Susan Evans (D)
How long have you lived in Wake County? 31 years
Do you have children in the district?
I have two children who have recently graduated from Wake County Public Schools.
Why have you decided to run for office?
I’ve always been really proud of Wake County public schools for all the ways they were forward thinking and continued to move our county forward as much as possible toward excellence for all students. Honestly, when the newest board majority was elected a couple of years ago, I just started hearing things that were concerning me. I’ve been worried that the reputation of our school system is suffering as a result.
What are the three biggest issues you think the Wake County Public School System faces?
The most difficult issue that we are continuing to face is how we best deal with the explosive growth that we have in Wake County. I really believe that our growth issues have driven the majority of the aggravations that have affected families in the past couple of decades.
I certainly believe improving student achievement has to be extremely top priority and I’m very concerned about the achievement gap that we continue to have in our minority and less affluent populations versus our more affluent populations.
Beyond that I’m interested in bringing professionalism back to the Wake County School Board and focusing on students and on running an efficient school system and removing politics from the discussion.
What do you think are the best and worst decisions the current school board has made?
In particular my concern with the current school board majority is that they’ve made several decisions in a hasty fashion without proposing an alternative solution, and I just do not think that’s the best way to conduct business.
Positive things that the new school board has done. I know it has been their intention to feel that they were letting parents have a bigger voice, and I think that’s a good intention. Now whether they’ve been successful with that, I’m not as sure, but I will say that I think that’s a good intention.
What do you think is the most important issue facing your district, and how do you plan to address it?
Growth is definitely the most difficult issue facing the southwestern part of the county. That has created the reassignment headaches that have disturbed so many families and I am very sensitive to that. Basically we also have to meet the needs of this c om m u nity which is a highly affluent c om m u nity, whose s t u d e n t s tend to be very high achieving and they sometimes feel like their needs aren’t met.
What do you think WCPSS should do to address the achievement gap?
One of the things that’s been implicit in Wake County policies throughout the last 30-plus years is that every child should have the right to equality in school regardless of the affluence of his neighborhood, and I still believe this is very important to this county, that we continue to figure out ways to balance populations so that we do not have high concentrations of low-performing students in certain schools.
What are your ideas for measuring and improving teacher and student effectiveness in WCPSS?
While I know we have to have assessments and testing and that’s an important component, I’m concerned that we’ve moved a little bit in the direction where that seems to be the only component and I think that’s unfair to teachers. I’d like to see more input from principals to see how they think their teachers are doing. I’d like for parents to give f e edba ck on how the t e a c h e r s are doing. I don’t think a teacher should be judged solely on how his or her students are able to do on end-of-grade tests.
Do you support merit pay for teachers? Why or why not?
I’m not against merit pay for teachers. I guess I’m more concerned about merit pay for teachers if it’s based solely on end-of-grade tests.
How do you think WCPSS should attract more minority teachers?
I suppose they’re doing the best job they can. They say they’re going out to all the top universities to recruit the best they can, and I trust that they are, I know we have an awesome staff at Wake County public schools, and I wouldn’t have any advice on how to improve upon it.
How do you feel about the new student assignment plan that’s shaping up?
I would certainly say that it’s the most optimistic thing that we’ve had in the last year and a half. I think that the controlled choice plan is a good middle ground. What will be most important to me, and in the current framework for the plan it indicates the intention to not allow concentrations of low-performance students and to allow students who would be in that situation to choose to attend a higher-performing school. If the controls are in place that will guarantee those types of measures then I think a controlled choice plan can work for our community for sure.
How do charter schools fit in to your conception of a healthy school district?
I think it’s great to have all kinds of choices for families. If the charter schools move in a direction where they are allowed to choose their population and we progress to the point where they just siphon off the higher achieving students out of the public school system, then I would not support a movement in that direction.
How would you address the issue of student discipline?
It’s a tough issue and I’ve appreciated the fact that we are looking at the student suspension issue. I do think that there’s this balancing act to be had between when a student’s behavior is disrupting other students at the school and when it’s just too punitive. If just keeping them out of school all the time is going to set them back on a backward trail that can’t be overcome, I would prefer that we explore other options.
What would you do to ensure that WCPSS has the funding to educate its students adequately?
Well I certainly am not afraid to advocate and go to the county commissioners when necessary and plead for as much funding as we can possibly get. I was disappointed that this past spring the current majority decided not to do that. Beyond that we have to look very seriously at how we prepare for our growth and I think that we’re going to have to be prepared for a bond referendum and we need to be getting the community prepared for that.
What was your favorite subject in school?
It was probably math. I’m a very logical thinker, I always liked solving puzzles, loved algebra and probably why I became an accountant.
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