Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Anne Medenblik
Office Sought/District: Orange County Board of Education
Home Address: 500 Dumont Drive, Hillsborough, NC 27278
Campaign Web Site: see Facebook page "Anne Medenblik for School Board"
Occupation & Employer: educator; currently serving as the chair of the Orange County Board of Education
Years lived in Orange County: 14 years
1. What do you believe are the three most important issues facing the Orange Co. school system? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
We must strive for excellence in education. I believe we can achieve this goal by recruiting and retaining excellent teachers and administrators. Since I have been on the board we have made significant steps to close the achievement gap and we are experiencing success: the data shows this gap is closing. Our current board has required accountability. We continually assess policies, curriculum, strategies and personnel. Providing rigor and relevance and funding interventions has reduced dropout rates and increased graduation rates. During my term on this board, dropouts have decreased and more students are graduating. We expect the dropouts to decrease drastically during the 2009-2010 school year. We are moving in the right direction and I would like to see that trend continue.
Reduced funding is a major concern for our school system. This administration has already taken drastic steps to prepare for a reduced funding while at the same time optimize educational opportunities for our students. Budget decisions are driven by programs that are producing results. There was a time when so many programs were in place that it became difficult to determine which were producing results. For example, it was apparent that literacy programs were expensive and only met the need of a very limited number of our lower elementary children. We are pleased to report the new program has shown positive results in a short period of time. With an impending reduction in funding, we will need to continue to realign and streamline practices and examine alternative funding sources. It would be very difficult to eliminate programs that clearly are showing successes with the achievement gap and dropouts. In a climate of reduced funding, I have promoted a renewed emphasis on grant writing.
Engaging the community in support of schools. This board has made a concerted effort to reach out to the community. During my tenure the district's website was updated and made more user friendly. The board hosted a booth at Last Fridays in Hillsborough. The school district has formed many community partnerships. I personally make an effort to attend as many community and school related events as my calendar will allow. I make a concerted effort to respond to communications from parents and the community. I believe in transparency, and admit sometimes there have been unintentional barriers. We hope to broadcast board meetings in the future. Proposed policies should be and will be made available to the public for their input.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the board? This might include career or community; be specific about its relevance to this office.
Currently serving as chair of the Orange County Board of Education; served 4 years on this board
My two children have attended Orange County Schools since kindergarten; my son is a junior and my daughter is a freshman
B.A., business education; A.S. legal assistant
Former high school teacher and coach; was certified for secondary education (grades 7-12); approvals for accounting, business law, general business training and office skills
Accounting and business management skills for analysis of fiscal matters and budgets; accountant for large corporation
Orange County Schools' Middle School Task Force member
Served on Orange County Schools Health Advisory Committee (SHAC)
Partnership Academy Advisory Board member
Legislative Liaison member of the Orange County Board of Education
Member, Christian Education Committee at my church
Battle of the Books Coach
Math Superstars coordinator
12 year volunteer in Orange County Schools
PTA Executive Committee member
Girl Scout leader for 7 years
I am passionate about public education and have spent the last 30 years employed or volunteering in the field of education. I attended public schools; my children attend Orange County Schools; and, I am willing to give back to a community that provides a quality education for my children. Serving on the board has allowed me to honor that commitment.
My experience as a parent and teacher has provided a basic understanding of the educational climate and the academic development of children, while my background in accounting has been helpful in analyzing the district's $60 million dollar budget.
3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
As a lifelong Democrat I believe we must equip each of our students with tools to provide themselves and all of humanity with 1) the basic necessities of life; 2) the opportunities to meet these necessities; 3) the opportunities for responsible decision making; and 4) ways to reduce extreme differences which might hinder accomplishing the first three goals.
4. Academically and intellectually gifted (AIG) and exceptional children (EC) present particular educational challenges to the district. How well is the district meeting the needs of these children? How could the district better meet their needs? What are the obstacles to these goals and how can they be surpassed?
With impending funding deficits we are deeply concerned about these populations in our district. We may be facing a decrease in per pupil local funding this year. We have allotted a significant amount of local funding to the AIG, EC and ESL (English as a Second Language) programs. We are encouraged the state assessments show these special populations are continuing to make excellent growth in our system. The federal government says we have to meet the needs of all students, and the challenge for a district is to meet the needs of these growing populations with a finite budget. We often speak in terms of unfunded mandates. Here is an example. The state provides additional funding for AIG students up to a maximum of 4% of the student population. In Orange County 11% of the students have been identified as AIG. The state allotment provides a limited number of AIG teachers. I support, and this board has supported, using local funding to place at least one AIG teacher in each of our elementary schools.
Studies show early intervention has proven to be extremely effective for children with developmental delays. I support, and this board has supported, funding for preschools in our district. To overcome funding obstacles we must creatively utilize all funding streams. We are using More @ Four, Title I, Exceptional Education and local funds to provide this preschool service to families.
One obstacle can be to improve the communication between the schools and parents of special needs children. As a parent of a gifted child, I was a member of Orange County Partners for the Advancement of Gifted Education. My hope is that group will become active again. I am also a member the newly organized SEPTA, a Special Education PTA comprised of parents and teachers of Exceptional Children in our district. Having navigated the sometimes confusing IEP (individualized education plans) process, I will continue to support these type of collaborations which can only help to bridge the gap between home and school, and provide support to parents with special needs children.
5. NC School Report Cards In 2008-09 show 79.1 percent of white students and 79.4 percent of Asians passing both reading and math EOG tests compared to just 44 percent of black students and 48.4 percent of Hispanics (lower than the state average). How will you work not only to close the achievement gap but to raise standards and produce results for all students? What specific plans and strategies would you implement to reach at-risk students and how quickly would you do it?
The statistics cited above do not reflect those of Orange County Schools. We are well above the state average on state assessments, and we are making inroads to closing the achievement gap. We have an active Raising Achievement and Closing the Gap committee, an oversight group comprised of community, staff and school board members. We have used local and other funding to support many interventions including:
1) Three community learning centers at local churches
2) Middle school after school programs where academic support is provided at all three of our middle schools
3) Recovery dropout prevention
4) Expanded summer programs for at risk youth
5) Parent summits
7) Transition programs for rising middle school and high school students
8) Professional staff development on methods for education students of color
9) Three year plan to expand Partnership Academy, an alternative school to serve the needs of short term suspended students and others with special needs
10) Mentoring and tutoring programs
Since we are making significant progress in closing the gap and reducing the dropout rate, I would strongly advocate for continuous funding to support these very effective programs that are already in place. Although support for expansion might be difficult, I would support extending AVID into the high schools.
6. What can the Orange County Board of Education learn from the Wake County School board's recent move for neighborhood schools and ending busing to create racial diversity? What's your position on this issue?
We can learn that one election cycle can certainly make a difference in school governance. We are a much smaller school district, our growth rate has been significantly lower, and thankfully, we have not had the growing pains of Wake County. I believe all of our schools are excellent schools. The Orange County School Board strives to meet the needs of all of our students. Our annual report to the community summarizes the significant progress we have achieved:
The proficiency rate on the on the Reading End-of-Grade (EOG) test for grades 3-8 has increased by 11.5% to 74.5% last year. The proficiency rate on the Mathematics EOGs increased nearly 7% to 85% and by nearly 19% in the area of science. Orange County Schools' students made improvements on the high school End-of-Course (EOC) assessments, demonstrating an increased proficiency on seven of the ten EOC tests. Our students also scored above the state and national average in all demographic groups on both the SAT and ACT. All schools made "Expected Growth" or "High Growth" on North Carolina's ABCs of Public Education and three schools were named as "Schools of Distinction." Districtwide, Orange County Schools met 49 of its 54 target goals for a 90.7% proficiency rate, an increase of 5.7% from the year before. The district is also making significant progress towards closing the achievement gap. In reading, grades 3-8, the gap between minority and white students has decreased in four of the six grade levels. In mathematics, the gap between students decreased in all six of the grade levels. The district is committed to ensuring that all students are successful and are actively working with the community to raise the achievement of all students. Finally, and most importantly, the district's graduation rate increased by 6.1% for the 2008-09 school year. Last year, 81.4% of our seniors successfully completed high school. The graduation rate for Orange County Schools is 9.7% higher than the state average and places our district in the "top 10" of all districts in the state. We are graduating more seniors than at any time in recent memory and more of those students are deciding to further their education.
If elected, it will be my goal to continue this exciting progress.
7. What method would you use to determine how resources should be allocated within the school system? Do you believe that resources are well now? If not, what would you change? Building off of that, how will you balance upcoming budgets during these economic times? What's one thing that is currently overfunded that could be cut?
In order to have excellent schools we must recruit and retain excellent teachers. We allocate local funding to provide supplements to our teachers, and I believe this supplement has paid dividends. We also have more national board certified teachers than most of our surrounding districts.
Federal and state funding formulas are used to allocate resources based on free and reduced lunch status, the number of level I and II students, disabled, gifted, and many other special needs. In addition to that funding, and as mentioned before in this questionnaire, we have targeted local funds toward our special populations. The current board and I recognized there were gaps in funding for technology. Technology becomes obsolete in a short period of time. We have used local funds to bring more current technology into the classrooms. Projections show we may not need to build new schools for the next ten years. With no major capital funding projects on the horizon, I have advocated and will continue to advocate for local funding to renovate and maintain our aging schools, many of them 40 and 50 years old.
If there is an overfunded budget item, I would hope someone would point it out to me. We have closely scrutinized and trimmed the budget over the past several years.
8. The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
In a just community I believe each child, regardless of race, religion, gender, class, disability, ethnic background, sexual orientation, age, or disability, must be invited to learn, and each child must be guaranteed a chance for success. It will take a concerted effort of parents, teachers, administrators and community members to equip all students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in today's society.
9. Identify a principled stand you have taken or would be willing to take if elected, even if you suspect might cost you popularity with voters.
I will listen and be responsive to all sides of an issue. However, my decision-making will be primarily focused on meeting the educational and emotional needs of the children.