Name as it appears on the ballot: Brian D. Bower
Date of birth: January 31, 1983
Home address: 135 Dixie Garden Drive, Chapel Hill, NC, 27516
Occupation & employer: Research Assistant, UNC-CH
If elected, what are your top priorities for the school board and how will you achieve them?
If I am elected my top priority will be to pick up my jaw from off the floor.
What is there in your record as a public official or other experience—e.g., career, community service—that demonstrates your ability to be effective as a board member? If you are an incumbent, what are your most notable achievements and how will you build on them? If you aren't, what do you bring to the board that it now lacks? Please be as specific as possible about the relevance of your accomplishments to your goals for the board.
I have virtually no experience that would qualify me for a position on the school board. What educational experience I have from TA'ing a course at UNC-CH is negligible, and what administrative experience I have from my previous places of employment is similarly insignificant.
The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to the board help further that goal?
The only justice some might see in the highly unlikely event of my very inconveniently winning one of the seats would be that my consternation at the situation would seem a fair punishment for my own impertinence. However, these smug notions could only survive so long as the injustice wrought upon the district by my victory could be overlooked.
For the first time in two decades, CHCCS has a new superintendent in Thomas Forcella. What do you hope he achieves in his first year in charge and what will you do to support his efforts?
I hope to achieve nothing as a member of the school board, and with the help of a motivated electorate I believe I can.
How can the district close the achievement gap? What strides have been made in the past four years, what worked, what didn't, and what should be done now?
The achievement gap likely cannot be closed, certainly not in the short term and almost as certainly not in a just manner. I am particularly concerned that the fixation over closing the achievement gap has even led to criticism of CHCCS for establishing new honors level courses. While I am in favor of successful and popular programs such ESL courses and dual language programs to help students overcome some difficulties that contribute to the achievement gap, the notion that further efforts along these lines MUST be made at the expense of already successful students is unconscionable. Kurt Vonnegut's 'Harrison Bergeron' seems a salient yet satirical example of such ideals taken too far.
How do you make sure that despite budget difficulty, the district will push past the status quo and achieve more? What more needs to be done to help support teachers?
The board can only do so much with what it has. Clever machinations aside, the money only goes so far. Teachers already have the reasonable support of the board and I am unaware of serious systematic issues with teacher support.
How will the policies you push, if elected, help develop students for the new economy? What kind of nontraditional education is now needed and how would you help provide it?
A traditional education with a strong emphasis on generalizable skills will prove to be of infinitely greater value than many of the educational innovations that the future will bring. Still, I support some change. I fully support the dual language programs of the district and would like to see them given greater support at the high-school level (as funding permits). Early acquisition of a second language can provide a lifelong skill that can be of great use in a student's future academic and professional careers. Likewise, I support efforts to encourage students to pursue coursework through the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS). Online coursework can permit students to meet their graduation requirements more rapidly while helping to alleviate one facet of school crowding. Additionally, experience with self-motivated online coursework can be of great benefit to students as they migrate from high-school to college level work.
How should student discipline be handled? What are your views on the district's current policies for long-term suspension? Do you think they are fairly applied? How would you ensure those children who are long-term suspended are given an opportunity to be educated?
I believe that student discipline should be handled on a case-by-case basis. Trying to enforce a rigid discipline through a zero-tolerance policy when the facts behind many infractions thereof are nuanced is foolish. It absolves school authorities not only of the responsibility to think through their actions, but their ability to choose them. This can result in unfair imposition of long-term suspensions on some students. Thankfully, efforts are already underway to help make discipline in CHCCS more reasonable. The requirements of House Bill 376 will likely reduce the number of students who are given long-term suspensions (§ 115C-390.2.e-g) and it already mandates that students undergoing long-term suspension be offered alternative education when possible (§ 115C-390.9).
What would you do to increase parental involvement in the schools? What should be the nature of that involvement? Where should the line be drawn?
Nothing. While parental involvement in a student's education is admirable, it is something which remains justifiably beyond the ability of the board to compel. Ideally parents should have a healthy involvement in their children's education, to include an active interest in their success or failure and things they can do to help their children excel. Minimally the parents would be willing to help prevent their children's failure, and very minimally not to cause it. However, where the line is to be drawn must unfortunately be drawn very close to the bottom line. It is an unavoidable case that the district will occasionally have to deal with recalcitrant parents of poorly performing students, just as it will have to deal with overbearing parents of stellar students. So long as these parent's do not interfere with the ability of the district to teach the students under its charge they remain within their rights.
As Chapel Hill's population continues to grow, what should guide future school planning? Can the district afford and obtain the land necessary to build these schools? How should the district manage its growth? How does redistricting fit in?
One way or another, sooner or later the district must build additional classroom space if it is to keep up with the rapid growth of the population it serves. All elementary schools are already over capacity, and addressing the overcrowding by spot redistricting is unfortunately a necessary but temporary solution. Thankfully the opening of elementary school #11 should help address some of the overcrowding, though it will require another round of redistricting once it is opened. Ultimately the school system does not manage its growth. The school system plans it growth and is forced to cope when those plans fall short or go awry.