Questions from Chinese School of Chapel Hill parents for 11/2 forum

1. What are the top 3 issues you would like the district administration to improve for the short term and the long term, respectively?
* To follow through on focusing on growth for every child: well more than a year’s worth of learning progress for our students who are behind, and at least a year’s worth for our students who are on-track or ahead. Our students—each one—deserve nothing less.
* To fix the issues of inconsistency in instruction across our schools
* To fix the issues around communication between parents and the district

2. What are your metrics to assess, direct and incentivize the administration and schools?
The one that schools should have control over and that we need to use more extensively is growth. As a board, we should expect that 100% of our students are growing a full year’s worth every year, with more than that for students who are behind in order to meet our other goals such as closing achievement gaps. This is what parents expect–that, regardless of where a student starts, schools have done their part to move a student ahead during the course of a year. If we focus on this above all else, I believe our teachers will understand and be able to address the needs of all students much better.

3. What should the school district do to advance achievements of ALL students? When allocating limited financial and other resources, how do we ensure that not only struggling students, but also average and advanced students have their fair share and opportunity to advance?
One really interesting thing Dr. Focella has brought to our district is the concept of an innovation team, which will look at suggestions for new ways of doing things in our district and make sure that if they are successful, we replicate those activities throughout the district. This gives us a process to try new ways and see success for all students in more than single classrooms. This question is also where exciting technology solutions may play a role — students can receive much more personalized instruction and use of time through specific technology if done very well and consistently.

4. If budget constraint demands downsizing or eliminating some programs, what is the direction you would give to the district administration? What kind of programs do you strongly support to keep, and what do you have to downsize or cut?
In the two years I’ve been on the board, I think we have been clear to the administration that we need to focus on improved instruction for every student above all else in our budgeting. This has meant investments in some places, such as using the Institute for Learning to bring us the principles of learning that will improve our instruction across the board when every teacher is practicing them. Doing better teaching with fewer teachers may be a trade-off we have to make in the future.

5. What do you like or not like about the 2013 redistricting? Is there anything you will do to improve the process?
I liked that the board shares a common set of goals — balanced schools are the best environment for all of our students and are a keystone in the public education system. I didn’t like the process we used, especially around how the board received public input and did or didn’t incorporate it into the final solution. I voted against the process in the fall of 2012 for this specific reason, and I am hopeful that going forward, more board members agree with me and we tweak the process to be able to reflect the input of all stakeholders. I also don’t think we did a good job sharing public information with the public — the tool and/or the data associated with segments could have been better used to get a more optimal result.

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