Elect 2012: Candidates for Kannapolis Board of Education seek to reach parents

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 19, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
KANNAPOLIS — All three candidates vying for two Cabarrus County seats on the Kannapolis Board of Education cite providing a quality education as their top priority.
And they agree that reaching out to parents is a step toward reaching that goal.
“I believe the real power of educational success occurs when we set parent expectations and raise the standards for parent involvement,” said newcomer Dianne Berry. “And when parents have the opportunity to experience the child’s successes, as a result of their academic involvement in the schools, they will be motivated to continue nurturing their children until adulthood.”
Berry said she would like to see Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) meetings become more family oriented by adding things such as parent workshops and student projects instead of placing the focus solely on business.
Incumbent Charles Mitchell agrees “parental involvement is key.”
“We have a good PTO system, but we could always bring in civic groups and the faith-based community to provide additional support for students,” he said.
Keeping open lines of communication is another way to reach out to parents, incumbent Doris Buchanan said.
“We’ve got to be accessible to them,” she said. “Sometimes that means that we kind of have to adjust the hours of our programs and meetings. We’ve got to be open.”
Buchanan, 80, said she believes getting parents more involved would also help increase the graduation rate, which topped 85 percent last year, up from 77 percent in 2009.
“We have all kinds of programs, and we’re working really hard on that,” she said. “But I think it’s got to be important for the parent that their child receives their education.”
Mitchell, 76, said he would like to see the district’s alternative program, which began in the fall of 2010, continue to grow. School officials have touted the program as an opportunity to provide students with more individualized instruction.
“Whether students are having social or academic issues, if we can get them in the alternative learning program, they have a better chance of graduating,” he said.
The dropout prevention committee formed by administrators, teachers and community members is a step in the right direction, Berry, 57, said.
“(The) committee has looked at expanding elective offerings because they realize if a student can connect with a field that piques their interest, there’s a far greater chance that they will follow through and achieve their goals,” she said. “The (school board) just needs to stand behind their efforts and to do all they can to provide them with the necessary resources needed to monitor the program’s progress, and to be cheerleaders for their efforts and successes.”
All three agree the district should continue to grow its Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) initiatives.
“I think it’s extremely important because that’s the way that our society, our culture and our business world is moving,” Buchanan said.
Berry said students with a variety of goals, whether they plan to attend college or head straight into the workforce after high school, can benefit from STEM education.
“Being smart in those areas will open up higher paying job opportunities for high school graduates and help with career advancement for years to come,” she said.
Working in the textile industry for more than 30 years, Mitchell said he’s seen how technology has affected the job market.
“I think STEM education is really, really very important because right now almost everything you do is related to one of those subjects,” he said.
As the school system looks to enhance STEM education, funding plays a vital role in keeping up with the latest technology.
Berry said her background as a public health employee gives her some insight into how to cope with a limited budget.
“I am very aware of the struggles we will face, but also the innovative ideas that can be put into place to supplement current revenue sources,” she said. “The (school board) has to be innovative, seek new ideas and look beyond local and state funding to find alternative ways to meet the needs of the school system and its students.”
Mitchell said prioritizing needs and fostering strong relationships with the county commissioners in both Rowan and Cabarrus are important steps.
“We’ve got one of the finest and most knowledgeable finance directors that any system could have and he knows how to maximize a dollar,’ he said. “He has a very good working relationship with the county commissioners, who have been very supportive of our school system.”
Buchanan said she would continue to be an advocate for the system, reaching out to legislators to educate them about the importance of adequate funding.
She said it’s also important to make decisions to ensure the district is using its resources in the most efficient manner.
“We need to have a priority system and then we have to seek outside support and funds through grants and contributions,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan is seeking her fourth term on the board. Before retiring, she served as the principal of Jackson Park Elementary School. She also worked as a teacher before becoming an administrator and served on PTO boards while her children were in school.
“I think that’s given me a really broad perspective of how schools work on every level,” she said.
Mitchell said the skills garnered working in textiles give him an advantage on the board.
“My job was to look for machines to do it better, faster and cheaper,” he said. “I had to learn how to manage budgets for projects that cost millions of dollars and submit reports.”
Berry, who currently works for Cabarrus Health Alliance, said her 18 years of experience as a member of the PTO executive boards will be an asset to the school board.
She served as the fundraising chair at Jackson Park, Kannapolis Middle and A.L. Brown High while her children were in school. Her grandson, Ethan Berry, will enter kindergarten this fall.
Incumbent Todd Adams is seeking his second term on the board. He is running unopposed for the sole Rowan County seat.

Early voting begins today

   Early voting begins today for primaries. Here’s where and when you can cast your ballot.
Rowan Public Library, 201 W. Fisher St., Salisbury.  
— 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, today through May 4
— 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 5
East Branch, Rowan Public Library, 110 Broad St., Rockwell. Voting begins at this location April 25 and ends May 4.
— 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through?Wednesday
— 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday  and Friday
— 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 28
South Branch, Rowan Public Library, 920 Kimball Road, China Grove. Voting begins at this location April 26 and ends May 4.
— 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through?Wednesday
— 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday  and Friday
— 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 28
Polling locations are not open Sundays.
Cabarrus County Board of Elections office, 369 Church St. N, Concord. Voting begins today and runs through May 4.
— 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday
— 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 5.
   For more details about early voting in Cabarrus County call 704-920-2860.
   Any registered North Carolina voter may choose to vote in person during early voting.

 Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
Twitter: twitter.com/posteducation
Facebook: facebook.com/ Sarah.SalisburyPost