We asked candidates for state and local office to tell us about their views on public education. Here are their answers.
Our Schools First sent a survey to every candidate for state legislature, Iredell County Commission, and Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education. OS1 does not endorse or recommend candidates in the 2018 Election–we simply wanted to provide the following information to help guide voters in their decision.
Republican, incumbent Board Member and Chair
Qualifications and Experience
I am a 38-year teaching veteran; 31 of those years here at Iredell-Statesville Schools. I coached several sports at Statesville High School, including boys varsity basketball. I have taught Automotive Technology at Statesville High School, North Iredell High School, South Iredell High School, Lake Norman High School, and the Career Academy and Technical School. Over the years I have been involved with the Troutman Youth Athletic Association, Stumpy Creek Babe Ruth, North Piedmont Babe Ruth Association, and the Lake Norman Youth Athletic Conference. In 2003, I was one of the founders of the Lakeshore Youth Athletic Association. I was elected to the BOE in 2014 and have been Chairman for the past two years.
I was born in Wilson, a small town in eastern North Carolina. I started my teaching career at Northern Nash High School in Rocky Mount NC. I have been married to Debra Rosser Page for 31 years. She is a National Board Certified English Teacher retired from Mooresville High School. We have two children Dylan and Dane. Dylan is a food scientist living in Missouri with a Masters from N.C. State. Dane is a graduate from Appalachian State. Dane is a music teacher and a singer-songwriter in Charlotte. We are active members of Rocky Mount Methodist Church.
1. Do you believe that all children in Iredell County, regardless of where they live, are entitled to the same quality of education?
Yes. I have been lucky to have been able to teach in so many different high schools in the system. Not many systems have the diversity that we find in Iredell-Statesville Schools. Fair and consistent educational opportunities are very important, no matter where a child lives or what type environment in which they are being raised.
2. Do you think that all children in Iredell County are currently receiving the same quality of education?
I think we are close, but we will never will have total equality. We do not live in a perfect world. I do think ISS is doing a very good job in trying to make opportunities equal. We have 36 schools and about 1,500 teachers. Some schools and teachers are performing better than others, but that experience also varies for each individual student. I do believe ISS does a good job of trying to provide many types of educational opportunities to meet students’ unique interests. One thing I have learned is equal is not always fair and fair is not always equal.
3. Do you think that the level of funding for public schools in North Carolina is adequate? If not, do you think it’s the County’s or the State’s responsibility to increase public education funding?
If we had total control over the money and no mandates from the State and Federal Government on how it must be spent, we might have enough money. ISS is in a Catch 22 by being a high wealth, tier 3 system and having a very low county tax rate. ISS is always one of the lowest funded systems in North Carolina, so we do struggle in providing everything we would like to provide. However, ISS does an outstanding job of providing a top performing school system at a very reasonable cost to the citizens.
I would like to see the State equalize funding, but most importantly, it needs to give school systems more control over how they spend the money, much like they allow charter schools. I would like to see a little more money from the county, but most importantly, we need a set method for calculating school current expense funding so we know what we can budget for.
4. Do you support the proposed Iredell County ¼ cent sales tax increase on the November 6, 2018 ballot?
Yes. A sales tax is by far the fairest way to increase funding since it is spread among all citizens and visitors to Iredell County. Without the sales tax (which is only 25 cents per $100 spent, excluding groceries, fuel, farming supplies, and prescriptions), unless our county commissioners increase property tax, ISS will not be able to provide the safety, security, and student well-being that our students deserve. We are already spending a lot of money that we would like to spend on improving educational opportunities on these security-related services.
5. If you do support the proposed sales tax increase, do you believe that the local School Boards are best equipped to decide how to use additional sales tax revenue for our schools? If not, who is best equipped to make these decisions?
I do think the school system has the best knowledge of the its overall needs in these areas. I think any good response has to be a team effort. I think the school system must lean on the expertise of many. Law enforcement has to be the co-captain of of the team. Mental health experts, school security experts, nurses, and social media monitoring experts must also all play important roles in the overall safety and security plan. However, implementation of the safety and security plan for our wide variety of school environments should be under the school system’s control.
6. Are you aware of the recent North Carolina School Report Card which graded all schools in the Iredell County?
Yes. I have many questions about the validity of any tests that judge performance of students, teachers, or schools on a single day using a single test. However, this method is how the state “grades” our system, so we have to try to do the best we can. I do feel student growth should be 50% (now 20%) of the total report card score, along with the actual test scores.
7. Do you think that North Carolina School Report Card grades impact economic development in our County and the ability to attract employers that offer high-quality jobs?
To a degree, a well-trained workforce and quality schools are always important to economic investors. We are lucky in Iredell County to have two high performing school systems and a good community college. With the new workforce development push by the county’s government and schools, I expect an even better outlook for employment opportunities.
8. Why do you think that some schools in the Iredell-Statesville School District have met academic growth expectations, while others show zero, or in some cases, even negative growth?
If we really knew and understood that answer, we wouldn’t have the problem. Children are the most enigmatic and inconsistent raw material that one could ever work with.
I must also question the accuracy of the EVOS data, which was was just ruled illegal by the courts in Texas as a method for evaluation. Again, since this data is the basis North Carolina’s school evaluation, we have to deal with the results.
Another issue is the shortage of highly qualified teachers and the competition with better financed surrounding systems which offer more money. We find ourselves sometimes struggling to get the best teachers. This is especially true at some of our low performing schools. We are already looking at adding signing bonuses and stipends for some of our hard to fill positions, but again, that solution takes money.
Our Curriculum and Instruction Department reviews massive amounts of growth data on students and teachers. They are very proactive in providing additional help to both schools and teachers who are not showing adequate growth. We are always looking for any and all ways of improving overall scores but also most importantly, students’ learning and preparation for their future success.