Meet the six candidates running for the CHCCS Education Council
Six community members are vying for seats on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board in the Nov. 2 election: George Griffin, Ryan Jackson, Riza Jenkins, Meredith Pruitt, Mike Sharp and Tim Sookram.
Three current board members did not seek re-election, leaving their seats open to newcomers.
Griffin has worked in education for over 40 years in roles such as a special education teacher, high school principal, and professor at NC Central University. He is currently working as an accreditor with AdvanceEd. He said serving on the school board would be a natural fit for him and that he hopes to give back to the public school system.
“Public education is literally the foundation of our democracy,” he said. “Public education has been under attack for decades now financially, politically, however you want to see it, and I want to help reverse that trend.”
If elected, he said he hopes to make sure each class has the right support for their needs. In addition, he hopes to work to fund school improvements, bridge the racial opportunity gap, and increase social and emotional learning. He also hopes to create more non-discriminatory climates to make schools safer for everyone.
Griffin is supported by Equality North Carolina.
Ryan C. jackson
Jackson has worked as a college educator and counselor. He stressed that he was not a politician but only focused on the desirability of giving children opportunities. He said he noticed a disparity between educational and extracurricular opportunities in schools, which led him to participate in this race.
“I want to be elected to represent all those people who feel they haven’t made their voices heard and return the board to the community,” he said.
Jackson hopes to prioritize community representation on the board and building better basic education in schools. He also said he plans to redefine educational success within the school system and expand its definition beyond the GPA within the school system.
Jenkins is the daughter of two teachers and the mother of three from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School District. She said education has long been important to her family.
“Education really has an impact on long term results in life,” Jenkins said.
She describes how seeing the importance of education throughout her life and volunteering with various school improvement committees motivated her to run.
Jenkins said she finds some existing policies with fiscal discipline and clarity problematic, and she hopes to address them. It also aims to focus on each student meeting their needs within the diverse community.
Pruitt comes from a long experience working in education and is a first generation student.
She is currently Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at UNC Health and was instrumental in introducing the statewide Higher Expectations plan and the myFutureNC commission. She also worked as a senior advisor to the US Secretary of Education before moving from Washington, DC to North Carolina.
“I believe education can be the great equalizer in our country, and this is my opportunity to give it to the next,” said Pruitt.
Pruitt said she was concerned about the district’s test scores and would work to bring students up to reading level if elected. She said she wanted the district to teach students “how to think, not what to think” by focusing on foundational skills and fully face-to-face learning.
Her hope for the district is that they can become strategic and transparent by listening and acting on the needs of the community.
Sharp has worked with CHCCS since 2002 and has taught elementary and high school students. He believes his time as an educator will help him contribute from first-hand experiences.
“I’ve seen a lot of things change and happen, and I’ve seen a lot of things that need to change,” he said. “I feel like I have a good unique perspective on this as a teacher and working on the front line. “
Sharp plans to fill the gap in opportunities within the district with racial equity training for teachers. If elected, he is also in favor of removing school resource officers to help dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. Sharp said training teachers in “restorative practices” is a better method.
Sookram said he was a “frustrated parent” of the district and is currently part of his school improvement team. He said he hopes to bring more transparency and communication to the school board if elected. Sookram’s frustration with the board stems from slow responses and a lack of clarity on things like COVID-19 protocols.
“They are always trying to catch up,” he said, referring to the current board. “They don’t make good long-term decisions. ”
Sookram hopes to rethink school entry requirements, provide more equity through pre-K programs, and implement sustainability practices in schools. However, he mainly hopes to allow more input from experts in the community, including teachers, before making decisions.
Registration for municipal elections to decide who will sit on council ends Friday, October 8.
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