August 29, 2011

UNC-TV Voter’s Guide questionnaire

By James Barrett

Name: James Barrett
*Daytime Phone:  919-593-0592
*Email Address:
County:  Orange
Office Sought: Chapel Hill/Carrboro City Schools Board of Education
Campaign Website:

Candidate Biography (300 words maximum):

I’ve lived in Chapel Hill for most of the past 34 years, attending CHCCS schools from 1977-1987.  I work at IBM, managing software developers.  I was a founding member of the strategy and education teams of Orange County Justice United, an organization of 25 churches working for social justice.  I volunteer each week in my children’s schools, primarily tutoring in math to a cross-section of elementary students.  I coach rec-league baseball and basketball year-round.

My work at Justice United, which has brought meaningful change to our local governments for improved social justice, is the prime example of how I will bring change for the common good to solve problems that we know exist in our schools.  Through Justice United, I spent considerable time listening to stories of parents across the district (and continue to seek those out as a candidate), as well as effectively advocating for meaningful change with all of our local governmental bodies.  I have built relationships with local town council and board of aldermen members as well as the county commissioners–relationships that will serve me well, as the school board needs to work with those bodies better.

My background as a parent and child of our schools gives me a deep understanding of the district’s values and goals.  While the district needs some changes to better meet the needs of all students, we must do so in alignment with what has made this a great district thus far.

And my professional experience at IBM has prepared me to analyze data about issues and implement policies to motivate our employees toward common goals.  We have much data about how our schools are performing, and decisions the board makes can have unintended consequences if we’re not careful about what data we’re looking at and how we use it.

Candidate Statement (300 words maximum):

The top issues facing our district are:
1) Achievement Gap: We have for too long said this is a priority without actually making changes that will close it. I will push for real progress using creative, proven solutions.  We have teachers who are already doing great things here – as a board, we need to encourage the good things they are doing and make sure we are replicating across the district.
2) Budget: We have significant resources, but it is not clear that we spend our money where it is most effective.  I will work for greater transparency in our budget process so we can prove that we are investing appropriately to meet our goals.
3) Success of every child: The district must focus on giving every child a great education. I will work for ensuring excellent instruction in every classroom, having the entire district be responsive to parents, and using technology creatively and wisely to meet each child’s needs.
Our new superintendent is saying all the right things about moving our schools forward.  We need strong leaders on the board who can help him engage the community for support, ensure that he is focused on Chapel Hill/Carrboro values, and ensure that goals are actually met and policies are followed through in each and every classroom.
As a former math major, I find this to be a very exciting time to be involved in education in our country, as the use of data to analyze what schools are doing well and where they need to improve is rapidly increasing.  Our district has opportunities to be a leader in this area, and I look forward to being a part of ensuring that we are looking at the right data and using it to make great decisions for all of our students.

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