As part of our participation
in the democratic process, we gave questionnaires to all candidates for county
commissioner, and solicited their response. All answers were carefully examined
by the steering committee.
In addition we looked at a variety of factors, including breadth and length of
public service, experience, elect-ability, primary competition or lack thereof,
communication skills, and commitment. Our endorsed candidates must be well
rounded. They should have a personal stake in the issues that affect their
constituency. They must be committed to representing the will of the people and
to do the right thing on many fronts. We stand for local control of excellent
public schools, a responsive government, and for responsible allocation of
community tax dollars to handle the needs of our growing county, so we looked
for candidates with a sound record on these issues.
We provided the opportunity for all candidates to answer our five questions
related to the topic of schools and merger. Candidates from
the Democratic, Libertarian, and Republican parties replied. One incumbent
is for merger and another didn’t even bother to respond. Every other political candidate running, representing
three political parties including the Democrats, replied, were against merger
and gave thoughtful answers.
Valerie Foushee and
Congratulations to Val and
Pam!!!! PLEASE CONTRIBUTE TO THEIR CAMPAIGNS!!
Create your own sign to put
in your car window
Commissioner Candidate Contact Information
1. If elected, would you oppose or support a county
merger plan in the next term of office?
No response. We emailed the questions twice and left
a phone message.
If elected, I will continue to push for equal funding of
the two school systems in this county. I continue to believe, after much
study, that merger is the best and only lasting means to achieve equal
funding for all students to achieve their full educational potential.
Merger will prevent this county from having to revisit this issue of
equal funding in the future. It is also the only option available to the
board that will provide the opportunity to save tax money on the
construction of new schools in the future. A merged system will provide
opportunities for economies of scale and will prevent the construction
of needed school buildings before they are truly needed.
I would strongly oppose.
I would oppose a county
commissioner initiated merger plan during the next four years as I do
not feel that it is warranted at this time.
I would oppose any county commissioner initiated merger
plan because I believe this decision should be made by the voters of
Orange County, not by three County Commissioners. If elected, I would
work to change the law to mandate that any school merger recommendation
be supported by a detailed description of the merger plan and that plan
be put to a binding yes or no public referendum.
I am not for merger. There is too much
going on in our school systems with explosive growth, following the new
Federal guidelines and trying to close the achievement gap to allow the
school administrators enough energy and time to accomplish a smooth or
timely merger of two different school systems. Both school systems
offer benefits; collaboration between the two should be encouraged, not
I do not support any merger of the school systems
2. What problems besides differences in funding would school merger solve? What
problems might a merger create?
Merger will provide opportunities for children in both
systems to have access to the courses in the other system, which are now
unavailable to them. Merger will also help to address the social
injustice inherent in the way we fund schools which provides maximum
benefit of the commercial tax base to the city school children when in
fact all residents of the county help to sustain the commercial tax base
that is located in the city. It will also help to unfair burden placed
on the rural residents who pay a disproportionate price for protection
of open space, protection of water quality so city dwellers can have
clean water at the lowest price. Merger will eliminate in the long run
the perception that rural residents are different and do not want better
educational opportunities for their children. It is my perception that
merger will not create any more problems than currently exist in the
school systems. The issues that are anticipated can be addressed in any
merger plan that is developed. The residents of this county are smart
enough to plan to address all problems that can be anticipated if a
merger plan is developed. Both school systems, parents and the
commissioners can address problems before they arise by devoting
sufficient time to planning and transition to a merged system.
I do not see where anything would be
solved. The most evident problems I see are:
1) Busing. Children would be on the bus, both morning and evening, too
long. Even now some children catch the bus at 6:10am and do not arrive
at school until 7:40am. To me that is not acceptable. If children from
OCS are bused to CHCS, for whatever reason, I would not think that 3
hours of riding a bus would be healthy for children.
2) Complaints about representation. I think the school board should be
representative of the district. If a merger is completed, I would want
to see the school board positions be district based. This way all
members of the community feel they have a say with the governance of
their school system.
3) Parent and child involvement. If a child wants to join drama club,
but they live in Northern Orange County while attending a school in
Chapel Hill, the parents might not be able to pickup their child after
the activities of the club, thus limiting the involvement of both in any
school functions. This would tend to be children that live near their
school being involved in sports and after school activities. Isn't that
the way it is now?
There are just too many questions/problems presented by merger. Until it
is clearly defined, I would not support a merger in any way and then I
would have to be convinced of great quality benefits from such an
Currently, the only issue that school merger clearly
would address would be capacity and future school construction. Potentially, some
administrative positions could be cut for the short term. However, as the new
system settles, positions would need to be added to address the additional
student numbers. I believe problems would be created relating to student
assignment and transportation. Additionally, access to facilities that promote
parental involvement would present challenges for some families.
Besides removing the actual difference
in funding, merging the schools would remove the perception that
educational opportunities in the two districts are unequal. However, merging
the districts will not guarantee that every student will have the same
educational opportunity because of factors that cannot be equalized (parental
involvement, participation in enrichment activities, etc.). There may be some
cost savings involved in combining administrative functions, but since no
definite merger plan has ever been proposed, there is no way to determine this.Problems created by a merger would include a
bigger, more unwieldy school system; longer bus trips for some students (which
takes away from time spent with family and participating in other activities); a
less local and therefore less responsive school board and administration; and,
judging by current public sentiment, a majority of parents and citizens in the
town and the county who will be dissatisfied with the change. Because the majority of the county’s
population resides in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, a merger would eliminate the
only major elected body that still has strictly non-town representation (the
Orange County School Board). This would marginalize folks living in the county,
and effectively disenfranchise many that merger is alleged to help.
The belief is that merging the systems
would reduce the costs of administrators, reduce the need to build
additional schools and give equal access to all students for all
programs. There is no data to support this and with all the growth in
the towns and county, there would be no long term reductions - we would
still need as many administrators and as many school buildings.
Collaboration would allow students to share courses between the systems.
Merger would create a great deal of confusion in the beginning as the
merged system tried to determine what curriculums would change at every
There would be a lack of community spirit as students would have to be
bussed to schools not in their area to fill current vacancies at some
Which administration would take control and which School Board Members
would continue to serve? Would the County System and the City School
System have equal representation?
The upheaval would take years to transition into a unified system which
might not reflect the diversities so sought after by both communities.
I do not think the merger would solve any problems except making each
system more accountable for their actions. One of the problems it may
create would be a busing issue.
3. Do you support a public referendum on merger to gauge the will of the people
even if non-binding?
I do not support a non-binding referendum because the
will of the people will be registered in this election for county
commissioner. Your group will make sure that the public will is
registered in this election in spite of my efforts to have this item
addressed in a non-political/non-emotional manner in a non-election
year. The public speaks their will to county commissioners on a regular
basis in grocery stores, at the gas pump, at shopping centers when they
voice their opinion on many subjects including school merger. That is
why I believe the public in general wants a merged system that will
address the issues of fairness in funding for all children regardless of
where they live.
Yes I support a public referendum. I
think the will of the people should ALWAYS be binding. This is a
government by the people last time I checked.
I support a public non-binding referendum on merger because it is the most reliable way of quantifying support for or against
the issue. It can determine the will of the voters.
Yes. As I answered previously, I would work
to make a referendum on merger a requirement. A non-binding referendum would be
short of this goal, but would be a step in the right direction.
I think it was pretty obvious what the
general public wanted and I am not sure that a public referendum would
tell us anything different. I would support a public referendum if that
is what the citizens called for.
I believe that each system should be autonomous but if the people
want mergers and a referendum is the answer then I would support it. I
would have to check to see what laws, if any, are applicable to such a
referendum or if such a referendum is legal.
4. Do you support long distance busing in a merged school district? If not, how
would you prevent this?
No one in his right mind would support long distance
bussing to achieve anything. Children in both systems are already bussed
too far to attend school. Children in the county system who live near
the Chatham County line are bussed to Hillsborough to school. A merged
system will permit a more efficient system of attendance that could
minimize bussing of children in both systems. A well developed merger
plan could be developed to minimize bussing. Such a plan as I have
proposed could maintain current attendance patterns for the first three
years so that any changes in school attendance would be gradual and
voluntary. With the construction of a new high school in Chapel Hill and
a new middle school in Orange County, attendance lines will change in
the next two years regardless of whether we merge the systems.
I do not support long distance busing. I
would solve this by not merging. Why would we bus children 3 hours a
day? To meet a quota so that so many types of children are in each
place? Why would anyone put children in a bus before 6:00am and let them
return from that bus after 4:00pm. Unless the next bright idea from the
"powers that be" is that all county school be built with dorms so that
our children can visit their parents on weekends. We currently hear
complaints from teachers and the administration of our schools, that
parents are not involved
enough. We have "homework" sent to us to do with our children after
school hours. Wouldn't reducing the amount of time parents and children
spend together each evening be bad?
No. I would work hard
to create a plan that would assign students to the nearest school to
their homes. This however, may present a challenge to maintaining the
desired diversity in student enrollments.
I do not support long-distance busing in any
school district. Whether in a merged system or not, schools should be built
where the children are to the greatest extent possible (sufficient land must be
available). Ideally, students should attend the schools that are closest to
them to prevent long-distance busing, as long as such a policy does not
“re-segregate,” which is reportedly occurring in some parts of the US.
In the spirit of ameliorating long-distance
busing, I propose that those who currently live in the county, but are closer to
schools in the CHCCS, be “annexed” into the city school system.
No one should be for long distance
busing, it takes away from school/community spirit. People are more
supportive and volunteer more when the school is in their neighborhood.
There are also needs to balance schools with race, ethnic, social
economic and other factors to ensure each school can offer the best
education. You can prevent long bus rides by districting communities
and talking with communities to see how they respond to attending a
school which may be a longer bus ride away. The district can offer
choices for those who want to attend other schools and work to make the
transportation issue not an obstacle.
I am not in favor of long distance busing for a merged school system.
The busing issue would have to address the locality and surrounding
areas from each school.
5. Do you support the siting and building of neighborhood schools as the center
of a walk-able, sustainable community?
I support the concept of a walkable community that
permits children and their parents to walk to most places in their
community to meet their needs. This includes walking to school when
possible. However, such communities can only accommodate a portion of
the children without the communities growing so large that the purpose
YES! I personally believe that a school
always has been the center of a community for decades. If you consider a
community school used to be a multi-purpose building. The school
functioned as school, church, and town meeting center. I am of course
talking about long ago. Currently the government places public schools
in a "central" location and then restricts the public from use of those
buildings. Long ago a community meeting could be held in a classroom.
Civic groups could use those facilities as long as they cleaned after
themselves, or paid the
janitor's fee to be there late. Currently, citizens feel like they are
held at arm's length when it comes to using and being involved with
their public school. So the public is barred many times from using
public facilities that their bonds and tax money built.
I would very much support local schools. Schools that would be placed,
as the question references, in walk-able communities. Where parents
could walk with their children to school in the morning. Of course
security is always a priority. We would not allow a child to be in a
dangerous situation where they could be harmed or abducted. So by having
a school in this type of community, it would bring the community
together for their children. Parents would work together, know more
about their neighbors and feel more as a community instead of a bunch of
houses beside each other.
Yes, I think that is critical in providing accessibility and community building.
Schools should be built
where the children are. However, land is a finite commodity in Chapel
Hill and Carrboro, and while neighborhood schools have proven to be a
successful model, other models should be investigated. The sustainable
community is still a theoretical model, and not even close to being
realized in Orange County outside Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Also,
private property owners will have a large influence over whether land
near school sites would be able to be incorporated into a sustainable
Sustainable communities are the best
scenario for many reasons. We should all work harder to develop our
communities this way and make sure to include affordable housing within
the structures to ensure social economic diversity. Having a
neighborhood school builds community spirit and offers support for the
I think schools should be placed in areas of increased population
expansion. These areas are, or should be, well documented as to
demographics and tax base abstracts. If the schools could be placed in a
central walk-able distance then so much the better. The issue of
walk-ability is entirely different than when I was going to school. We
are now more mobile and dependant on better means of transportation than
in the past. I think a walk-able, sustainable community is not what is
being planned for this day and time.