sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

This morning I debated whether or not to drive all the way to Summerfield Elementary to hear Bill Davidson address the PTA. I was not at my computer last evening, so I didn't catch the announcement that the meeting was actually was full-fledged candidates' forum.

The lone exception was District 7 incumbent Kris Cooke, who was out of town. When I arrived, a spokesperson was reading a statement from Cooke.

Davidson spoke next.

"Our school board needs some change," he said. "Are the school board and the superintendent doing their jobs? We don't know. Who's running the show, the school board or the superintendent? We don't know."

Davidson criticized the school system for its lack of attention to school violence. He cited the board's inaction on a school watch pilot program as evidence of that inattention.

"We should embrace that, not push it away," he said.

Darlene Garrett, running unopposed, said, "We have raised student achievement and lowered the dropout rate."

Dot Kearns pitched her ability to serve the entire system.

"It has been my duty to develop policies that will serve all the schools," she said.

She also reassured the audience that the $300 million bond passed in 2003 would be put to use in a proper mix of new construction and repairs.

"We will embrace the opportunity to upgrade schools we did not replace," she said.

Jim Kirkpatrick was next, and he promoted the fact that his roots were in Guilford County and he had extensive public service experience as a city councilman and county commissioner.

"I would be the first person elected at large from a northwest quadrant," Kirkpatrick said. "We have some wonderful things going on in the school system. But it's important not to turn our backs on some of the bad things going on."

Kirkpatrick added he was the candidate of true choice in the school system.

"The word choice has been so perverted with that mess over in High Point," he said. "I do not believe in the social experiment of creating a lottery to say where people are going to school."

"Not every parent or child can get into the school where they want to go," Kearns said. "We have to replicate the popular choices so that they're closer to home."

Davidson addressed the concern among many parents that the schools would institute a system-wide "choice plan" like the one that has divided High Point.

"I'm very concerned about the plan coming over here," Davidson said.

Davidson also got a shot in at Cooke regarding the choice plan.

"Kris' vote affected High Point and she did not take it seriously enough," he said.

Cooke's spokesperson took up for her.

"I know that to be so far from the truth," she said. "I know she thought deeply about it, prayed about it."

School violence was the next issue. Davidson struck a chord with me when he said, "School boards want to discuss suspension rates among certain classes of kids," he said. "What I propose to do is empower the teachers."

He's right: The school board and staff are all worked up over the high number of black kids being thrown out of schools, not high number kids (period) being thrown out of school. As a result, that leads some board members to conclude that the school system is institutionally racist, something I'm not too sure about that.


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