Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis

With the news of music legend Glenn Frey’s passing came a question for many: How could a form of arthritis–specifically Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) –cause someone’s death? Isn’t it just achy joints and extra misery during cold weather?

RA is an autoimmune disease much closer to the Lupus that shortened the life of Charles Kuralt than the Osteoarthritis that tells your grandma it’s going to rain tomorrow. With RA, the body’s immune system attacks itself, primarily in the synovial fluids in joints. Any joint. Every joint.

I was diagnosed with RA in 2013 while I was recovering from surgery to replace my knees. A veteran knee patient, I had them done the same day. One morning about 7 weeks after the surgery, I awoke in a whole new world.

My hands and wrists were on fire with pain. I couldn’t grip my bed sheet to pull it over me. In comparison with double knee surgeries and childbearing, this was near the top of my “impressive pain” scale.

As the day wore on, I had the ache and misery that we all remember as the feeling you have when coming down with the flu. That first day as a slow-rolling sense of “this is getting worse” comes over you. I describe it as full-body tendonitis.

I tried to sleep, hoping it will resolve. It didn’t. I’m a person who rarely runs a fever, but my thermostat couldn’t figure out what it wanted. I sat up in my bed, sweating, with chills, wrapping myself in towels and blankets, then throwing them off. It was like an Olympic hot flash.

I went to physical therapy as planned. My wonderful therapist suspected RA right away, gave me a very light day’s activity and got me an appointment within a day or two to see a Rheumatologist. These symptoms were a classic presentation for RA, she said. I was diagnosed immediately.

Many RA patients have a very different experience, however. Their symptoms can be more vague, more gradual. Misdiagnosis is common and the delay in starting treatment can come at a great cost.

Treatment for RA suppresses the overactive immune system.  Without it, RA patients will suffer deformities in their joints, most commonly in the hands. You’ve probably seen hands with crooked, swollen fingers. That’s the signature of RA, but not the limit of its wrath.
Left untreated, RA can attack throughout the body, striking with inflammation in the organs, tendons and the vascular system. RA patients are at higher risk for heart disease, pneumonia and lung complications.

Some of the disease modification drugs that treat RA have been around a long time and are still used to treat cancer. The new “biologics” are very effective in driving the disease into remission, but can make patients more vulnerable to infection and some forms of cancer.
We’ve all been bombarded with advertising for these biologic treatments. You see a young father working on his daughter’s doll house, a woman cheerfully running her catering business. The ads emphasize that these people can do these things that are stressful for their hands, thanks to these drugs.

In the RA community, we have a name for the people in these ads. We call them “actors.”

In reality, living with RA is about mitigating chronic pain and restriction of activities. It’s about fatigue. Lots of fatigue.  It’s the frustration of a kind of brain fog that’s hard to describe. I’ll tell you about it when I find my keys.

It’s also about avoiding getting sick with colds and stomach bugs. Less hugging and kissing. More waving and sending emoticons for events we have to skip because there will be a crowd of people. This time of year, it can be very isolating to be an RA patient.

For me, the development of voice-activated word processing and Siri have kept me connected to the world and the work I love – writing. Some days, everything hurts and that totally stinks.

Every now and then (a day or two each month) I enjoy the miracle of a full night’s sleep, a hot shower in the morning and a day where almost nothing hurts at all.

Imagine that!




Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Obama's last State of the Union

Some of the speech I wish the President had made (please share if you agree):

My fellow Americans, the State of Our Union is “strong.” The State of Our Politics, however, is in critical condition.

In America this morning, a nurse and a teacher arose before dawn to go into work caring for our most vulnerable populations. Restaurants served their patrons. A cop walked the beat. A firefighter ran into a burning building. Americans are strong and more resilient than ever. The capacity of Americans to work for a better world is well established.

But in this chamber and across the various levels of the political spectrum, a poison is coursing through the veins of our body politic. It is fed by fear and isolationism. It is metastasizing across social media where vicious attacks become viral sensations. It destroys our good faith in the institutions of a civilized society. It helps and gives encouragement to our enemies.

Only Americans possess the ability to damage and undermine American values. We do this when we limit voting rights, stay home on Election Day and surrender to cynicism. We do this when we pull the ladder of progress up behind us and say “I’ve got mine, you stay out.” We do this when we argue for decades against ensuring that all citizens have access to quality healthcare. We do this when 20 first graders are brutally murdered in a public school and we do nothing about it.

Nothing.

Shame on us. Shame on all of us, without exception. The American people are getting up every morning and going to work to take care of themselves; to provide a better future for their children; to serve their communities. Why isn’t the Congress doing at least as much for kids as a cafeteria worker? Why does it take a campaign of shaming Congress to pass a bill providing medical care for 9/11 first responders? Why is it that the mass shooting of civilians on a regular basis is not the subject of official inquiry by a select committee?

Where would we be if the NYPD and FDNY behaved on 9/11 as you do today?

This can change and it can happen overnight. The people in this room can make that happen by making a choice. You can choose to elect citizenship over partisan rancor and you can do it right night now. You can decide that some things have to be handled without a political lens – things like security and infrastructure. You can do things for the good of the country, regardless of how it plays in your district, then you can explain that to you constituents. You can be leaders. And you know what? You SHOULD do that, because that’s what the voters sent you here to do.


One of these days, they’re going start measuring you against THAT standard – what’s good for the country, not just what’s good for keeping you in office. Will you be ready?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Chapel Hill School Board Race (2015) Responses (unedited)

Watson – September 23, 2015

Please support your answers on policy questions with elaboration and specifics. 
Please provide your responses by the end of the day (5:00 pm) on Friday, September 25th.

Question
1. What did you read this summer?
A.     2014–15 Performance and Growth of North Carolina Public Schools http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/accountability/reporting/exsumm15.pdf
B.     Project Advance – CHCCS http://www.chccs.k12.nc.us/home/featured/project-advance
C.     Several articles on the Achievement Gap –
D.    Books:  Amazing Queen Bea, called To Be, The Bible, Safe People The Cross and The Lynching Tree, Walking With God, Altruism At HBCUs, Dream Keeper and Expect To Win

2. Please share your thoughts on funding for the CH-C schools over the last decade.
Funding for CH-C schools has been challenging because of the economy and because of changes in North Carolina’s legislative directions.  Naturally, all bureaucracies desire more funding and I believe that our school board has done well with the funding that has been available over the last decade. 

3. How do you think poverty affects outcomes in K-12 education?
Poverty can have a tremendous effect on K-12 education outcomes.   Poverty can be negative if it inhibits academic achievement, but positive if it inspires student to try harder and to perform better.  It is my hope that our educational system offers the best possible educational opportunities to help students overcome any negative effects from poverty. 

4. How do experiences (such as international travel) outside the classroom affect K-12 education?
I think such experiences can be a positive enhancement to students learning about other cultures and other countries forms of government and commerce.  Furthermore, it creates appreciation for others and their history.  I believe it teaches us that we all add meaningful value to our society.

5. What can CH-C schools do to improve race relations in the larger community? 
I believe that continuing and expanding programs that expose students to team building with multi-racial team members provides the best exposure to improve race relations through common efforts and common shared goals.  Furthermore, I believe that it would be beneficial if school board members would commit to being involved in events and activities in all of our communities.  You can’t know what goes on in the poor or rich communities if you only stay in your comfort zone/community. 

6. Is the district doing enough to ensure the safety of students and faculty? If not, what more would you advocate for as a board member?
I believe that the district is doing enough to ensure the safety of students and faculty.  My biggest concern is with enhancing some specific cross walk areas to improve pedestrian travel for students and faculty.

7. What specific things would you advocate for to narrow the achievement gap?
I believe that more mentoring programs offer the best opportunities to assist students in narrowing the achievement gap.  Leveraging the resources and intellectual capital in our town to expand educational and enrichment opportunities for students.

8. Have you ever been arrested?
No.

9. Please share a story about a teacher who made a difference in your K-12 educational experience and how that informs your view of public education today. 
Mrs. Harrison made a difference in my life.  I had a problem with my speech.  Mrs. Harrison recognized it in the first grade.  She spent a great deal of time with me before and after school.  She would even come to my home on many Sundays.  It is not recognizable today.  It formed my views about education in a profound way.  I developed a passion to helping others get to the next level.  I developed an attitude that “where you are today does not mean that is where you have to be tomorrow.”  I have a son that had many learning disabilities and many teachers (from CHCCS) thought that his path would be vocational schools more specific a job working with his hands.  He finished college with a 2.6 GPA from Hampton University.  He is currently in a dual degree MBA/Law program.  If it had not been for Mrs. Harrison and of course my parents, I don’t know if I would have the drive I have today to help others reach their potential. 

10. Please provide the URL for your website to accompany this story.  WatsonForEducation.Com

Pat Heinrich

1. What did you read this summer?
10 Billion Days and 100 Billion Nights by Ryu Mitsuse

2. Please share your thoughts on funding for the CH-C schools over the last decade.
I think that funding has not kept up with need. This is why we're facing a potential bond referendum to provide funding to address safety concerns, water leakage and aging facilities.

Many funding sources are declining or increasing more slowly that they have in the past, the diversity of our community is continuing to increase. Our schools are being asked to address the achievement gap and provide excellent outcomes for students in the face of more diversity and fewer resources. To provide excellent outcomes for our students, we will need to better utilize our resources in creative and flexible ways. We should also leverage more public/private partnerships to encourage more community involvement in our schools.

3. How do you think poverty affects outcomes in K-12 education?
Unfortunately poverty makes positive outcomes more difficult.

4. How do experiences (such as international travel) outside the classroom affect K-12 education?
Experiences outside of the classroom can have a huge impact on education. However this doesn't have to be as big as international travel. Anecdotally, my daughter and I share "teachable moments" on the North Carolina Beaches and at museums right here in the triangle. Even more than the particular experience, how it is contextualized into a learning experience by parents and other caregivers determines what a child gets out of the experience.

5. What can CH-C schools do to improve race relations in the larger community?
Track and publish achievement gaps and how disciplinary actions are being applied to different segments of the community to provide transparency. Provide meaningful diversity training to teachers, and more importantly, ensure that what is learned is being applied. Promote dialog with and make stronger outreach efforts to the affected communities.

6. Is the district doing enough to ensure the safety of students and faculty? If not, what more would you advocate for as a board member?
I think there needs to be clearer division of responsibilities between the school resource officers (law enforcement officers in our schools) and school faculty & staff at our schools. I'd would advocate for a joint policy developed by the schools and organizations that provide resource officers.

Additionally, some classrooms exit to breezeways, meaning that the exit to the immediate outdoors without a hallway or other enclosed space. I would like to see these enclosed to provide a secured indoor path for students. Some hallways 'dead end' without appropriate emergency exists. I would make addressing these safety improvements a higher priority.

7. What specific things would you advocate for to narrow the achievement gap?
Education doesn’t begin and end at the doors of the schools; the schools can encourage activities outside of the school e.g. closing the “word gap” between economically advantaged and disadvantaged families before children are old enough for school. This outreach can be and should be led by individual board members as an example for the community.  (The word gap is the disparity in words heard by young children from parents and caregivers. Research indicates that the word gap is a factor in the difference in positive outcomes for school age children.)

While we’ve acknowledged that different segments of our community may have different needs, we haven’t segmented our teaching to address more individualized needs. To do this we either need more teachers or we need a different way to provide more individualized instruction to our increasing diverse population of students. While no technology is a substitute for the interaction between teachers and students, I believe that we can use technology to provide more individualized tutoring and practice to students. This could more closely meet the needs of the individual student. In other words if half the students in a classroom excel at fractions and has difficulty with multiplication and the other half excels at multiplication but has difficulty with fractions, what should the teacher prescribe to help the whole class? Though that example is somewhat contrived, if the school can provide more individualized instruction that helps students with their particular needs then we can better disaggregate teaching and instruction. Using technology to supplement teacher efforts can do this without putting overly demanding expectations our teachers.  I’d like to see this idea explored by CHCCS, and I will advocate strongly for tools that enable more individualized instruction.

8. Have you ever been arrested?
No.

9. Please share a story about a teacher who made a difference in your K-12 educational experience and how that informs your view of public education today.
My twelfth grade creative writing teacher had us spend the first few minutes of every class arranging desks in a circle. He sat in one of the student desks in the circle. It was the first time I experienced a discussion among peers as a form of teaching.

Though lectured classes are important, students also need to experience a learning environment that more closely reflects what they will experience as adults. Teaching students how to learn and think critically with a group of peers better reflects the expectations of the modern workplace. We need to more strongly emphasize exploration, teamwork and critical thinking in our schools.

10. Please provide the URL for your website to accompany this story.
-----------------------------------------
Annetta Streater

1.      What did you read this summer?
The Bible
Chesapeake by Nora Roberts

2.      Please share your thoughts on funding for the CH-C schools over the last decade.
Over the last decade, we have received local funding support from our Commissioners to fund our operational expenses. Funding for capital needs, on the other hand have not been sufficient to complete capital improvements in a timely fashion. The Board is collaborating with the BOCC to introduce a bond referendum to provide funding to renovate our older campuses. From the state level we receive our teacher allotments and some special funding for programs such as Drivers Education. The most impactful reduction in state funding has been with teacher assistants.

3.      How do you think poverty affects outcomes in K-12 education?
Poverty does have an impact on education outcomes in K-12 education. There are correlations between poverty and state of health. Children with chronic, unmanaged illnesses do not perform as well academically. Excessive absences due to chronic illness can also contributes to delays and gaps in learning. Children living in poverty are less likely to access extracurricular enrichment opportunities and tutoring as many of these opportunities have associated fees. I have always advocated for district sponsored opportunities that are accessible to all regardless of economic status.

4.      How do experiences (such as international travel) outside the classroom affect K-12 education? International travel is a wonderful example of enrichment that can support academic achievement. Unfortunately, not all students have the resources to travel outside the U.S. There are school based clubs and mentoring groups that provide it's members this opportunity that includes a student commitment to raise funds. An innovative strategy used by some of our schools uses technology to bring other countries and cultures and classrooms to students without leaving their classroom. I'm very supportive of the district increasing its partnerships that can support integrative technology as a means to eliminate socioeconomic status as a barrier to international travel.

5.      What can CH-C schools do to improve race relations in the larger community?
We must demonstrate that we embrace multiculturalism; that we respect each other and that we believe all children can learn, grow and be successful. Race relations can improve if there is a level of trust and respect. Additionally, race relations can improve if the district can ensure that teachers are providing instruction through a an equity lens, utilizing examples that show diversity while demonstrating concepts. Students and families must see that we are willing to involve the community in partnerships that support children from diverse backgrounds. Inclusivity is key.



6.      Is the district doing enough to ensure the safety of students and faculty? If not, what more would you advocate for as a board member?
The district been very thoughtful in providing safe campuses for our students. Our capital improvement plans consistently include expansion or improvements in security and ADA compliance. Our older campuses require the most attention and for this reason I will support the bond referendum. Regular staff training can also play a part in fast and effective responses to dangerous situations.

7.      What specific things would you advocate for to narrow the achievement gap?
Training for teachers in writing lesson plans that include pre-teaching, teaching and acceleration. Training must also include intervention strategies to support struggling learners. Recruitment searches have to seek out those who genuinely love children and believe all children can grow. Early childhood education programs better prepare children for kindergarten.

8.      Have you ever been arrested?
No

9.      Please share a story about a teacher who made a difference in your K-12 educational experience and how that informs your view of public education today.
My choral music teacher had a profound impact on my view of public education and the arts. I know first hand that public education works. She was the epitome of a teacher and mentor. She set high expectations, made you accountable, celebrated your successes, brought the world to you by teaching diverse genre, was firm with behavioral expectations and instilled a love of music by sharing her love of music.

10.     Please provide the URL for your website to accompany this story.
    
www.streaterforschoolboard.org

Joal Hall Broun Answers to Herald Questions
1. What did you read this summer?
I’ll Take You there, Mavis Staples, The Staples Singers
The Warmth of Other Suns
All the Single Ladies

2. Please share your thoughts on funding for the CH-C schools over the last decade.

In the last eight fiscal years, funding has been decreased approximately 1.1 million dollars per year on the local level and about the same amount from the state contribution.  These reductions have resulted in the decrease of instructional and support staff in many areas, including gifted and talented, special education, and languages.  Local funds for teacher salary increases, professional development, teacher bonuses and teacher recruitment have been reduced as well.  There has also been a reduction in the amount of resources for the purchase of new textbooks and buses.  These types of reductions over a long period of time have affected the quality of the education received by students in the District.
3. How do you think poverty affects outcomes in K-12 education?  I think poverty makes it more difficult, but not impossible to have positive outcomes in K-12 education.  The children have a more difficult time being prepared because the parents do not have the resources to give children if they need them as other wealthier parents do.  If the parents have to work two jobs instead of one to provide for their families, then they do not have as much free time to address their child’s academic needs.
Poverty stigmatizes children psychologically because those children work harder in school, not to be stigmatized by their peers when they do not have the trappings of wealth.  This puts an additional burden upon the student when trying to achieve and to thrive while learning.
That is why it is vital that the District create a culture that values each student, no matter their ethnic background or economic status.  It means that we as a community need to address the issue of achievement by looking at the entire child and not just whatever academic deficits that exist.
4. How do experiences (such as international travel) outside the classroom affect K-12 education?
International travel for students and teachers expands one’s learning capabilities and their social engagement and growth.  Travelling to other countries gives both students and teachers exposure to how education or life is lived differently from the United States.  This aids in the enthusiasm for teaching and the enthusiasm for learning.  The experiences and education gained from international travel can be shared with other teachers and other students as well.  This also prepares students for opportunities overseas while they are in college and when they are looking for permanent work.
5. What can CH-C schools do to improve race relations in the larger community?
 In order to improve race relations in the community, the District needs to seek to create a culture of equity and not allow those that oppose it to believe that excellence suffers when you seek equity for all students, instructors, and non-instructional staff.  The District needs to be proactive about the contributions of Lincoln High School, Orange County training school, and old Northside elementary school.  The District needs to be an example of valuing diversity.
6. Is the district doing enough to ensure the safety of students and faculty? If not, what more would you advocate for as a board member?
The District has nine schools that are over 43 years old.  Those schools were designed and constructed with more open campuses during a time when there were no school shootings.
As a board member, I would advocate for safety features that limit the ability of someone with a gun to kill students or teachers and that limit access to the classrooms without first having to stop at the front desk.  In addition, I would seek a review of all the schools and then allocate resources to renovate those access points that permit someone from avoiding the front office and entering the school without detection.  Finally, I would seek to add any additional safety features in all the schools that increase safety for students, teachers, and administrative staff.
7. What specific things would you advocate for to narrow the achievement gap?  I would advocate for creating a culture of excellence for all students, teachers, and administrators.  I would advocate for those programs that have proven effective to eliminate the achievement gap.  Those programs and policies that eliminate the achievement gap contain these components:
a.       Professional growth that produces excellent teaching skill for teachers and teacher assistants;
b.      Expectation from the start that all students can excel;
c.       An elimination of disparate discipline;
d.      A culture that encourages and supports teachers to implement those teaching skills that have proven effective in teaching students who have different learning styles; and
e.       A culture that does not equate equity with a reduction in excellence.
Finally, I would advocate for a regular and timely review of all policies that are implemented to eliminate the achievement gap.  I would also repeatedly express the theme that the elimination of the achievement gap requires long term and consistent effort.
8. Have you ever been arrested? No.
9. Please share a story about a teacher who made a difference in your K-12 educational experience and how that informs your view of public education today.
I had a number of teachers that made a difference in my K-12 education experience.  My first grade teacher, Mrs. Wiseman and my Advanced Placement biology teacher, Mrs. Parker made a positive difference in my education.  First, Mrs. Wiseman was an enthusiastic first grade teacher, who had great classroom management without us knowing it and who pushed us to excel in our reading.  I love to read and I believe that Mrs. Wiseman played a part in my continued love of reading.  When I left her class at the end of first grade, I was reading at the second grade level.  I was the new kid in the class because my family moved back to Greensboro in the middle of the year because my father was transferred back to North Carolina.  She made me feel welcome as if I had been there from the first day.
My biology teacher Mrs. Parker gave me the grit to push harder.  She was the high school teacher who expected great things from her students and we wanted to achieve excellence in her class.  She was tough, but fair.  She wanted everyone to do their best, even in the regular biology classes.  She did not give up on anyone.
10. Please provide the URL for your website to accompany this story.
Twitter-@Broun4Board



Margaret Samuels

1.         What did you read this summer?
First Impressions by Charlie Lovett
Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear
The Good Listener, Helen Bamber: A Life against Cruelty by Neil Belton
The Railway Man by Eric Lomax
Five days At Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sherri Fink
The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools? by Dale Russakoff

2.         Please share your thoughts on funding for the CH-C schools over the last decade.
Over the past decade we have seen our district placed under increasing financial pressure and this has had pretty serious consequences for our students. Thankfully our community really values education and we have found the will to make it work. We will likely have to continue to do this and I support the Orange County Bond, but we also have to put pressure on the state legislature to step up to the plate. As a professional who has worked in early childhood education and disability services in North Carolina, I understand the various roles that the General Assembly, the County Commissioners and the Federal Government play in the funding process and I have worked extensively with county and state legislators and officials. I have also managed the allocation of large budgets and overseen complex programs.  I also understand the complex early childhood funding system that starts children on their educational path, and I believe that securing adequate funding for all children in our school district is one of the primary roles of a school board member. I am profoundly committed to ensuring a well-funded future for our schools.  To this end we must focus as a district on developing a long-range funding plan to complement our long-range outcome plan.  We must continue to advocate at the State level for the funding our school district needs to move forward. We must also build partnerships at the local level to ensure that our county places school funding at the forefront of every decision.  The funding we receive must be sufficient for us to offer competitive compensation packages to our teachers. Finally, I do fully appreciate that in today’s financial climate we must watch every penny and make sure that it is being spent where it can do the most good, so pushing for a full review of finances and budgets would be one of my first tasks as a Board member. I would also push the Board to further explore the potential for creating public-private partnerships to fund certain activities.

3.         How do you think poverty affects outcomes in K-12 education?
Research continues to show a widening gap for outcomes between children from different socio-economic backgrounds, and this is true at all levels of the education system. Poorer students are significantly less likely to graduate from college, which of course is a huge predictor of future employment and income levels. Access to additional experiences and programs that enrich school life are much more readily accessed by those with more financial resources, leaving families struggling financially at a disadvantage in providing those opportunities to their children.  In particular, poverty experienced in early childhood can have an impact on all aspects of a child’s development – poor diet and lack of adequate housing can create challenges that are very difficult to overcome. Research shows that by age three children from low income households have heard 30 million fewer words than their more privileged counterparts, which means when they start school they are already significantly behind. A child’s success in school should not be determined by their zip code or their economic status.  Early literacy programs can help to bridge the 30 million word gap and, thankfully, we live in a resource-rich community in this regard. Increased collaboration with our libraries and our local universities could help us address this shortfall and ensure that all children in the District are ready for school. As a district we must forge effective partnerships with service and resource providers in our community to find solutions to these problems and ensure that our children are afforded as many mitigating services as possible. Collaboration at all levels of government, nonprofit and community stakeholders is vital.

4.         How do experiences (such as international travel) outside the classroom affect K-12 education?
As a former Peace Corps volunteer who has worked internationally in the Balkans and the Middle East with Physicians for Human Rights and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, I am great believer in the positive benefits of cross-cultural exchanges. Our School District is incredibly diverse, and ensuring that the education we provide has a global outlook is vitally important – it will widen the horizons of every student that passes through our schools. You don’t have to leave the country to get a global perspective – I have been very impressed by the Global Connections program and the Social Justice Academy, which both do a fantastic job of introducing students to international events and contemporary debates. I have also been excited to see classes make use of new technologies to connect and partner with classrooms abroad – low cost initiatives like this can bring a new level of excitement to learning. However, I do believe in providing our children the opportunity to take school trips abroad - we were lucky enough to be able to send our son on a Smith Middle School trip to Costa Rica this spring and we have seen firsthand the positive impact this experience had on him. However, there is no escaping the fact that such trips are expensive and I would like to see some thought given to providing opportunities for all students to take part.

5.         What can CH-C schools do to improve race relations in the larger community?
As a School Board member I will support programs that show promise in addressing social inequalities, especially regarding the glaring disparities that exist in the way minority students are disciplined. I will press the District to pay much greater attention to the actual intent behind student actions and to explore restorative justice alternatives to more punitive sanctions. Research shows that restorative justice solutions promote equity, improve student connections, and lead to better outcomes for all concerned.  As PTA Council President in both 2011 and 2013 I partnered with our local NAACP Chapter in sponsoring events and I believe that the District’s efforts to address disparities and promote equity must involve a diverse range of community stakeholders so that minority voices are heard loud and clear.

6.         Is the district doing enough to ensure the safety of students and faculty? If not, what more would you advocate for as a board member?
The School Board has a profound responsibility to keep students and faculty and staff safe.  Providing a safe work environment is a fundamental requirement for any employer.  Having strict access guidelines and ensuring that modern security measures are used to monitor individuals entering and leaving our facilities is of the utmost importance. The Capital Improvement Plan developed by the Board and administrators has identified potential safety concerns including areas that are not accessible to students with disabilities; areas and schools that have too much outside access; drainage issues, and aging systems. We must ensure a responsible and timely improvement plan and advocate for the funding necessary to meet these improvements.  Collaboration with our local law enforcement departments and continually evaluating their role within our schools is also of fundamental importance. I would work with police officers to ensure that they are receiving the appropriate training to operate sensitively and effectively within our schools, this would include the provision of racial equity training and guidance on working with individuals with disabilities. Making time for ongoing security assessments, training and practice drills for our students, staff and faculty are a must.

7.         What specific things would you advocate for to narrow the achievement gap?
I am committed to creating a blueprint for educational excellence by setting high expectations for every student. We know that educational opportunities make all the difference in realizing each child’s potential, and securing them a rewarding and successful future. I would work to support and implement a plan that mandates equity training at all levels of our district, which is both hands on and grounded in real world classroom settings. I have taken similar courses myself and know their fundamental value. Understanding why and how the achievement gap has arisen is the first step to solving it. I will also ensure that the School District utilizes evidence-based trainings with a proven track record and that the necessary data is collected by the District to monitor the impact of this training.

I would also work to highlight the value of Pre K services. We know from extensive academic research that such services not only assist in closing the achievement gap but also provide a boost in social and behavioral interactions and long-term success. My professional experience has given me an intimate understanding of the complexities of the early childhood funding system that starts children on their educational path. If we really want to make a difference the School Board must become a major partner in community-wide initiatives that are providing support for 0-3 services.  Evidence-based programs like the Nurse-Family Partnership, Early Head Start, and the Family Success Alliance are innovative ways to prepare both children and parents for school success.  Creating more partnerships similar to Smart Start and NC Pre K would allow our School District to maximize limited funds for a very important cause.

It is also important to continue providing similar support services to students as they progress through the school system. We have a highly mobile student population and students with critical needs can enter District schools at every level. Mentoring programs, and initiatives like Parent University, can help to provide this support. I would also like to applaud the Superintendent’s initiative to provide additional academic support to students in High School who have demonstrated the ability to perform in AP classes but need help in unlocking that potential.

8.         Have you ever been arrested?
No

9.         Please share a story about a teacher who made a difference in your K-12 educational experience and how that informs your view of public education today.
My high school American history teacher, Mrs. Rambough, was an amazing teacher.  She had been teaching for a number of years and was considered  “tough” by the students, so I was excited to take her class but a little nervous as well. What I loved most about her was that she never shied away from a difficult discussion in class and she always encouraged active debate. She challenged us to think critically about our country’s history and explore the endless diversity of human motivations. She gave us the opportunity to dwell on themes that resonated with us, and pushed us to research beyond the parameters of the course. I credit her with my passion for learning about new cultures, exploring the world, and social justice. In my senior year I organized a register-to-vote campaign and wrote an article for our High School Yearbook entitled “Choices: Seniors realize what it means to vote.”  She encouraged me to do research about the number of 18-year-olds that voted in our county and to interview my classmates about what elections meant to them. It helped me to appreciate the complexities of our democratic system, and our failure to successfully engage many segments of our community in the democratic process. The lessons I learned from Mrs. Rambough have stayed with me and I like to think she would be very proud to see one of her former students running for School Board!


10.       Please provide the URL for your website to accompany this story.



Name:  Rani Dasi
Chapel Hill News Questionnaire

1.     What did you read this summer? 
Reading is one of my favorite things to do.  This summer I primarily read articles on education and fiction books.  Some of the books are:  The Art of Fielding
·         The Rosie Effect
·         Rules of Civility
·         The Narrow Road to the Deep North
·         City of Thieves

2.      Please share your thoughts on funding for the CH-C schools over the last decade.
Overall funding to public education from state and federal sources has declined significantly over the last ten years.  With the Great Recession in 2007, many states reduced funding to public education and that reduction has continued to the present.  According to the Washington D.C. based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), “North Carolina's percentage change in spending per student, inflation-adjusted, from 2008-2015 was (-14.5%), worse than all other states except Oklahoma, Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Wisconsin and Kansas.  In 2014-2105 alone, while many other states were increasing per-pupil school funding, North Carolina's decreased by 4.7 percent, the worst one-year change in the country, except Nevada.  From a money standpoint, North Carolina was the worst in the country with a drop of $250 dollars in per-pupil funding for FY 2014-2015.”  The state reduction has affected many areas such as funding textbooks (78% reduction from 2008-9 to 2014-15), and instructional supplies (53% reduction from 2008-9 to 2014-15).
Source:  http://www.witn.com/home/headlines/Report--279510312.html
To make matters worse, major federal education aid programs for states have also been drying up since the recession. For example, federal aid for K-12 education for schools with high proportions of low-income families decreased by 10% between 2010 and 2014. 


In Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, we are fortunate to have been able to supplement state and federal reductions with local funding (one of largest per pupil supplement in the state) but have likely reached the limit of local support.  

Given the direction of the NC legislature, we can anticipate that we continue to face revenue uncertainty in an environment where we see increasing needs to support our students (increased charter school enrollment and payments, increasing employment benefit costs, increasing needs for mental health and English language support, among others).

This environment requires that we think differently about how to fund education.  We will need to consider how to increase our tax base so that the residential base does not bear so much of the burden and consider long term sustainable revenue sources.

3.     How do you think poverty affects outcomes in K-12 education?
Living in poverty requires concentrated focus on basic survival needs like food, shelter and safety, leaving little energy or resources for other important needs like education.  Education can have a positive impact but the resources to obtain quality education are not always easily accessible to those in poverty. 

The effects of poverty can be far reaching.  A school could provide the best teachers and learning environment, but if a child or teacher comes to school hungry, or uncertain of where s/he will sleep that night or worried about a parent or spouse’s employment status, it will be much more difficult for quality learning to happen.  The largest gap to overcome in learning is the lack of vocabulary due to poverty.

One idea to address poverty in our community and improve school outcomes is to have a broader partnership with local community organizations to support families in areas such as preparation for employment opportunities, food security and affordable housing.

4.     How do experiences (such as international travel) outside the classroom affect K-12 education?
Learning is a function of exposure.  Exposure is broadened via introduction to other cultures, systems, and ideas, and international travel and similar experiences are important to the learning process.  Additionally, as our community continues to become more international and the world more globally interconnected, understanding other cultures is critical to success.

In Chapel Hill and Carrboro, we are fortunate to have a variety of cultures as part of our community.  We can strengthen our learning environment by creating opportunities to leverage this diversity and gain further benefits as we are able to travel internationally and learn more.

5.     What can CH-C schools do to improve race relations in the larger community?
·         Ensure that professional development includes equity training (Teacher, staff, administrator and community awareness of historic context must inform engagement with students.)
·         Ensure curriculum includes understanding of all cultures in our community
·         Address issues of disparate discipline among populations
·         Look for opportunities to engage within all populations.  More district and board member attending events and getting to know community members.  Not simply asking them to plug into broader events but seeking opportunities to learn and engage in other communities.

6.     Is the district doing enough to ensure the safety of students and faculty?  If not, what more would you advocate for as a school board member?
·         I’d like to see mental health professionals embedded into some of our schools.  This support should work to address issues that inhibit learning and increase safety outcomes for all community members.
·         Long term school level planning to avoid overcrowded schools
·         Physical structure of buildings needs to be addressed (Issues such as open campuses, mold and asbestos in buildings)

7.     What specific things would you advocate for to narrow the achievement gap?
Two paths of action:
              I.      In schools:
1.       Recruit, train (including understanding the context of historical disenfranchised students) and retain high quality teachers with high expectations of all students.  
2.       Focus on early childhood education.  Ensure early identification of issues that challenge the learning process.
3.       Pilot a year round school program.  Students need more time in the learning environment and reducing the gaps in instruction time would enable more learning.
4.       Focused action on issues that impact learning (e.g. reducing disproportionate punishments for some students (predominately people of color) that reduce available instruction time)
5.       Determine milestones that indicate success and review at least semi-annually with the board and community members

            II.      Outside the classroom:
Educational outcomes are highly affected by family engagement, economic resources and community engagement.  Within that context, there are key ideas that could improve results: 

Community engagement to support families – Harlem Children’s Zone model of a holistic approach to the community with ideas such as: 
a.       Affordable housing.  Children need safe, stable housing to learn effectively
b.       Providing employment opportunities with living wage
c.        Mentors who can provide exposure opportunities
d.       Reliable access to food and nutrition

The school board and the district can partner with community groups (like:  TABLE, Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate, Family Success Alliance, Parent University, etc.) to support these efforts.

8.     Have you ever been arrested?  No

9.     Please share a story about a teacher who made a difference in your K-12 educational experience and how that informs your view of public education today.
My mother is an educator and was my first teacher.  She homeschooled me and my nine siblings and being the oldest sibling, I was also involved in the teaching process.  I learned a lot about the importance of focusing on the individual learner, understanding individual motivation and the importance of understanding that individuals may reach different levels of learning at different times. 

When I went to public school in sixth grade, I was surprised to find a process that did not seem to appreciate the range of learning levels present in a classroom.  The teacher usually focused on the middle range so that many students felt disconnected from the instruction. 

What inspires me about public education is the potential we can achieve by reaching each student where they are and ensuring that they feel connected to the instruction and are sufficiently challenged. 

10.  Please provide the URL for your website to accompany this story.
http://www.dasiforschoolboard.com/


David Saussy

1. What did you read this summer? Mostly non-fiction, e.g. Bill Bryson’s “At Home: A Short History of Private Life”, and David McCullogh’s “The Wright Brothers”, along with books and blogs on trails, geology, flora and fauna of Utah’s Uintas mountains and California’s Sierra Nevada range in preparation for extended backpacking trips.
 
2. Please share your thoughts on funding for the CH-C schools over the last decade. While the Orange County BOCC and city and county residents have been very supportive of the schools, the economic challenges from the recent recession and the generally negative attitude towards public education from the state legislature have shortchanged the schools, and not provided adequate funding to attract and retain the best teachers, nor to adequately fund operational expenses. I also feel that funding has not allowed us to properly keep up with long range capital needs, so now we’re looking at huge expenses to update aging buildings.

3. How do you think poverty affects outcomes in K-12 education? Poverty has a negative impact on outcomes for K-12 students though inadequate nutrition, unstable housing and home life, lack of resources for building a foundation for learning prior to starting kindergarten and continuing learning outside of school.

4. How do experiences (such as international travel) outside the classroom affect K-12 education? Experiences outside of the classroom can provide a beneficial adjunct to traditional education. These can reasonably include field trips to museums, etc. so supplement what students are learning in art, science, and history. They could also include visits to or from local businesses to give students a better understanding of how things work. For better awareness of their impact in the community, visits to landfills, recycling centers, water treatment and sewage facilities would give students a better grasp of things they normally take for granted. International travel would be very broadening, especially in the context of cultural awareness, but is probably a bigger challenge to do in an equitable fashion given the costs.

5. What can CH-C schools do to improve race relations in the larger community? Ensure diversity in faculty and staff at every school. Ensure equitable treatment of all staff and students. Ensure that the curriculum provides an accurate description of race relations and the impact of race throughout the history of the US.

6. Is the district doing enough to ensure the safety of students and faculty? If not, what more would you advocate for as a board member? Within the constraints of the operating and especially the capital budget, yes, the district is doing the best it can. I would continue to advocate for sufficient capital funds to renovate and expand older buildings to provide for a safer environment through elimination of “trailers” and changing the older campus style buildings to limit access.

7. What specific things would you advocate for to narrow the achievement gap? Expand Pre-K opportunities to provide a better educational foundation for more at-risk youth.  Offer an option for year round education at least at the elementary level to reinforce learning and prevent the drop-off that often occurs during the long summer break.

8. Have you ever been arrested? No

9. Please share a story about a teacher who made a difference in your K-12 educational experience and how that informs your view of public education today. It’s hard to single one out, especially as it’s been nearly 40 years since I graduated, but I’ll focus on the two teachers (Ms. Riley and Ms. Lance) that I had in 5th and 6th grade. I remember being made aware that teachers weren’t adequately paid as both had second jobs to help meet expenses. I remember their hard work in providing differentiated learning to classes that included gifted students who needed more work to challenge them, and struggling students who needed additional help just to keep up. I remember them respecting every student regardless of their innate talents, and teaching us to do so as well.

10. Please provide the URL for your website to accompany this story. Saussyforschools.com


Gregg Gerdau
1. What did you read this summer?  The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch; Barefoot To Avalon by David Payne.
2. Please share your thoughts on funding for the CH-C schools over the last decade.  Personnel expenses, which are not entirely under the control of our School District, have not kept pace with national averages.  Capital expenses appear to have been inadequate.  Managing expense by deferring maintenance seems to have created an enormous burden.
3. How do you think poverty affects outcomes in K-12 education?  Poverty can contribute to student achievement gaps, readiness for school, increases in absenteeism, and developmental delays.  CHCCS  strives to provide an environment where student outcomes are not predetermined by any preset criteria and I will fully support that goal.
4. How do experiences (such as international travel) outside the classroom affect K-12 education?  For those students I know who have experienced international travel with their classmates, it has led to a much broader understanding of second languages as well as appreciation for different cultures.   I am fully in support of outside experiences when available to all.
5. What can CH-C schools do to improve race relations in the larger community? 
Given the concerns expressed by parents attending the September 26th Community Forum co-sponsored by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, CHCCS Multicultural Student Achievement Network, Organizing Against Racism, and the CHCCS PTA Council, we still have much to accomplish. 
The Board of Education must communicate more effectively with its constituents. I will work towards having more open dialogue opportunities for parents, children and teachers to collaborate with Board Members.  Better communication and engagement with all stakeholders in this process will substantially improve the strategies and tactics envisioned by the District. 
6. Is the district doing enough to ensure the safety of students and faculty? If not, what more would you advocate for as a board member?  We have many protections in place and they are adequate on many Levels.  There are some areas where we could improve, such as refining the policy guidance on bullying versus transgender aggression, and I will be an advocate for those improvements.
7. What specific things would you advocate for to narrow the achievement gap? 
I will advocate for a Pledge of Performance for all District employees to model their shared experiences of justice, fairness, recognition of every contribution and encouraging every student to develop to their full potential. 
Today’s students have communication and learning attributes significantly different than the generations who preceded them. It is crucial for effective teaching and learning that we improve teacher training resources for teachers to adapt to the most diverse generation of students we have ever had to educate. 
New policies much replace old, pervasive practices of “parent push out” to include parents and families on a shorter path to solving this old problem in our District.
8. Have you ever been arrested? No.
9. Please share a story about a teacher who made a difference in your K-12 educational experience and how that informs your view of public education today.  My high school industrial arts teacher challenged me to understand every aspect of mechanical drawing and design.  He gave me extra assignments when I completed the required work early and kept raising the level of complexity of the extra assignments.  Ultimately, I chose to study architectural design which led me to understand systems thinking.  Systems thinking gave me enormous advantage in my finance, business and technology career.  To this day, I think of all the lessons he taught me about systems relationships and how the best outcomes are functioning according to the best designs.
10. Please provide the URL for your website to accompany this story.  http://www.gerdau.org