Sandy has identified four key priorities for her campaign. Please take a moment to learn why each priority is important to her. She welcomes your feedback on these priorities and invites you to share ideas on other priorities that you deem important for the success of our school system. Click here to connect with Sandy via email.
COVID-19 & REOPENING OUR SCHOOLS: I am constantly asked about my thoughts as a candidate about distance learning with Plan C and COVID-19. As a parent, I see firsthand the struggles and challenges of remote learning. I fully support OPENING OUR SCHOOLS and getting our students back in the classroom – when it is deemed SAFE TO OPEN. This week (September 7-11), Alamance County Health Department is reporting a 9% positivity rate which has continued to rise since mid-August when the county reported its most attractive positivity rate at 7.2% since June.
It is my understanding that once the positivity rate is at or below 5%, ABSS will begin to explore options for re-opening our schools. It is important to recognize re-opening our schools for 22,000+ students and 1,600+ educators is a challenging task. It will require careful diligence to identify best practices in protecting so many.
Until then, we must also work to identify ways to meet the academic expectations with a proper balance of screen time, student/teacher engagement, and independent learning. Other important factors to consider include the accessibility of hot spots, nutritional needs, and the mental well-being of our students.
I encourage everyone to practice the 3 Ws – WEAR a mask, WASH your hands, and WAIT 6’ feet apart – to aid in prevention. Most importantly, I encourage you to applaud our educators, our students and our parents for making the best of challenging circumstances.
To follow Alamance County reporting of COVID-19, click here.
1 – Support for Our Educators
Our state constitution declares every child has the right to a sound basic education that has been defined as equal opportunity in a public school system where students are equipped with sufficient knowledge and skills to function in a complex and rapidly changing society. According to a recent study, a public school system must provide a competent teacher in the classroom, a competent principal in the school and equal access to resources for every student.
Sandy knows that support for our educators is crucial. It is important to attract and retain the brightest educators with competitive pay, professional development, classroom resources, technology, and supportive leadership. Educators have one of the most difficult – and most important – roles in our school system. Investing in programs and opportunities to support every educator in every stage of their teaching career will strengthen our recruitment and retention efforts. Strong educators and thriving classrooms bring success and sustainability.
“Our school board is creating a total rewards package to reward effective educators for their commitment to our students. We have increased our local teacher supplement to $4,817, now ranking Alamance County #10 in NC, up from #27 just ten years ago. Focusing on continuous improvement in our schools will create an inviting workplace where our educators are valued and every student receives a quality education. Teaching is so much more than measuring test scores. It is a commitment to the academic success and well-being of every student and those efforts must be rewarded,” Sandy said.
2 – Safe and Healthy Facilities
While serving on the Joint Facilities Task Force in 2017, Sandy quickly realized that safe and healthy facilities must be addressed. She learned that 70% of our schools were built more than 50 years ago resulting in outdated buildings with ongoing maintenance and repair issues. As our community grows, our schools are unable to accommodate the increased student population.
Most core areas such as cafeterias, media centers, gyms, and auditoriums don’t offer cost-effective options to update or remodel. Cuts to local, state and federal funding have made it difficult for new construction or expansion projects. The $150M ABSS bond passed in 2018 allocates $70M to fund a new high school and $80M in renovation and expansion projects at multiple schools. All projects also include security enhancements.
“It is important that our students have safe and healthy learning environments. Leaking roofs, unsafe walkways, broken door locks, crowded hallways, and hot classrooms are simply unnecessary distractions in the school day. Increased security measures and continued partnerships with local law enforcement agencies are also key in protecting our students and staff,” Sandy said. School resource officers (SRO) are trained to work with our school leadership teams to ensure safety yet SROs also build relationships and trust with students which can prove beneficial in crime prevention. Ideally, all campuses in ABSS should have a full time SRO.
3 – Expansion of Pathway Opportunities
One of the most important decisions of every student is the choice of which pathway opportunity to pursue after graduation. Students typically choose the pursuit of higher education, entry into our workforce, or enlisting in the military. Regardless of the chosen pathway, every student must possess the knowledge and the skills to confidently thrive and succeed.
The expansion and continued support of the Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC), the Career and College Promise (CCP) with Alamance Community College, and numerous other specialized ABSS initiatives will ensure that our students have equal access to learn specific trades with a sharpened focus on critical thinking, communication skills and collaboration tools to establish career and college readiness. Expanding the engagement of local businesses and industry leaders allows opportunity for job shadowing, internships, professional certifications and future employment for our students.
“As a student who entered the workforce before I even got my drivers license, I personally chose not to pursue college after graduation. I credit my parents for a strong work ethic and I entered the workforce where I thrived in both the public sector and private sector. Yet, I quickly realized the lack of a formal college education or a skilled trade created challenges for me with advancement opportunities. In 2002, I chose a new path. At 31 years old, I earned my real estate license after completing evening classes at ACC while working full time in healthcare management at UNC. I want every graduate to be prepared to choose their path with the promise of endless opportunities in work, life and education.” Sandy said.
4 – Transparency and Accountability
It is crucial to continue building a strong relationship with our county. This is best accomplished with full transparency and accountability. The $150M school bond that passed in the 2018 election, the new $23.1M joint capital improvement plan and the $45.7M budget request for the upcoming school year reflect a significant investment by our county in the school system. Our ability to account for every penny spent will solidify the mutual interest in improving the efficiency of our school system and its operations while reinforcing our commitment to spend wisely.
A shared focus on progress is also important. Dr. H.V. Murray was a member of the Burlington City School Board in 1958 when a $6.5M bond was on the ballot. Mr. Murray was asked when the spending ends with our schools. His response was powerful: “There is a simple answer to that. When the time comes for us to stop spending more money on schools, it means that our city and county have stopped in their progress.”
As a local REALTOR®, Sandy clearly understands the importance of progress. Housing projections in Alamance County continue to climb, particularly in areas where overcrowded schools are already challenging. As our population grows, our school system and our county must adapt to meet the evolving needs of our education system.
Sandy stated, “We have the opportunity to improve transparency and ensure accountability with our community partners. The future success of our public school system is dependent on the engagement of our students, our teachers, our business community, our local leaders and our citizens. We must forge a partnership focused on progress with a commitment to working together for the best interest of Alamance County. ”
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