I am…

–a father of two children who went through public schools (one is at Carolina now) over the past 13 years

–a son of a mother who taught preschool and high school for 30+ years

–a husband of an education editor

–a leader at work of extremely large projects and teams who is always looking to drive change that will improve business functions, while successfully managing the systemic change in a positive manner

–a person of faith whose Gospel tells me to do good “unto the least of these.” What better way is there to make this happen than through our schools?

–a school board member for eight years, working hard on public education policy while listening to teachers and driving change for the values we believe in

–a 10th-generation North Carolinian, committed to all the people of our great state

–a manager in a high-tech field seeing what good jobs can look like throughout North Carolina

–a leader who believes my job is to provide resources (including good policy and adequate pay) and then get out of the way to let the people who know the work best to do their thing.

–and I was a community organizer, trained to use relational power to bring positive change in our society.

I hope you see how these disparate pieces form a strong whole for leading the Department of Public Instruction in North Carolina–leadership that would bring back respect for teachers, advocate for public schools, and drive changes we need to benefit all of our state’s students.

If you have any questions or ideas to share, please reach out. My “door” is always open for teachers and students in particular, but also any others who want to improve our schools. Give me a call at 919-590-5754 anytime.



This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Melinda Zarate

    I am a retired tech and teacher assistant. In my opinion, our public schools now have too few teacher assistants in our classrooms to assist our hardworking teachers in helping our students not only achieve academically but also in keeping our students healthy and safe. Teacher assistants carry out a variety of needed duties within our public schools. Many teacher assistants have college degrees or are working towards becoming teachers. However, the pay for teacher assistants is extremely low for the level of education required and the many duties they perform. Many school systems have cut TA work days and hours in order to keep them in the schools with the funding they are receiving from the state. According to NCDPI statistics, there were 21,521 employees classified as teacher assistants working in the 2017-2018 school year. There were 30,008 in 2008-2009. What is your opinion of teacher assistants and the work they do? What would your reply be if someone said that keeping teacher assistants in our schools is akin to a store stocking word processors in the computer age? Will you support an increase in hiring and pay of teacher assistants? Will you fight to keep them in our public schools? Are you aware that there is research being done right here in NC that indicates that teacher assistants do make a positive difference in school attendance and test scores, especially among minority students? (Our current majority leaders like to point to The S.T.A.R. Study from Tennessee, a study done in the 1980’s, as justification for cutting teacher assistants.)

    1. James

      I have a very clear position TAs – I fully support them. This can be evidenced by the fact that Chapel Hill-Carrboro prioritizes them in our local funds (which I understand no other district has the capability to do; I just share here for illustration purposes of my value for TAs in multiple budgets I have approved) to the tune of 112 TAs, while the state provides us 107. Yes, the state should restore funding for these positions. Yes, we should increase pay — first step would be to include all school employees in the $15/hour minimum that other state employees receive. And I know that my kids benefited from TAs who had college degrees in a different way than they benefited from others. All TAs provide love and support for our students and respite for our teachers. But the ability to have multiple groups of learning going on at once is only increased when the TA has ability to be another educator in the room. They should be paid and recognized for that service, too.

      1. Melinda K. Zarate

        Thank you for your support of teacher assistants! I work for the North Carolina Association of Teacher Assistants (NCATA) as their Executive Director. I have a passion for our profession and will continue to advocate on our behalf. Once a TA always a TA for me! I appreciate that you understand the important role that a TA can provide in the classroom! So many changes in the profession have come about in the last several years with cuts in positions as well as the added difficulty in finding school bus drivers. Many systems now require TAs to have a CDL, which is fine if a person has that skill set. However, my concern is that we are losing TAs in our systems who have experience and knowledge but due to the CDL requirement are now leaving or retiring. It is a shame. Again, thank you for your support and I look forward to reading more of your thoughts and plans for our public education system.

Leave a Reply