Editor's Note: All candidates were sent two questionnaires by the News + Record. The first asked general questions about candidates and their goals; the second asked office-specific policy questions.
Wilson is running unopposed but has opted to submit the questionnaire anyway.
Questions are indicated in bold, any question left blank was unanswered by the candidate.
How long have you lived in Chatham County? (If you live outside Chatham, please elaborate):
All of my life except for 4 years of college and approximately 2 years lived abroad, close to 50 years.
Age on election day:
I am Director of Training for the NC Victim Assistance Network. I design, lead, and organize trainings for community based and systems advocates and other services professionals such as law enforcement and prosecutor’s offices to compassionately & insightfully work victims of domestic & sexual violence and child abuse, human trafficking & co-victims of homicide. I occasionally work with others on state policy in support of crime victims and those who work with them. I have also worked for many years with Duke Medical School in communication seminars for medical professionals to work more compassionately and effectively with their patients.
Campaign website/social media:
Party affiliation (even if your race is nonpartisan):
Current and previous elected offices held or sought & terms you served:
Incumbent School Board member
Campaign manager (if applicable):
Campaign treasurer (if applicable):
Why are you seeking this office?
I am continually impressed by the positive dedication of our staff, teachers, and adminsitrationon our children's behalves! I am running to further our good work alongside our Chair Gary Leonard & Vice Chair Del Turner, whose thoughtful leadership and support for teachers and love for our children is shared and palpable. We work well in collaboration so that our schools are safe physically, emotionally and culturally. We strive to meet students where they are, so ALL our children can thrive and enhance their own unique gifts and talents. We hope to inspire in students a life-long love of learning.
What makes you the best candidate on the ballot?
A graduate of our public schools, & having lived and worked all over Chatham County most of my life, I know our regions and people well. For 13 years I advocated for children/families all across the county impacted by domestic & sexual violence and child abuse, funded by the Partnership for Children, including border violence. It provided insights into what many children carry in their hearts and minds and a sense of the challenges our teachers face as they teach. This mission driven work gives me an affinity for teachers and staff who work so hard for our kids.
Give us a job description you’d write for yourself if you’re elected to this seat:
Putting to work a passion for the Chatham County Schools’ mission of inspiring all children to learn; empowering leaners to be productive citizens through positive and effective collaboration; dedicating resources towards sound and innovative curriculum and teaching and support programs to prepare all our students for a bright and prosperous future; committing to planning and maintaining a sound infrastructure andongoing fiscal health system-wide; all with the safety & wellbeing of all students, teachers, & staff in front.
What three specific, measurable and attainable goals would you pursue if elected?
What are the biggest challenges in Chatham and/or N.C. right now — and how would you address them?
While our students are recovering from learning loss faster than other counties, we must restore academic standing/growth and replenish from social loss, with increased supplemental learning programs, mental health services, extra-curricular activities that re-energize school spirit.
The nation/statewide teaching shortage is growing. Reduced pay/benefits and cutting budgets on the backs of public education have decreased the number of graduates choosing to become teachers. Fortunately support for public education in Chatham is high. Our county commissioners have supported our local teacher supplement requests. We also celebrate, honor, & incorporate feedback from teachers to support them system & community-wide.
Chatham County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state. What do you see as the major challenges/opportunities coming from this growth and how would you address them?
We are readying our school system for anticipated rapid growth by working on system-wide infrastructure preparedness, new school design and county-land-banking, creating incentive programs to attract additional teachers & staff, and cultivating strong relationships with key stakeholders. While state funding for school construction comes only once actual students are in county, we partner with some of the best consultants on a state and national level in both learning from similar communities' challenges and in highly- specific county predictive analytics crucial to our preparations. We meet regularly with state/county leaders in anticipation of our needs to act quickly with foresight.
What’s your overall view of the role of the elected body you’re seeking to join? Is it fulfilling its mission now? If not, what needs to change?
Yes! Our academic programs are well above the state average, ranking us in the top 10 in the state! Close to 95% of our teachers report being happy in Chatham. We have received numerous state and national awards. Students are excelling and accessing a record number of scholarships/opportunities as we expand our offerings. With a culturally/socio-economically diverse student body, we seek to address unique needs/ challenges of students, teachers & staff& leadership to continually best serve every child in our interactions with our students, in our policies and practices, collaborating and mentoring at every level and community-wide.
Do you believe the 2020 Presidential election produced fair and legitimate results?
Yes, I believe in our democracy, and our democratic process. The results were tested again and again to the same outcome. The almost salacious perpetuation of mythology about the elections being invalid stems from ulterior motives rather than facts, and it is causing harm to our nation.
Political/government hero: My former boss Terry Sanford who is addition to serving in the U.S. Senate and as president of Duke University, was one N.C.’s greatest “education governors” working tirelessly to expand opportunities for North Carolinians to help lift us from being one of the poorest states in the nation to now being deemed “a jewel of the South.”
Favorite book: Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman
Book most recently read: The Brain the Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge; Currently reading The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times, by Jane Goodall.
Favorite film: There are too many! Perhaps “The Thin Red Line”, by Terrence Malick
Hobbies: Performing in an improv comedy & singing, enjoying nature
Community/civic involvement: Board member at Hispanic Liaison, teaching improv skills to support caregivers of people who have dementia/Alzheimer’s, ongoing work with teens, volunteer for the Haw River Learning Celebration, volunteer for Second Bloom
Favorite thing about Chatham County: The beauty of our people in communities all across the county and our beautiful pastoral and wooded landscapes
Personal motto or one-line philosophy: I truly believe in our N.C. state motto: “To be rather than to seem”
Strongest childhood ambition: As a child I wanted to be a missionary because I believed it was how I could help people who were sick or who didn’t have money for food. I also wanted to sing.
Most significant life goal you’ve accomplished: Being a kind and decent human to others the way my parents and grandparents and community members modeled for us, because it matters more than any other accolade. I am honored that our community members have elected me to serve on the Board to support our county’s teachers and children.
One of the primary roles of the Board of Education is allocating district funding. Has the district properly utilized its funds, including federal emergency COVID-19 (ESSER) funds, in recent years?
As of mid-September, the Chatham County Schools have spent about 70% of our allotted ESSER funds. We will likely have used about 90-95% of the funds by the end of the school year. ESSER stands for “Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund” which was passed so that local educational agencies (LEAs) could address the impact of the novel coronavirus on elementary and secondary schools. I am pleased by our ability to put the funds to immediate & ongoing good work so that teachers and kids can receive the boost they need to fully revive teaching & learning at its most beneficial levels.
What new projects or initiatives would you like to see funded in the coming term?
Learning loss from the pandemic-related classroom disruptions has impacted students all over the country. Fortunately, we know that our efforts to promote learning resiliency have paid off in Chatham County, as our students are bouncing back at a faster rate than students in neighboring counties. We know that tutoring & support programs, summer reading programs & other supplemental learning opportunities have made a huge difference. I would like us to continue using funds to bolster student learning, including support for our teachers. I am also very pleased that we have been able to use the funds to expand services for fostering better student emotional & mental health & well-being as well. It is critical in so many ways that our children know they are not alone, & feel genuine concern & the tangible support we make available to them.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the education system today? What would you do as a member of the Board of Education to help address those problems?
There was a time in North Carolina when education was the largest piece of the funding pie by the state. It was at a time when we were also among the poorest states in the nation. Through public education we lifted each other up together. We developed a solid infrastructure of education, & it paid off exponentially for our state. There is no reason why, especially as North Carolina is experiencing a record economic boom, for our state not to properly fund & support public education & to contribute so little to paying our teachers. It is shocking that we would abandon something that has so clearly served out state & tear down decades upon decades of investment. Solid public education not only benefits all our students, but the society as a whole. As a Board member I will continue to support parent & community engagement to enhance investment in & understanding of what we do & why it is of value. We will continue to look for ways to support and celebrate our teachers and staff and to lift up the profession again. I will advocate on the state level. It is key too, when we look at the Leandro Case, to recall that all elected seats of government have an impact on our education system, including judges.
How much supervision should parents have when it comes to a teacher’s curriculum?
An analogy is often made to the relationship between parents and their child’s pediatrician. Parents often desire clear communication, input, & feeling heard when talking with the doctor making health determinations about their child. Those same parents are also likely to agree that the doctor's expertise & recommendations are valued in treatment options. There is sometimes a similar dynamic between parents & teachers. This analogy is not perfect however, in that the school curriculum experts (being education researchers, NCDPI, local school administrators, & teachers) are making decisions about an entire body of students, not just individual students when deciding curriculum. Much is determined at the state level. At any level, it is very important to hear from parents concerned about their individual child’s well-being, & from community members interested in our public investment. It is for the well-being of every & all our students, while also recognizing certain expertise in the development of the curriculum & its impact on all students. Public schools have an obligation to each student’s growth & to the growth of the schools, as we also seek to meet students where they are individually as much as possible with the academic support they so need. Because public schools serve the collective it would be challenging to individualize curriculum itself, however. Sometimes individualized curriculum can be decided more easily in home-school settings. Our system partners with a number of home-schooling parents, so that some of our services can supplement those parents’ somewhat individualized curricular decisions.
What role should social issues like race, sexuality and gender play in the classroom?
It is important to understand all the factors that impact a student’s ability to achieve in the classroom and in life which impact the strength of their academic experience. It is also crucial that every child in our school feel safe physically, socially, emotionally, and culturally. For students to feel inspired to learn and to work to the best of their abilities, they need to feel safe in all these ways, and to feel recognized & valued and deeply encouraged for their unique skills and traits, including the culture and identity that is a part of them. It is important for every child who comes through our doors to feel understood, respected and appreciated and be given opportunities for growth. We must look at all the factors that impact a child’s growth, especially while they are in our care, by assuring our policies & practices are equitable and fair, that our programs and interactions seek to overcome disparities and gaps in achievement. We seek for all our interactions to positively, authentically take note of the whole child and the whole of their experience to the extent possible, including what they carry on their shoulders and in their hearts because of race and/or gender.
Do you believe the current Board of Education is inclusive of school community stakeholders? Why or why not?
Yes, I am encouraged by the extent to which we routinely and with intention seek out input from community stakeholders, through surveys, through open community discussion meetings, parent/teacher meetings, through parent committees, through partnerships with local non-profits & other organizations, through community forums, etc. During the recent high school redistricting that became necessary as we built a new high school, we held numerous public events to get feedback about the process, which factors were important in the decision, etc. Much of our final decision-making then came out of feedback from parents and other stakeholders. Our One Chatham strategic planning this spring also provided extensive input from & discussion & collaboration with participating community members and greatly helped shape our plan. We do our best to schedule input opportunities at different times of the day and week, and in different parts of the county to better assure engagement with parents of different socio-economic status, differing work schedules, different language groups & locales. Having said these things, we also realize that there are extensive improvements to make, particularly around culture and language access and especially as the population grows and the number of represented language groups continues to grow. We will continue to seek input on “seeking input”, to enhance our engagement efforts.
Academic and operational challenges remain in the wake of COVID-19 both in CCS and across the state. What do you believe needs to be done to improve upon issues like learning loss and teacher vacancies in Chatham County?
I believe we must continue to take a multi-faceted approach to learning loss, so that our recovery efforts continue to bear fruit, given that we appear to be rebounding faster than expected. In addition to tracking individual students, & classroom & grade level trends, we seek to understand COVID’s impact on each child to determine their learning needs in order to catch up. These factors weigh into our collective offering & individual referrals & recommendations to supplemental learning materials & opportunities including, but not limited to, summer reading programs, etc. We also partner closely with a number of nonprofits in our community whose focus is on helping our children strengthen their skill sets. Learning loss is also impacted by teacher loss. On top of the impact of COVID on our teachers, & the lack of financial support from the state, there is the knowledge that less & less students are seeking undergraduate degrees in education, with little end in sight! We must continue to recruit & keep good teachers through support, professional development & mentorship as available. We can also encourage our students to become teachers through scholarship &/or other incentive packages once deemed possible. Advocating at the state level is also becoming more & more important in this area. We have benefitted from a positive & collaborative relationship with our county commissioners who understood the importance of teacher supplements to incentivize staying in Chatham County. Over 90% of our teachers gave a positive report over their satisfaction with our district!