School board candidates discuss Common Core, teacher morale

May. 03, 2014 @ 12:37 PM

Six people are competing for the four seats available on the Orange County Board of Education.

Incumbents Donna Coffey and Brenda Stephens want to continue their service on the board while Greg Andrews, Tom Carr, Michael H. Hood and Rosa D. Williams want the opportunity to serve. Current board members Debbie Piscitelli and Anne Medenblik are not seeking another term.
Carr believes that teacher morale is the biggest issue facing the district. He said that he recently retired after 30 years with the district and has never seen morale so low.
“As teacher requirements increase, their salaries remain stagnant,” Carr said. “Besides pay increases, there are some things OCS can do to lift morale -- require less local testing, give teachers more input in major decisions that affect their classrooms and OCS needs to stop jumping on every new program that hits the market ... and allow teachers to be more creative.”
In strong opposition to Common Core, Carr advocates for the state to develop its own educational objectives with teacher input.
“I know what teachers are struggling with day-to-day. I strive to be a teacher advocate doing all I can to ease the stresses on them,” he said. “When teacher morale improves, the students benefit.”
Coffey agreed that low teacher morale is a concern and that despite the negativity from state lawmakers toward public education, she is happy to “live in a community that has a strong tradition of supporting public education.”
“Contrary to the majority sentiment in our current legislature, I believe that public education in North Carolina is a jewel, and I know that Orange County Schools are among the best schools in our state and our nation,” she said. “In short, law/policy-makers, educators, parents and communities must put students first instead of holding their education and future in abeyance for the sake of partisanship.”
When it comes to Common Core Standards, Coffey said that it can benefit a more mobile society but “we need to refrain from finding ourselves so standards- and test-driven …”
Stephens is seeking re-election with her fellow incumbent and wants to “be a part of the process that will make a difference for our young people.”
“Each student in our district is a key holder to the future of success and growth in Orange County,” Stephens said. “My years as a school volunteer and my terms on the Board of Education are reflections of my genuine commitment to our school district.”
Stephens wants to do what she can as a board member to support teachers and advocate on their behalf while ensuring a quality education to students.
Andrews said that a common-sense approach is what’s needed to address the concerns facing the district and that school decisions should be local decisions.
“I want to bring a certain common-sense value to the Orange County school board and, simply said, listen to the people,” he said. “I think Common Core started with a good idea but like some good ideas, politics got involved and when it was meant to keep all kids to a certain standard, the decision-makers lost sight of the diversity between some of the city schools and rural schools.”
Williams wants to bring her business and civic experience to the board as she advocates for teachers and district personnel and voicing the concerns of others.
According to her website, Williams said she will “work diligently to provide that support, foster positive change in our schools, and focus on policies, practices and procedures that support teaching, leading, and learning.
“The timing is right for me and I look forward to making a difference as a member of the Orange County school board,” she said.
Hood said he is committed to zero-based budgeting where departments have to justify expenditures to ensure continued funding, improving third grade reading performance and the even application of board policies and procedures.
On his website, Hood said that as “a longtime resident of Orange County, we must ensure that all students in our system receive the best possible education to guarantee their success in our 21st century global economy.”