Hilda McCullers contends that her 30+ years as a classroom teacher and being a lifelong resident of Eastern Wake make her the best choice to fill the vacancy on the Wake County school board.
In her application, McCullers, 63, writes about having lived all her life in eastern Wake, going from being a student in the district to later a teacher. The Democrat taught science from 1975 to 2006, the majority of the time at Broughton High School.
"I have seen this area transition from mostly rural farm land to a more urban area as the population increased," McCullers writes in the application for the District 1 seat. "This gives me firsthand knowledge of the changes and challenges in District 1 both as a a parent and as an educator.
Having had the privilege of teaching in three different schools in the county, has shown me regardless of location, students are capable of meeting expectations and will be successful, given equal access to the necessary material."
McCullers writes that there are three strategies that she believes will advance the board: eliminate the achievement gap by challenging students at all levels, recruit, train and retain high quality employees, and engage family and community members.
In terms of eliminating the achievement gap, she points to how she worked with fellow teachers to develop curricula in biological and physical sciences "for different learning styles and academic levels." She writes that they set about to challenge students, leading to the "light bulb moment" where "the student feels a sense of success and begins to take ownership in their learning."
McCullers says that at a county level they have a "wealth of resources to help students." She suggests tapping local colleges and universities and community groups for volunteers to serve as tutors with the best results coming from working with students on a one-on-one basis.
"It is our responsibility to find ways to intervene," she writes. "Goals must be set, feedback must be given, specific areas of improvement must be identified, and then a strategic plan of action established to accomplish that goal.
Students then have an opportunity to become proficient in areas of weakness. I have strong convictions that this is possible and necessary for the success of all students. I believe it can happen."
In terns of recruiting, training and retaining quality employees, she writes that while everyone at a school plays an important role in educating a child, the classroom teacher plays "the greatest role."
McCullers writes that teachers should be in a "welcoming, inviting and warm environment" where they "feel valued and know their concerns are heard." To accomplish this she stressed the need for support, such as what she did for 10 years mentoring novice teachers.
McCullers also writes about other forms of teacher support, including sending individual staff members to training sessions so the person can train the rest of the staff.
Without support, McCullers writes that "teachers are often left feeling frustrated which in turn negatively impacts the education of the student."
She also suggests each school have a support staff appreciation day.
In terns of engaging family and community members, McCullers writes that communication is the most important element.
"Automated phone calls work well, only if you have the correct phone number, which sometimes is not the case," McCullers writes. "We must make every effort to reach those who do not access to computers. Families should be informed about the use of the library and setting up e-mail accounts. Perhaps a volunteer or high school student would be able to extend training to persons who have limited knowledge of using computers."
Among her reference letters is one from her former principal at Broughton, Diane Payne, who had also unsuccessfully applied in 2009 for the District 6 board vacancy.
Payne writes that McCullers "will be a tremendous asset to the Wake County Board of Education." Payne points to McCullers' ability to help struggling students to succeed academically because of her belief all children can learn.
"As leaders of our county's education community, the Board serves students from a wide variety of backgrounds," Payne writes. "The quality that brought Hilda the respect of her students, their parents and her colleagues will help the School Board navigate tightening budgets, competing agendas and the range of personalities inherent in any community.
Hilda is not afraid to to make difficult decisions when necessary and will always do so from the perspective of what is best for the students of Wake County."