Here's a recap of the interviews today that Lois Nixon and Jim Pomeranz went through for the Wake County school board District 9 vacancy.
Nixon repeatedly said she's be an independent, nonpartisan board member. Nixon mentioned having run unsuccessfully for the seat in 2009.
Nixon said she decided to stay involved after the election because she's committed to the schools. She said she's attended 90 percent of the board meetings since then to learn as much as she can.
She also said she volunteers in schools two days a week.
Nixon said education is a universal value and a non-partisan one. She also said she's been an independent voter all her life.
Nixon said her top priority would be on attaining the highest achievement possible in the most cost-effective manner. She said achievement should drive all their discussions on the board.
Harkening back to the 95 percent achievement goal set in 1998, Nixon said they should set a stretch achievement goal to get everyone's attention.
Nixon said they should build on what makes Wake County great. She said the 2009 school board elections were about status quo vs. change and status quo lost.
But Nixon said they need both to keep what's good and to also look to where changes are needed.
Nixon said they also need to find a better way.
"I’m independent and represent the best non-partisan choice of this non-partisan board," Nixon said, adding she has no plans to make the position a stepping stone.
In terms of the achievement gap, Nixon reiterated that achievement should drive every decision. She said she also believes in smaller classes, pre-K programs and graduation coaches.
Budgetwise, NIxon said they need to make a good budget case for more money. But she said people don't realize Wake is in the top 25 percent academically in the state while in the bottom 10 percent of funding.
Rather than fund construction of new charter schools, Nixon said they should first look to fill underenrolled schools.
She also said they need to have a more formalized volunteer recruitment effort and program to bring in more people to work with students. She said this would help save money.
In terms of supporting teachers, while money is important, Nixon said another way they can help is to stop asking for waivers for larger class sizes. She said they also need to cheer the successes of teachers.
Nixon didn't touch on diversity when speaking on assignment. She said reassignment is driven by growth and that they need to explain that to parents.
"We must move the students to where we have the schools," Nixon said. "We can’t pick up the buildings and move the school to Western Wake where the schools are.”
Nixon said that if every school is a great school then assignment won't be an issue.
Nixon also said that the choice plan showed choice will lead to extra costs and that they need to focus on stability.
Nixon praised the magnet program, pointing to the recent awards from Magnet Schools of America as showing they're doing things right in Wake.
But Nixon also acknowledged that not every student in a magnet takes advantage of the programs there. She said they need to find a way to help every student at a magnet school be successful.
Jim Pomeranz joked that his neighbors thought he was crazy for applying. But he said he wants to serve because he's a thoughtful person who can make decisions based on sound judgment and good reasons.
Pomeranz said he's been concerned by the confrontational way the board has been acting lately.
In terms of academic achievement, Pomeranz said they need to always look at bringing everyone up to the top. While not everyone will be there, he said they need to give that opportunity to students.
As for the budget, Pomeranz said the classroom environment is very importat. He said they need to ensure that students are going to well-equipped schools.
For instance when a new high school is built, Pomeranz said they should make sure the existing schools are upgraded to their level. He said he's not saying the new schools should be brought down to the level of the old schools.
In terns of assignment, Pomeranz said he don't necessarily believe neighborhood schools or busing students all around the county is right. He said it's more important that they create an environment where students can learn.
Pomeranz also said he doesn't want to see poor areas or upper echelons being educated by themselves.
"We have to locate students in areas to make sure the education is right," he said.
Pomeranz said he'd like to see an educator as superintendent because they'll fall back in that area if the person doesn't have that experience.
Pomeranz said he's always felt that magnet schools are great and thinks the leadership academies are wonderful.
But Pomeranz said they miss the boat in not having a magnet school in every school in some way. He said magnets can only serve so many students now and that having magnet schools within schools would reach more kids.
Pomeranz said that while he doesn't have the qualifications of the other candidates, he brings to you a clear mind and thoughtful consideration of all the issues.