Time to focus on family, business
Regarding my decision not to seek re-election: After evaluating the needs of our family and small business efforts against the heavy demands of public service, we decided it would be best if I refocused my efforts during the next few years.
Growing up the oldest of six in a poor family that lived in low-income housing and bounced from town to town, I never had a sense of community and roots. Through education, hard work and God’s grace, I worked my way up and out. I dedicated my life to helping children like me through my career and public service. We proudly made Wake County our home to establish those roots. I adore the great people and have been humbled by their support.
In 2009, with our schools facing academic decline and losing hundreds of teachers, I wanted to make a difference. Many thought it unreasonable to expect a high-quality education for all children, to think that a child’s demography should not define academic ability or to give families a choice in where children went to school. In hindsight, I would not be worth my salt if I did not say I could have done a few things differently. But our focus was right, and I remain committed to these core beliefs.
Despite the political turmoil and media frenzy, graduation rates are up, gaps have narrowed and suspensions are down. Schools are safer. Volunteerism is at an all-time high. Teacher retention is up. Thousands of additional students (mostly low-income and minority) are on advanced tracks due to our Algebra 1 initiative.
In my district, few schools were above proficiency in 2009; today, only a few schools are not. We introduced more academic offerings, including STEM schools. More students attend schools closer to home, reassignments have been virtually nonexistent over the past three years and families have greater options and a voice in their child’s education.
We turned the attention away from a child’s demographics and toward academic success. Regardless of assignment, we have cast a focus on the individual child that can’t be taken away. Today, our schools are better than they were in 2009, even if the public image of our board is not. We cannot let our schools slip back into a quiet complacency with greater care given to the image of the overall system than to the needs of each child.
Despite these gains, much disparity in program access and critical resources still exists. We have many facilities listed in the upcoming bond referendum that house thousands of children each day and have worn past their life cycles and need critical updates.
I want to thank our employees, volunteers and families who make our schools better. I thank all of my colleagues, both current and past, on the board. I remain committed to serving the children and families of North Carolina. I will always be a friend willing to serve whenever called upon.
The writer is a member of the Wake County Board of Education. The length limit was waived.