NAME: Christine Baker
OFFICE FOR WHICH YOU ARE RUNNING: Durham County School Board
HOME PHONE: 919-489-4473
OCCUPATION & EMPLOYER: REALTOR, Prudential York Simpson Underwood
WORK PHONE: 919-949-4312
HOME ADDRESS: 106 Winterberry Ridge Drive, Durham, NC 27713
PARTY AFFILIATION: Non-partisan
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE ADDRESS: www.bakerforschoolboard.com
E-MAIL ADDRESS: firstname.lastname@example.org
1) If elected, what are your top priorities?
- Implementing our newly devised budget while attempting to minimize the classroom effect to ensure our children's needs are being met.
- Address current available programs and examine both areas of strength and weakness in order to increase our children's access to these programs while creating new programs in much needed areas.
- Look into our community building practices. I would implement more positive communication between our culturally diverse groups so that we may continue to celebrate our diversities in school and our community. Learn together, grow together.
2) What is there in your public record or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be an effective leader? Please be specific about your public and community service background.
- I am my mother's daughter! My commitment to community service began at the Girl Scout level as a Brownie in Danville, Kentucky, and I continued community service projects through GSUSA into adulthood. My mother worked for the Girl Scout Organization, which set an excellent example, and during my teenage years I was fortunate to accompany my mother in 1984 as she was instrumental in organizing and developing a program for children of Mexican migrant farm workers. That program and The Everglades Migrant Camp were a combined effort receiving national recognition and both continue to help children today. I was honored to be asked to sing at the 1991 GSUSA Convention in Miami, Florida. The theme of the 1990 convention was "The Year of the Lifetime Reader," with Maya Angelou as the keynote speaker, and my participation at that convention led to my desire to work with children's reading programs as an adult. I continue as a volunteer with both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts to this day.
- I have participated in Project Sarah and Elder Care service, as well as numerous walk-a-thons, animal rights activities, and as a classroom volunteer though the years.
- I worked on the Club Boulevard Renovation Project committee, which meant working not only with the school but also with the community.
- Recently, I have been very active as a PTA liaison bringing information to the PTA board from the school community at large. I am also a representative on the Exceptional Children's PTA (ECPTA).
3) How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
- My strengths are in management, conflict resolution, problem solving, and customer service. I believe all of these qualities will be critical to the school board position. We, as a family, have personal experience with the D.P.S. system, as we two elementary age children. I have been an active parent serving the PTA as liaison and as an ECPA representative.
4) Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
- There are varied opinions regarding civil rights, race relations, and our cultural differences. Until we open the door for discussion on what the disparities are, we cannot move forward as a community.
5) The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
- If I were elected to office, I would examine our practices in cultural sensitivity and implement more positive behaviors. We cannot turn a blind eye to acts of blatant discrimination.
6) What is your stance on sex education in Durham Public Schools? Should it be taught, and at what grade level?
- I believe our children have the right to know what is happening to their bodies as they grow and mature and how pregnancy will affect the rest of their lives. Middle school students appear to struggle the most with their new found bodies and emotions; therefore, I believe it is important to start at the 4th or 5th grade level so children are prepared to deal with these changes as they occur.
7) Teacher quality continues to be an issue in many school districts, including Durham Public Schools. How would you work to reduce teacher turnover, increase job satisfaction and attract more qualified teachers to Durham? What additional professional development or support should teachers receive that they are not already getting, and how would the district pay for this?
- It is not clear to me why we would continue to support a teacher that shows poor progress in the classroom. Students have expressed to me that some teachers have preconceived ideas about a student's abilities because of their economic status or the color of their skin. If this is true, what message are we sending our children? How will those children find the strength to overcome an adult's prejudices against them in order to become successful? The answer is "they can't." Sensitivity training must be mandatory for all teachers and staff members who have direct contact with our children.
- Our regular classroom teachers need training in special education if they are asked to teach exceptional students in their classrooms. The No Child Left Behind Act is a good idea in theory, but won't work if proper systems are not in place. This type of teacher training and education should be mandatory.
8) Test scores continue to show an achievement gap between students in an ethnic or racial minority in Durham and their white counterparts. How can Durham's school board shape new policy or initiatives to improve the performance of minority students?
- What we consider to be our "minority" population is the majority in our school system. The pendulum swings far, considering our varied educational status in Durham. While a certain population of our community affords the opportunity of a college education including Master's and Doctorate degrees, a large portion of our community are blue collar workers sometimes working two jobs to support themselves and their families. These two groups have significant difficulties communicating and relating to one another to make the wheels turn smoothly. I mention this because I hear blame all too often being placed on those who can afford additional resources or criticisms for those who can't. All parents do not have the ability to provide equally, but all children deserve an equal education. Recognizing weakness in our ability to communicate effectively is the first step of many toward finding a solution.
9) Despite population growth, enrollment in Durham's schools dropped 9 percent this year. How will you work to make DPS more attractive to parents and families?
- I will work to raise expectations of our staff, our students, and the community as a whole, while taking great pride in the hard work we are already doing. As a REALTOR, I see all too often the effects an underperforming school system can have in the decision making process.
10) Should the state provide vouchers to parents who choose private (K-12) schools for their children? If so, for what amount?
- This is a personal question for me. We have two children and recently moved our special needs child out of Durham Public Schools and into a private school to receive a specialized education that better accommodates his needs. I have not yet asked the state for assistance for his education, but it is my understanding that the state is responsible for educating my special needs child.
11) Durham's school system is facing perhaps one of the most challenging budget years in recent history. What direction will you give to school administration to balance the budget? In what areas would you recommend cutbacks and which services should remain untouched?
- I am a former business owner and now act as an independent contractor. I am uncomfortable commenting on budget cuts without seeing the current budget—I think that would be irresponsible. What I can say is that while we are fighting so hard to save teachers' positions, I am hopeful that each and every one of them is worthy of saving. We currently have few teachers' assistants, which is a huge strain in the classroom. Programs that have proven to be successful and programs that continue to lead our children in a positive direction, enhancing their overall educational experience, must remain.