Here's a recap of the interviews from Wendy Ford and Hilda McCullers for the District 1 vacancy on the Wake County school board.
Ford repeatedly stressed that she knew what the board was going through having served on a school board in upstate New York for 19 years. She said she's done everything the board now faces, including being involved in two superintendent searches.
Another thing that Ford frequently mentioned is that Wake needs to deal with competition from the popularity of charter schools, especially parents who are dissatisfied with the district.
Ford said that she'd might try to help schools in Eastern Wake by offering incentives to get teachers to work in schools there. But she also said that Wake needs to live within its budget constraints.
On the issue of student assignment, Ford said there's got to be a better way than having students ride the bus 35 to 40 minutes each way. She said she wants to reduce busing and the amount of time students are on the bus.
Ford talked about getting parents and the community involved in helping build interest in schools. She cited the example of Hilburn Drive Academy, where her son is principal, and how it's gotten successful since getting community input in how to improve what it offers.
She said they can do a similar process of getting community input for helping schools in District 1.
Ford said ideally the superintendent should be someone in education. But she can look for someone with both a business and education background.
Hilda McCullers stressed that she brings the view of the classroom teacher having spent her career teaching in high school. She said that since retirement she's substitute taught at all levels from elementary through high school.
A common theme from McCullers was that all children can succeed, regardless of their background. She said that you want equity in everything you do so if you give every child equal access they can succeed. She said the difference is some children may need more academic assistance.
"If students are expected to succeed, they will," McCullers said. "If they are expected to fail, they will."
With finances limited, McCullers stressed the need to recruit volunteers from the community to work with students. She mentioned how back when she was a teacher she had gotten churches to mentor her students.
McCullers said she believes in diversity because students don't live in a bubble. She cited how much one of her classes of high-achieving students benefitted from interacting with a class of students who weren't doing as well academically.
McCullers said she wanted a superintendent who understands education and won't view students as data points. She quipped that she doesn't go to Target to open a bank account.
McCullers said she liked magnet schools, noting her daughter graduated from one. But she said they should be opened up for every child to attend.
McCullers said she doesn't believe in the idea of low-performing students. She said she doesn't want to put out an image that students from a deficient environment aren't' expected to do well.