NAACP School Board Candidate Forum


Monday, September 21, 2009 - 3:00pm


St. Paul AME Church, Merritt Mill Road, Chapel Hill

Thanks to MaryAnne for the tip.


I'm still waiting for the fickle N bus so I can get home, and then would like to spend a few minutes with my baby before we both pass out, so I am not going to make thi forum. I am very intersted the NAACP's views on school issues so I'd love to hear about the questions and answes if anyone else goes to this.

it may be late tonight before I get all the copious notes I wrote into readable form

MaryAnne Gucciardi -- wants to bring the community together.  maximize achievement for all.  she's good at motivating people. working with tight budget. has done fundraising on school startup. interested in innovative programming for early elem.  Joe Green -- works with upward bound at UNC.  key is parent involvement.  achievement gap concern.  Susana Dancy -- we are doing well, can do better.  implementation of plans as opposed to writing but not following through. concern about tight budgets.  Christine Lee -- all should achieve full potential. foster a life-long learning love. flexibility key - one size not fil all. she will listen.  Shell Brownstein -- wants education success for all. will proactively address gaps. achievement should be expected beyond high school.  will be advocate for all. interested in accountability and collaborationGreg McElveen -- making things happen. close achievement gap. use innovative teaching. 

Greg - engage early. policies are in place, track teacher/school performance. don't wait to end of year to address. Shell - social service needed as well (collaborative w/ family, school, community).  use research based intervention.  accountability -- start from begin of year.  3rd grade EOG too late.  monitoring "minute by minute".  "responsiveness to instruction".  focus on "proficiency" is too low -- high standards for all, there is an unacceptable gap at high performing as well.Christine - this is major issue.  start early (make preschool available more).  early in elementary school -- teach to master subjects, not just to the test.  every grade -- early invtervention.  after school programs such as what the ministerial alliance is doing, with tutorials.Susana - AVID has been a strong success, but incosistent implementation across schools.  "ready school" - early intervention brings ready at kindergarden for reading proficiency -- cost effective to invest here. Joe - have high expectations for all.  if we're leading state for overall students, should be for ALL subgroups too.  "career start" program in Winston-Salem to engage students, showing how education is worthwhile to career.  MaryAnne - learning should be exciting for all. what about montessori based (mixed age)? non-traditional ideas to engage -- Saturday, extended hours.  inspiring programs (Math Odessey, tutors, something I missed).  have high academic/behavior expectations.  say to kids in class - "you can do it"

Can anyone tell me, does Shell Brownstein really believe that we should have EOGs for the grades below third grade?  Does the CHCCS Board of Education have any control over EOGs?Jim Rabinowitz

I believe she was talking about the 3rd grade EOG is too late to identify which kids are falling behind.  The EOGs (actually, the timing of any standardized testing, ie it cannot be before 3rd grade) is controlled by the state.  So we either need a change from the state or something creative to get around the "no standardized testing" part.  But yes, I think she said we need to identify kids earlier so that proper teaching can occur to where the kids are.

Wouldn't a competent teacher who was paying attention to the students know which ones were not keeping up without using a standardized test?

No need to apologize.  You've done us (or at least me) a service by posting what you heard here.  I can't seem to get time to go to these forums.

Joe - this is a large issue at high school -- parents can't help because far removed. what if parents and students work together on projects.  the district website can be a challenge to access for parents.  teacher involvement beyond the classroom -- parents meet teachers in evening, parents to meet together (more through high school)Susana - just ask and folks will get involved.  approaching parents who are not happy.  make all feel welcome.  Christine - encourage parents. be welcoming and inviting school.  effective communication.  not just email/telephone if you want to reach everyone.  there are cultural differences here to be concerned with.  should be viewed as a partnership -- schools and parents have the same goal of educating kids.  Shell - it starts with good parenting. engagement in homework can be tough; parents need skills.   cultural understanding of parent volunteer groups can exclude some.  transportation to the schools is an issue for some parents (she didn't say it explicitly, but I was thinking this would be interesting for the school board to work on -- can CH Transit help coordinate for parent meeting nights either through regular routes by schools or shared ride?).Greg - parents don't know opportunities that exist. not made to feel welcome or comfortable.  needs frequent communication.  to bring in parents in the evening, need more culturally diverse performances (everyone loves to see their kids perform). create parent networks in community (like the NAACP Education committee is doing for mentoring). administration must respect parent opinions.MaryAnne - create a metric for parent involvement we can use to judge principals.  this will encourage action like principals greeting parents at drop-off to feel comfortable and connected. create great programs at night.  free with food always encourages participation.  teach computer skills to parents for example.  create opportunities for parents to learn and socialize.  make school a center of social life. 

Ed Note: IEPs ( are individual education plans for those identified as being impacted by a disability -- could be physical, mental, or learning.  There is much concern about how this process works (and doesn't), particularly in the minority community. Susana - PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) need to be fully implemented to be have teachers.  must follow through with implementation of IEPs.  Christine  - we're headed in the right direction on exceptional children.  SNAC recommendations getting started.  implement the IEPs - teachers don't understand how.  there is great diversity in exceptional children, not 1 category. must be treated as individuals.  train teachers on existing recomendations.  Shell - she asked principals at a conference recently "what are the barriers?" teachers need more training, there is inconsistency in qualification for IEP, goals are not followed - not because teachers don't want, don't know how.  streamline forms (IEPs can be 100 pages).  expand streamline view to all struggling students -- a snapshot that follows child year to year.  strong advocate for consistencyGreg - coaches are available for disabled, but not consistently deployed.  need parents to be check on implementation.  consistency in identification.  use the wonderful specialists we have.MaryAnne - accountability needed. measure teacher performance.  go find grant money targetted to program evaluation. call on programs outside schools.  Joe - make sure administration supports teachers in handling this well.  teachers need to ask for help on skills.  training.  

Ed Note -- It wasn't clear what the question was here.  It included some information about PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) and then a question about "what do you want to be remembered for from your time on the board"?  Some candidates answered general goals, some answered about PLCs. Christine -- PLCs.  should be a place to share data on students across teachers.  should be used to share info on school-wide teaching (all math).  should also share between schools.  why not go nation-wide?  technology is available, what can we do with it?Shell - Goals for board are improved accountability.  research based best practices for action and interventions.  address all needs and all schools.  Greg - PLC emphasis on learning for teachers. job of teacher is to make learning happen (ie, receive the education), not just teaching.  rapid acceleration of achievement and learning for all.  includes challenging every student, innovative methods.  students have different ways of not achieving -- differentiation should include teaching differently to reach all kids.  PLCs have made rapid increase in achievements in some places.  MaryAnne - PLCs are a safe place for teachers to bring questions and problems for helping all kids.  spread good ideas.  mentor newer teachers.  standardize process.  not just late start mornings and workdays.  teachers should share every week.  will drive achievement.  teachers want to learn.  Joe - PLCs - opportunity for best practices.  new teachers work with more experienced.  goal is to increase rigor for all students.  likes the local project requirement.  engage all students toward college degree (not just high school graduation)Susana - PLCs are about collaboration, collaboration, collaboration.  teachers and schools work in silos today.  use PLCs to replicate best practice across the district. 

Shell - achievement gap issues are very similar to what causes drop-out.  need community, school, family collaboration.  since we have a small rate already, we can look at what are reasons for individual kids.  what are we missing?  mental health support? different education options?  kids see value in relevance.  Don't just look at numbers once in HS, need to address at-risk in middle school.  accountability should take us beyond numbers - what are we doing well and what is effective.Greg -- there are 3 factors: academic challenge, behavior issues, absences (sickness, etc).  engage students all the way through -- present in an engaging way. relevant to their lives.  introduce rigor but keep education relatable, creates excitement, can achieve.  monitoring (for absences), assist with family specialists.  positive behavior support.  MaryAnne - mentoring in high schools - a teacher with students through 4 years. bridge program (after school) - private schools for sports, etc.  power of meaningful work - school can lose purpose.  apprenticeship/intern effective at keeping connection to school.Joe - make education interesting to students.  show how it will increase likelihood of job and good income.  education is alternative to life of crime. Susana - Phoenix Academy is effective.  non-traditional methods should be used when needed.  important to catch these kids early.  create great connections to school (band, etc)Christine - is there money behind the priorities? there was federal stimulus money for programs like this.  We have $1m for high risk students -- is it working? modify and get money to programs that are working.  it takes 2 Ds to be identified today.  Need to identify those who are at  high risk with a lower bar.  Check on students who were doing well but have fallen.  we do well, can do better.

end of question -- with a  goal of making sure it is not viewed as a 2nd class school.Greg - the lack of diversity of the attendees today is an issue.  95% are African-American or Latino, but the population of kids who could attend is more like general population.  It is an effective program -- the school board is committed to maintain it.  Changing from Academy to a school frees up more funds.  Need clear criteria for bringing in and when student should go out to home school.  lack of diversity makes it harder to get support.  MaryAnne - alternatives are essential for everyone to be able to maximize achievement and live a full life.  maintaining funding is important.  should we partner with a foundation to provide more funds? monitor closely and keep accountability.  Phoenix exists because high schools not offering enough engaging.  More use of online courses?Joe - Phoenix needs extra-curicular activities to keep students engaged and for community to view as same level as other schools.  There is a stigma in attending-- should be presented as place to continue to learn.  all schools are built through community of parents.  Susana - will receive funding as it shows results.  Phoenix is not the same as other schools -- intentionally small.  school status should not be the same. it is different by design.Christine - there are 40 kids there.  should look to increase school spirit. Phoenix does wonders just as it is.Shell -- option of Phoenix must be made available. one size education does not fit all.  dropping out is not an acceptable option.  creativity central and local (ed note - I have no idea what this note I wrote means).  parents are taking on more -- SIT, PTA.  parents stepping up will prevent being viewed as less of a school.  great to have principal's leadership now.  kids should not feel less.

These questions were not answered due to time, but they were read. 


MaryAnne - happy to talk to anyone about their concerns. the questions from the community make us better public servantsJoe -- his background is not polished. he will work hard for all kidsSusana - interested in consistent excellence across schools, achievement gap, funding fairnessChristine - will be an advocate for all students. flexibility in policies important.  used to working with different perspectives for common goal.Shell - all kids can be successful. need strong foundation of education that meets their individual needs. she has a priority on twice exceptional kids ( - we have the best district in the state, but can be better. need to engage and chalelnge all. all kids can excel.  focused on achievement gap.  responsiveness to special needs. create environment where all love to learn.  maximize parent and community involvement.

I didn't do a headcount, but there appeared to be less than 50 people in attendence.  Majority were African-Americans, but it was a diverse crowd. Sorry this wasn't a greatly polished recap.  I would have live blogged it if I had been able to get a connection.  I tried to eliminate my abbreviations and make sentences for most of the above.  I apologize if any candidate feels slighted by my summaries.  I definitely cut out a lot of the "I'm a doctor and thus I know this" stuff -- just my personal bias that I don't use that as a determining point in my vote, so it isn't in my summarization.  Others may summarize differently. Doubt anyone has a full transcript!  I also should specifically note that Shell Brownstein is probably more summarized than most here -- she talks a mile a minute with ton of ideas and I just couldn't keep up with her. All typos and misinterpretation of candidate positions above are mine.  Thank you and good night.

As you can see from my recent very sloppy live blog on the NRG forum, I think it's still helpful to share these kinds of notes even when they're not polished and edited.The problem I continue to have with School Board politics is that without context, almost everything everyone says sounds pretty much the same. I feel like I'd have to spend a year researching policies, histories, and programs (especially their acronyms) to *really* know what's going on sometimes.

Shoot, I work for the school system, know what they're talking about, and they all still sound the same to me.It's of critical importance that board members know the technical aspects of schooling. But as representatives, it's just as important that they know how to communicate with constituents and work together with others in a board setting.  Of course, those things are difficult to measure too. 

This is a post from Jeff Danner, I am posting from a different computer and don't have my password handy, so this is coming as as anonymous I guess.

These are the same general questions asked during the 2005 election when I ran unsuccessfully.  In addition to being overly general, the questions tend to focus on what the candidates might do if they were the superintendent rather than what they can actually accomplish as a borad member.  The questions tend not to relate items which the board can actually address.  These tend to be procedural, thus, considering too boring for a forum question or newspaper article.

From the review above, I do like Ms. Dancy's comment that the district does a better job of creating plans than implementing plans.  I tried to make this point as well.  So Ms Dancy, if you are reading this, while it is certainly true, its hard to get people to excited by it.


Jeff Danner

Similar, I agree.  The questions asked were too general,
in retrospect.  It did give some idea of the leanings of the candidates
but also showed how many of them actually attend the school board

 The lethargy of school board proceedings and obtaining a consensus
of implementation amongst the group is one of the major setbacks to
actual change.  No ONE school candidate will be able to effect much
without the help of others on the board.  A lobbyist is what is needed.
   Doing what is right for children!

we TRIED to ask very specific questions tonight at the PAGE forum (more details tomorrow night when I get some free time), but the answers STILL came out sounding mostly the same.  


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