Peggy Wilkins Chavis, school board candidate, District 3

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

I believe I am the most qualified for the school board because I have supported the school system and served in various capacities. In addition to having served as a board member, I bring my experience as an educator and as a parent. I am focused on improving the education of our children, I am dependable and a team player, as it takes all of us working together to make progress.

I am prepared to work with fellow board members to create a school system in which we can be proud. For this reason, school board District 3 should be held by someone who can make positive, sustainable change. We know change must be made, doing what we have always done, will only get us the same results and our children deserve better. I am committed to doing better and have already taken steps that will continue movement in an upward trajectory.

As a board member, I helped in relocating the students at West Lumberton to the campus of Lumberton Jr. High, as well as relocating the central office to Native Angels. During my tenure, I was instrumental in the hiring of our first African American female superintendent. I am a proponent of textbooks and secured math books for all K-8 students this year. In addition, for the first time, we allotted high schools Title I funding to support the purchase of supplemental materials.

We are moving forward and gaining momentum. A change in District 3 would mean starting over and going in the wrong direction.

2. As an incumbent, what do you point to as major successes of the board, and what role did you have in them?

As a current member of the school board, there are problems that need to be addressed, and I know that given the opportunity, we can continue our work to improve the education of our students, thus leading to a more successful future. It is clear that some board members have personal agendas and those personal agendas become obstacles when trying to move the district forward. I believe we should allow those who have the expertise do what needs to be done and not add to their workload. Our responsibility as a board member is to set policy and leave the daily operations of the system to the professional educators who have been hired to do the work.

While board members’ responsibilities and personal agendas are worthy of concern, there is clearly an issue with equity across the district. All schools are unique and require varying levels of support, different resources, various personnel and funding to support the needs of the school. For example, at some of our schools we are having a difficult time recruiting and retaining qualified teachers. Part of our difficulty is that we are competing with the sign-on bonuses from other surrounding districts. During the 2017-2018 school year, we implemented a $1,000 sign-on bonus for teachers in critical areas. This was another step forward in challenging status quo.

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?

The situation that occurred in Florida was horrific and the reaction from across the country varied. We heard everything from increasing the number of police officers in schools, having metal detectors at every entrance, to even arming teachers in the classroom. I’m sure we can all agree, the safety of our students and staff is a priority. We must do all that we can to prevent a similar event and we can do so by channeling our efforts in becoming proactive, instead of reactive.

Our schools are a direct reflection of the larger community and our students come to us with unmet needs that must be addressed before they can learn. So, if there is crime, drugs, theft and murder in the larger community, we know that the children who enter our doors every day are exposed to these things. This requires us to take a much broader approach to reach the “whole” child, not just academically, but physically and emotionally.

This issue is much bigger than Robeson County, and requires the school board to go outside the school system to rally support from local, state and federal agencies to provide support through preventative measures. We are working to do a better job at securing our buildings so our students and staff are safe.

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?

There is a great deal of research on corporal punishment and while more recent research indicates its negative impact, there are parents in our community who support the use of corporal punishment with their children. In reviewing the PSRC discipline data, there are just a few schools that utilize this form of punishment, but only with the permission of the parent and it is prone to occur in specific areas of the county. If I believe or not believe in corporal punishment isn’t important, what is important is getting feedback from parent to determine how to proceed in the coming months.

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?

As a board, we have had many conversations about the purchase of textbooks. While I am a proponent of textbooks, I also recognize that students growing up today are very different than when I was growing up and of course funding the purchase of textbooks is an astronomical purchase, one in which we are currently unable to make. In observing

what other school districts are doing, there is a host of alternative options being utilized. If we selected on-line textbooks, would our student have access to the information at home, where there might not have internet? With that in mind, I believe we should consider all of our options and use what funding we do have wisely. We have access to books through devices, but I worry that not all of our students will have access to the internet and will be unable to access the information as we continue to look for alternative options,

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?

At one board meeting, community members representing various businesses expressed their concern with the board and student outcomes. They went on to say that one reason companies were not willing to relocate in Robeson County was because of the school system. While we accept responsibility to do better, we must all come together to support the funding of public education locally. It is unacceptable that we are at the bottom, when we know the importance of providing our children an education that will prepare them for what comes next. I will continue to do more to seek the support of the county commissioners to develop a plan on how to improve funding for our students’ education.

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

As a sitting board member, I can only speak for myself and I believe we certainly have room to improve, but I also believe personally, I have grown as a board member to find my place on the board. There are some on the board who bring with them a person agenda, which, as I mentioned previously, causes additional problems that get in the way of progress. Everyone should be heading in the same direction, all decisions should be made to support that direction and as board members, we should develop policy to support those efforts.

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?

During a school board meeting, we voted to move forward with purchasing property to build a new central office, but there was a power play made by the county commissioners to purchase Native Angels Exchange. This decision was made after the county commissioners were told, both in writing and verbally, that the purchase of the Native Angels Exchange building was not the direction in which the Board of Education was heading. I am currently open to all options that will be both cost effective and a location that will be large enough to house all of those located in the central office. We currently have central office employees scattered and need them to be in close proximity.

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?

We face a number of challenges in Robeson County, both in education and within the community. Educationally, there are issues with unfunded mandates, recruiting and retaining qualified teachers, lack of funding for capital improvements, along with poverty. If re-elected, my focus will be to increase student outcomes through the improvement of instructional practices, increase graduation rates, increase student and staff attendance and decrease discipline issues that get in the way of student learning.

I have lived here my entire life and there is one thing I know for sure, that our students have the ability to learn, just like other children across the state. I also know that we have good teachers, staff and administrators who do not go to work every day, to be known as low performing. If I get the opportunity to represent District 3, I will do everything I can to support the superintendent in a way that will allow her and her staff to get the job done. I have learned a great deal and I am committed to doing better.

Ask yourself a question and answer it.

Wilkins Chavis did not.

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