Brenda Fairley-Ferebee, school board candidate, District 2

1. What uniquely qualifies you to serve as a member of the Board of Education?

I have integrity and compassion and therefore I do not fear standing up for what I believe is fair and equitable for all students and staff pursuant to policy of the school district and public school laws of this state. I have a great passion for all students receiving a sound quality education. If I have to make a new policy for the best interest of the well-being of students regardless of the controversy surrounding it, I am able to remain focused on the best interest of the child and not engage in political favors. I am very knowledgeable in the field of construction, law, planning, discoveries, map reading, knowing how to read engineer plans, insight of land mass development for use purpose of facility to the capacity for future growth of the district. I have a proven record of being an advocate of education. I have great knowledge in knowing how to read metes and bounds, I comprehend board policy and public school laws very well and do not mind standing behind what the law says I have to authority to do.

2. As the incumbent, what do you see as the No. 1 failing of the current school board in general? What would you do to try and correct that failing?

In 2011, we were faced with one of the worst challenges that I had witnessed as a board member at that time, for we had to lay off more than 220 teacher assistants due to having to return millions of dollars back to the state. That rift caused a great loss to our district, which we still have not bounced back from due to so many positions being taken away. The board voted unanimously to bring in all educational stakeholders that they might help navigate the process for the staff in an effort of making this transition easier on them.

3. Safety is always a concern for our schools, but more so after the killing of 17 people at a Florida school in February. What would you recommend to make our schools more safe?

I would make students a part of the safety conversation with their peers, thereby making them part of helping to develop a safe school plan for their school, which will help them to be leaders for tomorrow. I would seek drones and kiosk surveillance, especially with drones getting cheaper. Drone fleets can provide a 360-degree camera vision of the campus activity, and with it includes the microphone. Stationary campus Kiosks can provide additional 360-degree camera coverage, two-way communication and digital signal that sends alerts in times to prohibit anyone from getting close to the schools to cause damage.

I attended a workshop in Scotland County in March of this year at the EMS Communication Building, which was set up for search and rescue training using drones. Dr. Mabel Phiffer also shared with us about the need for drones on top of schools for school safety purposes and the effectiveness of having them on our schools. This discussion is being looked into by our legislative body and has already been assigned to a committee in our legislature for discussion. I would also hire extra school resource officers for every school instead of sharing an officer for so many schools in a day. In all my desire to safe guard our students, and have a parent committee from each community of that school giving them conversation and oversight in helping to secure our students, staff and schools.

4. Our local school system is one of two in North Carolina that allows the use of corporal punishment, resulting in an embarrassing statistic, that most children who are paddled in North Carolina are minority and from Robeson County. Do you favor its use? Why or why not?

I do not favor corporal punishment by anyone in our schools. I offered a motion in our April school board hearing to ban corporal punishment in our schools, but that motion failed due to the lack of eight votes to make it an action item. I think it needs to be removed because it is evident that it has created more behavior issues as well as distrust for students to student, and distrust from the teacher. Students must be in an atmosphere that is conducive to learning, not fear. Studies prove the use of it does more bad than good. Besides every school district in the state of North Carolina has banned it from their campus except Robeson and Graham County. Who will protect our children if we don’t? Perhaps the state of North Carolina will be willing to remove it from the schools since it is made more of a political move, instead of a safety move. The majority of the teachers and the social workers do not want it.

5. Our schools have been in short supply of textbooks in recent years, with some arguing that more books need to be purchased, and some saying that books become dated quickly, and arguing instead for greater use of E-books that stay current. What do you favor?

Students have acknowledged they do not use the textbooks for much of nothing, particularly in high schools due to them being dated, or not consistent with what they need to learn in an effort to pass the test given by the state. No child wants to be left behind, therefore I prefer the e-books.

6. Our school system ranks next to last in the state for local funding by the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, about $1,000 short of the state average. How would you work to overcome that?

I will continue to seek more funding from our county commissioners, grants and outside sources who are partners in education with us.

7. Our school board has a reputation for micromanagement, and not staying within its jurisdiction of being a policy maker and allowing administrators to implement that policy. Do you agree with that assessment? What would you see as your role as a board member?

A school board member is the policy maker of the school district. We are legally charged with the governing process of the entire school district, with the managing of it being the superintendent. We make policy that is consistent with the public school laws of the State of North Carolina, federal and local. We are held accountable for the daily operation of all the plant facilities and grounds upkeep in the entire District.

8. The school system is currently without a central office. There has been much conversation about the new one, where it might be located, and should an existing building be used or one built from the ground up. What are your thoughts?

I made the motion last year to build a new central office with the location being northwest of N.C. 711 West, across from Deep Branch Road in Lumberton, N.C.; as well as to find new land for a K-8 school in the Lumberton area, due to the Hurricane Matthew damages to the elementary schools in the area.

9. Our school system lags far behind those across the state in every education metric except the graduation rate. Do you think this is something that can be significantly improved, and if so, how would you work to achieve that?

The lack of assistant principals in our schools causes great heath issues to several principals due to the over-demand of needs at the school operational site. It is hard for a principal to monitor the daily operation of the curriculum program, due to the great need for discipline in the schools, bus details, required training to keep their credits, meetings from the central office level to go over board decisions, and/or unforeseen situation that may require more time than what they initially thought. I also believe not having enough computers for every student causes a hindrance to a child who has no computer at home and can only use the computer while at school, which may cause a child to distance themselves from participating in curriculum activities, and lose focus on learning, which could bring about other behavior issues.

10. Question to myself: Why are you running for re-election in the 2018 school board seat primary election?

I said last July I would not run re-election due to the dysfunction of the board and a few other things, except if deemed necessary. Three days prior to the filing closing it appeared that no one was going to file to run for the District 2 school board seat. I had spoken to so many people about filing to run but all turned me down due to the challenges that are before the board. Due to the economical state of our district from Hurricane Matthew I believe I am the most qualified candidate in District 2 for the issues we are facing at this current time. I have served on the Construction Committees. Policy, Grievance, Curriculum, as well as still helping to assist with needs of students/families damaged from the storm, actively involved in School Building Project of the district. I believe we are facing the greatest need for virtualization in all our schools, security and networking concerning the projects that are yet before us in the field of safety and moral. We must therefore empower our staff with the necessary resources to meet strategic goals and objectives that is set before them by the State and the Board of Education that they might be able to continually build confidence in the students.