are your thoughts on this summer’s racial injustice protests and calls for action/reform?

Systemic racism, inequity, and injustice against Black people and underrepresented minorities is deplorable and wrong. This issue affects us all. We must acknowledge the power of education to improve the lives of others and the world around us. We have a responsibility to model behavior and be the change students need to see. My Hispanic background coupled with my education shaped the woman I am today. I embrace diversity and empathize with those different from myself. That said, while underrepresented perspectives might not be so foreign to me, I humbly recognize that I too have much to learn.

TIMOTHY WINTERS

Why are you seeking this office?

Educating our children is the most important responsibility we have as a community. I believe that every Chatham resident benefits when we provide our children a good education. In recent years, our schools have shown improvement in student proficiency and growth metrics. While these are significant achievements, we also need to realize that these improvements are not coming fast enough for many Chatham students. This Fall I am running to join the Chatham County Board of Education to ensure all our Chatham students have access to a safe and rigorous education that will prepare them for life in the 21st Century.

What is your understanding of the responsibilities of a Chatham County school board member, and why do you believe you’re qualified to fill that role?

School board members work with parents, teachers, administrators, and county officials to develop and execute a strategy to educate our children. As the father of two children in Chatham schools, I understand the parent’s perspective and the urgency of making improvements now. I understand the need for clear and timely communication from school leaders. And I understand the doors education can open. My work involves planning, budgeting, and project management. I work with budgets similar in size to our school district’s budget. Most importantly, I will consider all viewpoints prior to making decisions.

What’s working best, and what’s not working, in Chatham County Schools?

We have a great team working in Chatham County schools. When I speak with these educators, I can sense the passion they have for education. In recent years, our schools have shown improvements in student proficiency and growth metrics. These are accomplishments we should celebrate, but we are far from finished.

Chatham County pays one of the highest teacher supplements in the state. However, we’re located near counties that pay higher teacher supplements. We need to do better to attract and retain the best teaching talent in the state.

Some Chatham students are not yet realizing significant improvements in their own proficiency and growth metrics. To improve the outcomes for these students we need to do a better job working as a team: parents & guardians, students, and schools to prepare these kids for the future.

The NC Supreme Court recognized in Leandro every child’s constitutional right to “the opportunity for a sound basic education”. A significant share of Chatham students are performing below grade level in key subjects such as math and science. I believe we must do more to ensure Chatham students are ready to receive a sound basic education.

What are the most significant challenges facing the board of education in the coming year, and how you’d plan to address them?

The most significant challenges facing the board this school year will be centered around COVID19. I will work with the board and public health officials to publish health metrics our community must achieve before returning students to in person learning. While we may not achieve total certainty around these criteria, the board needs to be more transparent about how children get back to school.

The board also needs to be more transparent about what in person learning will look. The board needs to share the precautions that will be taken to control spread in schools and how the district will handle cases of COVID-19 detected in schools.

If remote learning extends further into the school year, I will obtain feedback from parents, educators, and students to ensure our plan is effective and meeting their needs. To protect at-risk students, I will work with school leaders to identify candidates for an early entry back into our facilities and create a protocol for doing so.

Upon returning to in person learning a larger share of our students will be preforming below grade level. I will work with the board and school leaders to develop a plan to address this gap.

Give us two goals that are specific, measurable and attainable you would have if elected:

1: Work with Chatham County leaders to bias a larger share of incremental county revenue to education and use these funds to increase the amount of money Chatham spends directly on each student to approach the national average of $13,400 per student annually.

2: Implement maximum class sizes of 16-18 students in Chatham grades K-5

3: Implement maximum class sizes of 16-18 students in Chatham grades 6-8 for math, science, and English.

Look ahead four years from now…what would you like to see the Chatham County Board of Education to have accomplished in that time?

In four years, I would like the Chatham County Board of Education to be able to say that Chatham schools have better prepared our students to live and work in the 21st century. In four years, I would like the board to be able to say they invested and added teachers to reduce maximum class sizes in K-8. I would also like the Chatham County Board of Education to be able to say that all Chatham schools are meeting or exceeding their growth targets and that every school in our district is rated B or above per the NC Dept of Public Instruction.

If you are not elected, what steps will you take to serve Chatham County?

I will support whomever the voters choose, any way I can. If I am not elected, I hope to work with local community groups to drive awareness and raise money to help resolve the challenges our schools face.

How do you think Chatham County Board of Education and the state board of education have handled the coronavirus pandemic?

First, let me start by saying that the board is in a difficult position. Leading a district as large as Chatham County schools is extremely challenging in a good year, let alone during a pandemic. The board made the right decision to begin the school year with 9 weeks of remote learning. The process of arriving at that decision was extremely painful to watch.

Parents, students, and educators deserved a better plan than the one we received at the start of this school year. The July and August school board meetings were disorganized and did little to clarify what was to come for parents, students, and educators. The board left us with the impression that the time between March and July was squandered. The confusion around the Virtual Academy was extremely frustrating for everyone. Now that my children have started remote learning, it’s clear that teachers have worked hard to make a bad situation work. Better guidance from the school board could have reduced uncertainty and anxiety for parents, students, and educators.

What are your thoughts on this summer’s racial injustice protests and calls for action/reform?

I believe that Black lives matter. I also believe that Black minds matter. During the 2018-2019 school year, 62% of Black students in Chatham schools performed below grade level in Math and 51% performed below grade level in Science. As a community, we are failing our Black students. The first step is diversity and inclusivity training throughout the school system. I believe that Chatham County parents, educators, school leaders, and community organizations need to come together to eliminate the education gap among our students and stand as an example to the country.

RYAN ARMSTRONG

Why are you seeking this office?

To provide teachers, students and parents a voice during these times of unprecedented change.

I view being a member of the Chatham County Board of Education as a position of special trust. One that requires a leader who listens, provides leadership, and makes prompt decisions. I want to ensure parents have the necessary resources to empower their children to not only excel in our current environment, but to make positive changes that will make an impact now and into the future. I want to ensure that our students with IEPs and 504s are provided the resources that they are entitled.

Chatham County is a very diverse and rapidly growing community with unique needs. Our community deserves a leader that has a proven track record of leading teams and building organizations.

What is your understanding of the responsibilities of a Chatham County school board member, and why do you believe you’re qualified to fill that role?

The responsibility of a member of the Chatham County School Board is to provide purpose, direction, and motivation to those for whom they serve. I am proven leader that brings 23 years of leadership and decision-making experience in very complex settings. I have the experience to lead in an environment of high stress and make decisions when a decision needs to be made. I will bring new ideas, and a new outlook to a county that is going through change.

What’s working best, and what’s not working, in Chatham County Schools?

The biggest issues I see with the current board is a lack of communication and preparedness. It’s apparent when you observe a school board meeting. The current members do not come to the meetings prepared which makes the meetings long and ineffective and delays decision making. As an elected official, it will be my responsibility to listen to the concerns of the community, come prepared to the board meetings in order to advocate for them and act in their best interest.

I do want to say that our teachers have done an amazing job with remote learning during the current pandemic. The way our teachers have pivoted quickly and responded is commendable, and I look forward to working with them in the future.

What are the most significant challenges facing the board of education in the coming year, and how you’d plan to address them?

Remote Learning will be the biggest challenge facing the board of education this year. I have been very vocal on this subject and if elected I would propose the following:

• The district will move to a 50/50 revolving schedule consisting of an A and B schedule

• Monday and Tuesday (A) will attend school

• Thursday and Friday (B) will attend school

• Wednesday will be a sterilization day

Teachers would live stream their classes, and if a cluster were to break out all students would be aligned with the curriculum. This will allow the county to get students back to the classroom. The biggest question — what about those who do not have internet access. These students will be given the options to attend class on (A) days, and teachers will provide these students with instruction on what will be covered on (B) days.

Give us two goals that are specific, measurable and attainable you would have if elected:

1: Take lessons learned from the redistricting of Northwood and Seaforth High Schools and develop a better road map for growth and expansion going forward

2: Bring more Middle School sports and CTE programs to the county

Look ahead four years from now…what would you like to see the Chatham County Board of Education to have accomplished in that time?

In four years, I would like to see Chatham County Schools being a district of choice for teachers. I would like to develop a plan for how the district will incorporate Chatham Park within the district so that it will affect all the schools and not just one. I want to see how the board will improve Northwood High School, by adding some much-needed capital improvements, such as lights on the soccer field for security, the field of dreams, and improving the cross-country course so we can host bigger events. I would like to see the county develop an aggressive marketing strategy that outlines what is unique about being a teacher in Chatham County.

If you are not elected, what steps will you take to serve Chatham County?

If not elected, I will still continue supporting those in office. I will continue to volunteer, as a coach, mentor, and support the local civic organizations.

I have been fortunate as a service member that communities such as Chatham County have always welcomed us with open arms and excepted us knowing that our stay was temporary. Now that I am semi-retired, Chatham County is our home, and I will do everything I can to serve Chatham County.

How do you think Chatham County Board of Education and the state board of education have handled the coronavirus pandemic?

I feel that the state board of education delegated too much. The current board was not prepared to make the decisions that were delegated. There was some guidance; however, it was the district’s responsibility to provide how they were going to move forward. I believe that our current board was not prepared, nor do I believe they used the resources they had to help educate them on how to move forward in reference to the pandemic. There should have been more communication with our local health officials, and less concerns for what the other districts were doing to move forward in reference to education and the pandemic. Once the decision was made, there should have been communication sent out detailing why the decision was made and how the county will move forward with timeliness. This would have allowed teachers, parents and students to make more informed decisions.

What are your thoughts on this summer’s racial injustice protests and calls for action/reform?

As a soldier for 23 years, the racial injustice has me concerned as I acknowledge that there is an injustice; however, there is a proper way to be heard. I cannot condone protesting when violence occurs, as every American deserves the right to be heard. As a member of the Chatham County School board, I will ensure that our students have the resources they need to feel safe within our schools. Our teachers, and resource officers will have the training they need to ensure that every student is treated equally.

What question do you want to be asked?

I want to be asked what makes me different from who I am running against. Ask me how I can apply my leadership to make Chatham County Schools better. Ask me how many times I have visited the schools and talked to an educator about what concerns they may have? I am a candidate that will be visible and accessible. I believe in transparency and that everyone has a voice and that voice needs to be heard. So, when you cast your ballot, look at the name and not the affiliation. I am candidate that will represent all the schools, just not the one in my district.

DISTRICT 2

DAVID HAMM

Why are you seeking this office?

I have served on the Chatham County BOE since 2008. Before I retired, I served my entire career with Chatham County Schools as a first grade teacher, coach, assistant principal, and principal. I have worked in schools across the county from Bonlee to Siler City to Pittsboro. I am also a graduate of Northwood High School. Knowing the history of CCS, where it has been, helps in understanding what direction the school system needs to go. Having lived in various parts of the county gives me a deeper understanding of its people and their diverse perspectives.

What is your understanding of the responsibilities of a Chatham County school board member, and why do you believe you’re qualified to fill that role?

The prime responsibility of a school board member is to develop and establish policy for the school system. The board also has the responsibility to hire a superintendent that is innovative, caring, understanding and can lead over 9,000 children through ever changing educational experiences to prepare them to work in the global economy.

As a current member of the CCS BOE for 12 years, I want to continue our accomplishments in academics, personnel, and community relationships. I am committed to CCS. I have been consistent with CCS. I have forty plus years of experience with CCS. And, I am reliable and dependable for CCS.

What’s working best, and what’s not working, in Chatham County Schools?

Several specific programs that have been implemented for the students since I have served on the board are the AVID Program and the Chatham School of Science and Engineering.

The AVID Program, AVID, an acronym for Advancement Via Individual Determination, is a nationally recognized non-profit college readiness system with the mission to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society. For all high school students, the instructional strategies in the AVID college readiness system are used school-wide and emphasize writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization, reading, and critical thinking.

The Chatham School of Science and Engineering (CSSE) is an academically advanced public high school with students in grades 9-12. Students who apply, and are accepted, have the opportunity to complete an Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, or Applied Associate of Science degree by the time they graduate from high school. During their time at CSSE, students will take a blend of high school and dual enrollment college courses that will allow them to earn both a high school diploma and a two year college degree. CSSE was founded with the intent of attracting students who desire an Early College opportunity and experience. Interested students range from highly-driven college bound students to students who often are underrepresented in college: minorities and students from those whose parents never attended college.

What are the most significant challenges facing the board of education in the coming year, and how you’d plan to address them?

With our recent experience in dealing with COVID-19 and distant learning, it has been made very clear that equitable access to high speed internet needs to be consistent throughout our county. Our Board of Commissioners will have to step up to the plate to provide funding to make county-wide high speed broadband wireless internet accessible to all Chatham County residences. Students should not be punished for lack of internet accessibility due to where they live in the county. Distant learning will become the new norm in the future. At present, Chatham County Schools provides every student with a device; connectivity is the next big step for us to tackle.

Give us two goals that are specific, measurable and attainable you would have if elected:

1: Lower our teacher attrition rate to 9.5%.

Successfully retaining the best teachers in Chatham is successful due to positive work environments in all our schools. If you like working where you are, you stay. In our region of 16 school systems, Chatham County Schools ranks 2nd in teacher attrition over the past 3 years. Last year we had teacher attrition at 12% while the state average was 13.3%.

2: Continue to increase the local supplement by 1% annually.

Another important factor in retaining teachers is directly affected by the local pay supplement. Based on information that is published on the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction website, Chatham is 7th in the state for teacher supplements and 5th in the region. Our average teacher supplement is $6,481. A big thank you goes out to our Chatham County Board of Commissioners in providing the funds necessary to keep us at the top of the supplement pay scale not only in our region, but in the State.

Look ahead four years from now…what would you like to see the Chatham County Board of Education to have accomplished in that time?

Attracting certified and competent teachers is the backbone of a successful school system. Successfully retaining the best teachers in Chatham is successful due to positive work environments in all our schools. If you like working where you are, you stay. In our region of 16 school systems, Chatham County Schools ranks 2nd in teacher attrition over the past 3 years. Last year we had teacher attrition at 12 % while the state average was 13.3%. Another important factor in retaining teachers is directly affected by the local pay supplement. Based on information that is published on the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction website, Chatham is 7th in the state for teacher supplements and 5th in the region. Our average teacher supplement is $6,481. A big thank you goes out to our Chatham County Board of Commissioners in providing the funds necessary to keep us at the top of the supplement pay scale not only in our region, but in the State.

If you are not elected, what steps will you take to serve Chatham County?

This is really an unusual question! I don’t expect to lose and I expect to continue serving the students, employees, parents, and community until I (or the voters) feel I am not fulfilling my duties like I have done for the past 12 years on the BOE. Otherwise I will continue to support my daughters and grandchildren that work and attend schools in Chatham County.

How do you think Chatham County Board of Education and the state board of education have handled the coronavirus pandemic?

There’s one word to sum up the strategy of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic: SAFETY! We must continue to monitor the daily progress of critical numbers that govern the decisions on working back to our “normal way” of life. A too drastic approach to “normalcy” will be devastating. The State’s pro-active but cautious approach through the leadership of the Department of Health has been balanced. Working with our local Department of Health has been a vital resource for the CCS in making critical decisions.

What are your thoughts on this summer’s racial injustice protests and calls for action/reform?

Having served as a life-long educator (teacher, coach, administrator) a father of four daughters, and a 12 year active School Board member for CCS, injustice for anyone is not acceptable and should be dealt with by the laws that govern us. If our society abandons law and order, then we don’t have an organized direction for our future. Changing long standing beliefs cannot be done through vandalism and anarchy. Change comes about when both sides fully understand one another and are able to come to a middle ground of acceptance.

What question do you want to be asked?

QUESTION: How have your past experiences make you qualified to serve on the Board of Education for Chatham County Schools?

I have served on the Chatham County BOE since 2008. During my tenure I have served on the Chatham Education Foundation Board. I have also served on various state level committees with the North Carolina School Board Association. Before I retired, I served my entire career with Chatham County Schools as a first grade teacher, coach, assistant principal, and principal. I have worked in schools across the county from Bonlee to Siler City to Pittsboro. I am also a graduate of Northwood High School. Knowing the history of CCS, where it has been, helps in understanding what direction the school system needs to go. Having lived in various parts of the county gives me a deeper understanding of its people and their diverse perspectives.

My experience as an educator and board member helps tremendously in understanding the political aspects, the business side of running a school system, and the human side of dealing with personnel issues. Being a board member also takes a lot of “give and take” and being a true team player. First and foremost, understanding that every decision, no matter how big or small, has to be made in the best interest of the children, OUR INVESTMENT FOR THE FUTURE!

DENNIS LEWIS

Why are you seeking this office?

I believe in America and what it stands for, and I believe that its citizens must indeed ask what they can do for their country. I am seeking this office to do my part to ensure that future Americans enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities I have had. Education of our youth is essential to America’s tomorrow.

What is your understanding of the responsibilities of a Chatham County school board member, and why do you believed you’re qualified to fill that role?

Ensure plans, procedures, accountability, funding, necessary to support quality education for our children, make the tough decisions, and effectively communicate with all stakeholders. I’ve spent a career in the military and in business doing this.

What’s are the most significant challenges facing the board of education in the coming year, and how would you plan to address them?
Dealing with the current COVID crisis and how to recover once schools return to normal.

Give us two goals that are specific, measurable and attainable you would have if elected:

1. Be the voice of the parents. Re-assess the Seaforth High School decision. Consider input of all concerned, evaluate, decide, and communicate basis of decision to all stakeholders.

2. Plan ahead for the next contingency. Add extra-curricular activities to our middle schools, evaluate and if applicable, establish JROTC in our High Schools

Look ahead four years from now… what would you like to see the Chatham County Board of Education to have accomplished in that time?

In 4 years Chatham school system should be the state leader in S.T.E.A.M (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) and in programs with the community college for those students who wish to become skilled tradespersons. With academic excellence, the correct policies and procedures, and the support of the community, our school system will attract and retain the highest quality teachers.

If you are not elected, what steps will you take to serve Chatham County?

Continue to support what is best for our students and community and encourage economic growth in the county.

How do you think Chatham County Board of Education and the state board of education have handled the coronavirus pandemic?

The safety of our children and teachers must be the number 1 consideration, but how was this assessed. Although I would have recommended a hybrid option for parents who wanted some classroom instruction for their children, rather than second guessing, my critique is on how the decision was made and communicated. I would have liked to have seen better county wide communication of the plans and rationale behind the decision. What factors beside COVID were considered? How were they weighted? What did the parents and teachers recommend? Since Feb, were contingency plans put in place for the fall semester? How were they tested? What training was there for parents and students so they could get ready? What were the plans to overcome bandwidth issues in some rural areas and homes other than cellular “hot spots”? Why 9 weeks? What are the contingency plans after 9 weeks? How can children contact school counselors for help and advice? Public answers to these questions would have given me more confidence in the decision.

What are your thoughts on this summer’s racial injustice protests and calls for action/reform?

Humans are imperfect, injustices occur, they always will, and they must always be addressed and done so quickly and lawfully. Lawful protests may bring needed attention to an issue. However, I am concerned that certain elements are using select tragic criminal instances, routinely handled by the justice system, to hijack lawful protest and promote self-serving agendas, discord, and anarchy that do little to resolve the injustice.

What question do you want to be asked?

As future issues cannot all be anticipated, I’d like to be asked on what will I base my input and decisions? They will be tempered by the following beliefs:

• Education is a non-partisan issue: do what’s right for the students.

• The safety, health, and welfare of our students and teachers are non-negotiable.

• People are responsible and accountable for their actions.

• Respect is imperative, including those with whom we disagree.

• Alternative education models merit consideration.

• Trades and S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) create value.

• Patriotism and good citizenship must be taught.

• Freedom of prayer fosters an inclusive & considerate environment.

• Diversity of talent and perspectives engender trust and yields better solutions.

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