Interview Questions from News Topic

The Budget – In December, auditors warned that the school system’s spending would need to be cut dramatically in order to prevent depleting the system’s reserve funds within the next two years. The current budget reduced the amount of appropriated fund balance by $1.5 million, due in large part to the decision to close Oak Hill School. But the superintendent has said that there is still work to be done, enrollment has continued to decline over the past decade, and the coronavirus has created new variables and new expenses. What will your budget priorities be as a member of the school board, and how will you work to keep the school system from relying on its fund balance?

Sarah’s Response – The budget priority I am most focused on is balancing the budget, while retaining teachers and quality instruction methods. Lobbying the General Assembly to comply with Leandro should also be a priority. We have to ensure that our liabilities do not exceed the cash we have on hand. We can no longer let the fund balance be the “big eraser” to all of our problems, each time a new one pops up. In fact, we need to gather with our county leaders, commissioners, state reps, etc. and look at what has occurred over the last ten years. Then we have to seriously start looking five, ten years out, and prepare for every worst-case scenario and possibility BEFORE it happens! We must look at each purchase and ask at least three questions; What is our financial benefit, the impact on student achievement, and the certainty of gain relative to implementation complexity?

Question #2 – Access to the internet and computer literacy have proven to be important skills, especially because of the importance now placed on remote learning. When do you think children should begin learning how to use the internet and working with technology? What is technology’s role in the classroom?

Sarah’s Response – Like anything else, technology is a tool. We can not get so focused on just the technology that we forget our core purpose — Learning. It’s like architecture. The form follows function. So as long as the form is age-appropriate and improves learning, we should undoubtedly utilize it. But, at this moment, no one of us can speak as to what our “New Normal” will look like except to say we most definitely won’t be returning to all of our old ways of doing things. We should use what we learn during the coronavirus to employ solid best practices across the board, moving forward. We can help our teachers succeed by providing them with the necessary professional development and training to deliver content online in age-appropriate ways and provide the training and tools to most effectively use technology. Our students will face new challenges, but with support from the District, they will succeed. Regular and consistent synchronous classes, one-on-one interactions with teachers, and additional educational support as needed will keep our students on the path to success. Like it or not, technology is a part of our lives. K-5 Teachers particularly faced a struggle with implementing remote learning for their students. Integrating technology into the classroom is an effective way to connect with students of all learning styles.

Question #3 – What is the role of caregivers in the education system and how will you work as a school board member to make sure that decisions are made that take parents’ and guardians’ concerns into account?

Sarah’s Response – As a mother of two children myself, let me start by saying that parents and caregivers are the first teachers a child has. The role of
(parents’/guardians’) should play a substantial role. I wholeheartedly believe that if we can take a real assessment of the concerns of caregivers and educators, then we can then have a more constructive conversation about what CCS needs to be doing now, whether face-to-face or virtually. We can make smarter decisions about the role of schools when the pandemic is under control. Parents understand their children and their needs very well, but teachers are often spending just as much time with the children, only in a different environment. There must be a dedicated, genuine partnership based on solid mutual trust with complete transparency and accountability. Caldwell County’s parents’/caregivers’ should have input and be genuinely listened to, and our CCS educators should be respected for their expertise and experience. As a school board member, the best way to get parental involvement is starting with full School Board transparency, and I want to ensure that. Suppose we never deviate from our core cause, which is our children and students, and we are making decisions based on our children’s best interests. In that case, we will, by default, be making decisions in the best interest of the whole family here in Caldwell County. Being a parent of children in CCS and having many close friends who work in education, I have come to feel that parental involvement equals better behavior, attendance, and grades. Successful parent involvement has parents participating in the education process, having an ongoing and open discussion between the caregiver and the schools. Caregiver involvement comes with access to resources, engaging parents, and soliciting their feedback. The school district’s energy doesn’t travel from the faculty/staff up; it flows down from the board and administrators. The board sets the tone on what type of culture the school will operate. It must be a positive and energetic culture. I believe that I could be part of the positive change that is so desperately needed. As parents, we are the strongest advocates that our children have. Now is the time for me to advocate for my children and all of the children in Caldwell County.

Question #4 – North Carolina is currently participating in the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority program, a pilot program to explore alternatives to end-of-year testing and give school systems and state legislatures more involvement in developing new testing practices. Are standardized tests still a fair and effective way to measure student success? If so, why? If not, what alternative methods would you propose?

Sarah’s Response I don’t believe that Standardized tests have proven beneficial, at least in how North Carolina has administered them. Twenty-five years ago, North Carolina launched the ABC’s of education. A = accountability, B = teaching the basics, and C= local control. Well, testing has been all about accountability. The heavy-handed approach out of Raleigh in the administration of the tests has not only undermined teachers, but made students more concerned about testing, rather than enjoying learning. I wholeheartedly believe that it’s past time to have local control by trusting our teachers to assess the children they are entrusted to teach.