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Rowan-Salisbury School Board: Three race for the Southeast seat

Compare and contrast

How should the board address the district’s number of aging buildings?

Cox: The Board of Education should seek community input and the advice of the Planning Board.

Robertson: There’s not a one-size fits all solution to the problem, and he would be hesitant to recommend simply opening and closing buildings

Poston: In a few years, two bonds will be fully paid off. With approval from the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, that money could go back to the school system.

What is your position on charter schools?

Cox: Cox thinks charter schools are a good thing, but there is “a discrepancy.” “It is not a level playing field.” Public schools should have the same freedoms as charter schools, and money should not be taken from public schools to help fund charter schools.

Robertson: Robertson doesn’t like to see money pulled away from public schools, but alternatives are OK. “I will never say that one system should have the monopoly.” But he would like to see the community putting all its energy into making public schools work.

Poston: Rowan County could benefit from a strong charter school. But first, the state needs to allow the same freedoms for public schools that it gives to charter schools.

What should be done to address the district’s projected enrollment decline?

Cox: “I don’t think that is a school board issue. I think the answer to that lies more with the county.” Cox said she thought the county’s rebranding effort would have a positive effect.

Robertson: The decline is due to a “pendulum swing” of population rise and fall. People are having fewer children. And enrollment decline is a topic that could lead to consolidation, something Robertson is hesitant about. “I’m not saying consolidation is going to be the answer to these declining numbers, but the issue is going to come up.”

Poston: Poston said this was more of a county issue, but that a good vocational school could help increase skilled workers in the county, boosting the tax base.

Do you think 1:1 has been successful?

Cox: It allows for the teacher to work in smaller groups and individualize. And since students are able to load all their homework and assignments to their device before leaving school, Wi-Fi access is no longer an issue.

Robertson: It’s still too early to tell if the program is a success or a failure. Things need a chance to play out.

Poston: While the devices are a useful tool, Poston said he felt that students had been overexposed and many teachers rely too much on technology.

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

Two veteran educators and one newcomer are racing to claim the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education’s Seat 7. Retired teacher and incumbent Susan Cox is up against former Rowan-Salisbury Schools administrator Dr. William Robertson, also known as “Dr. Rob.” and Andrew Poston, former candidate for the N.C. House 77th district and a student pursuing a master’s degree in education.

Cox said her experience, both as a retired teacher and as a board member, sets her apart from the other candidates. Robertson also cited his experience. Robertson worked in education for approximately 33 years. But for Poston, it’s his youth. Poston said he’s been in school and seen how board policies affect students more recently than any other candidate.

If re-elected, Cox said she would like to continue the initiatives begun in the past four years, as well as work on improving the system’s strategic plan. Robertson said that he would like to work together with other board members to provide the best education for students and to remove barriers and provide support for teachers.

“You know, you hire good people and you get out of their way,” he said.

Poston said his first goal if elected would be to provide a new building for Knox Middle School and to discover a feasible way to start a vocational school.

Current Rowan-Salisbury Schools officials have cited growing maintenance needs and number of aging buildings coupled with a small capital needs budget as a cause for concern, but those running for the Board of Education have different ideas about how the issue should be addressed.

“I would turn it over more to the community for input,” Cox said.

Cox said she would like to take the issue to the Rowan County Planning Board to hear what solutions and recommendations they came up with.

Robertson said there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem, and he would be hesitant to recommend simply opening and closing buildings. But students need a good environment if they’re going to succeed.

“For a student to learn, they’ve got to be comfortable and they’ve got to be safe,” he said.

Robertson said analysis would need to be done and he would have to “get in there” and listen and learn before making any recommendations.

For Poston, the answer lies in the county’s debt-service plan. Over the next few years, two bonds will be paid off. Poston said he thinks that, with the county commissioners’ approval, the money could be put to good use in the school system.

Once the buildings are repaired, Poston thinks the community should pay special attention to maintaining them. In Europe, he said, there are school buildings that have been around since the 18th century and are still in use.

“It’s really how you take care of these buildings,” he said.

The celebration of the latest round of test scores has drawn criticism from community members, but Cox said she believes that the moment of jubilation was worth it. The system may not be where it needs to be, she said, but it is moving forward.

“Each step needs to be celebrated,” she said.

Robertson agreed.

“You’ve got to celebrate your small victories and your large victories,” he said.

While Poston said he thought the test scores were still “alarming,” he did think that they reflected progress.

“It’s not success. It’s definitely progress from where we’ve been,” he said.

Poston also said he thought this year’s scores had improved “in spite of” the one-to-one initiative.

While district officials say that the initiative, which gives every student access to an iPad or laptop, has let teachers individualize lessons, not everyone is sure that technology is the answer.

Cox said she was the last board member to approve the one-to-one initiative, but since then, she’s seen it blossom. Technology in the classroom allows for blended learning, and gives the teachers an opportunity to work with smaller groups of students and to personalize learning.

“The idea of the one-to-one model was in no way to replace the teacher,” she said.

Since its launch, the program has been tweaked so that students are able to download all their work and homework before they leave school, so a lack of Wi-Fi access in the home will not prevent a student from completing his or her work.

But for Robertson, “the jury’s still out.” Three years isn’t enough time to tell if the program really took hold and has been a success.

“Sometimes we don’t give things a chance to succeed or fail, we don’t give them a chance to play out,” he said.

He is, however, cautious of using technology too much in the classroom. Technology is a tool, Robertson said, and is not a quick fix for teacher-student interactions.

Poston said he believes one-to-one could be useful if it were used as a tool instead of as “the vessel by which education is delivered.”

“It has exposed our students to tech, but now it’s overexposed them,” he said.

He would like to see it “reigned in.” He said lack of stable access to Wi-Fi could also hinder low-income students. Poston said he’d love to see a government subsidy to provide Wi-Fi to section 8 housing.

 

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