Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Mia Munn
Date of Birth: 10 September 1961
Campaign Web Site: http://www.miamunn4chathamschools.com/
Occupation & Employer: Finance Systems Analyst contractor, The Accuro Group working at GlaxoSmithKline
Years lived in Chatham County: 24 years
1. Why are you seeking the office of Chatham County School Board member?
I had never considered running for school board or any public office until this February when several people asked me to run. I thought about it and talked with my family, and it seemed to make sense based on my experience. I am a former teacher. I have a lifelong interest in education policy and curriculum. I read education websites and books as a hobby. I am passionate about my belief that all kids can do well if we expect them to and teach them well. I believe that my experience and skills will let me contribute to making the Chatham County Schools successful for all our kids. I have worked in Finance for most of my career, I am a certified Project Manager Professional (PMP), and I was involved in two institutional building projects. I had three children attend the Chatham County Schools. Throughout my 14 years as a parent with children in CCS, I saw many good teachers, but I also experienced low expectations from teachers and systemic reluctance to encourage children to excel. I believe my broad background will allow me to help build on our school system's strengths and overcome the deficits.
2. If elected, what is your one top priority for the Chatham County school system? What specific steps would you take to accomplish this goal?
Less than 80% of the students in Chatham County graduate from high school. There are a lot of good things that happen in the Chatham County Schools, but I can't say we have successful schools when so many students are limiting their futures by failing to graduate. I believe that we can and we must help all of our students to succeed. One of my guiding principles is "Identify problems early, implement solutions quickly". We need to identify kids as soon as they struggle with reading, as early as the kindergarten screening for some of them, to ensure they get the systematic instruction they need to learn to read. Having reading teachers in every school and a structured reading curriculum for struggling students is a top priority. For kids who have reached middle school or high school while still struggling to read, I advocate reading-intensive classes to help them succeed. These should not just be watered down versions of regular classes; they should be classes where a student's deficits are identified and then remedied, including teaching the content knowledge necessary to make sense of the words they read. We should continue to expand AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) in every grade in the high school, train all middle school and high school teachers in AVID methodologies, and eventually bring the AVID program to middle school. We need to enforce rules and procedures so that learning can occur in every classroom without constant disruptions. We need to look at data by school, by teacher, by class, and by student to help improve the teaching and learning. And most of all, we must develop a school culture that believes and acts on the belief that all kids can be successful.
3. What are the three most important things the school board can do to improve and maintain the quality of public education while coping with the influx of thousands of new students as a result of the building boom happening now in Chatham?
1. The upside of the economic downturn is that it gives us a chance to catch up to the student population by completing the new middle school in Briar Chapel in 2010 and the new high school on Jack Bennett Road in 2011. We need to continually monitor population changes throughout the county by regularly (at least annually) evaluating current student population and projected population growth. Using outside consultants, such as the OR/Ed Lab at NCSU, provides an objective viewpoint not influenced by local pressures for the School Board to use to make decisions on new schools and district lines.
2. We need to make all of our schools places where teachers choose to work and where they want to stay. This means focusing on providing new teachers with the scheduling, mentoring, and support they need to be successful in their first years. It means providing a good atmosphere in the school, where classroom disruptions are minimized and where there are routines that promote good discipline. It means giving teachers a voice in the decision-making of their school. And, part of it is money. I would look at alternatives to increase teacher pay, considering differentiated pay scales as well as changing the teacher supplement from a flat amount to a percentage of salary.
3. Only 80% of Chatham County students graduate from high school. That's not good enough. I believe we can do better because there are schools with even more challenging demographics than we have that do better than we do. I want to take the lessons from these schools, simple things like protecting instructional time from intrusion, using aggregate and individual student data to improve instruction, and aligning the instruction to the curriculum and the standards, to bring all kids to a higher level. The biggest lesson, though, is that the school community needs to be focused on academic achievement and not only believe but act on the belief that all kids can learn and succeed.
4. What is there in your public record or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be an effective school board member? Be specific. What public or private boards/commissions have you served on and what have you accomplished?
I have not previously served on any public boards, but I have been involved in two institutional building projects. I was the vice chair for the committee that oversaw the entire construction process from hiring the architect and securing financing to move in for Evergreen United Methodist Church in Chatham County. I was also chairman of the building specifications committee for Woods Charter School in Chatham County. I surveyed parents, faculty and students about their priorities for the school building, and then wrote the 25 page Educational Specifications document that was given to the architects. The actual Woods Charter School building that opened this August closely reflects the requirements in that document. I have also been a scout leader for 14 years, including serving as committee chairman for both Pack 93 in Pittsboro and Pack 951 in North Chatham and as Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner for Lee and Chatham Counties. I have experience as a classroom teacher, in Finance and in project management. I have a broad and deep knowledge of education policy and curriculum. All of these experiences have taught me skills that will allow me to be effective on the school board.
5. In paying for new schools and other county needs, what role would you like to see assigned to:
a. Property taxes?
Chatham County has an unbalanced tax base, too heavily reliant on residential property taxes. The Economic Development Corporation should continue to recruit business to the county consistent with the strategic plan to provide additional commercial property tax revenue.
b. Impact fees?
I think the county should lobby the legislature to allow sliding scale impact fees. Where possible, the county should work with developers to contribute to public infrastructure like schools and parks.
c. Year-round schools?
I don't favor mandatory year-round schools, and Chatham County does not have enough population density to support both the standard calendar and year-round schools necessary for voluntary year-round schools.
d. More charter schools?
Charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling are good choices for some families, though most families will continue to rely on district public schools. Chatham County is fortunate to have two charter schools in the county that have relieved some of the school overcrowding over the past few years. I support raising the cap on charter schools because there is parent demand for them, and because charter schools are held to high standards of accountability and those that don't meet the standards are closed.
e. Sales tax?
Sales tax is not as significant a source of revenue in Chatham County as it should be, so as the population grows, the Economic Development Corporation should look at ways of attracting consumer businesses (as well as other businesses) to broaden the sales tax base.
f. Other revenue-raising or cost-cutting methods?
We should always look first at our current expenditures, and ensure that we are spending money wisely. Then we should look at creative funding models, like public-private partnerships. Only then should we look at raising taxes.
6. Do you have children? If yes, do/did they attend Chatham County schools? If so, please sum up your experience as a public school parent and what you would do as a school board member to improve parents' and students' experience. If your children did not attend Chatham public schools, please state where they do/did attend school and explain why what you would do to make the school system more attractive to parents who reject it as an option for their children.
My oldest son attended Pittsboro Elementary, Horton Middle, and graduated from Northwood High School in 1999. My middle son attended Pittsboro and Horton through the 5th grade before graduating from Woods Charter in 2006. My youngest son attended Pittsboro through 3rd grade and graduated from Woods in 2008. My children's experience in the Chatham County Schools included low expectations from some teachers and a systemic reluctance to encourage children to excel. We moved our younger children to Woods Charter School in part because of the low expectations and in part because Woods offered the Core Knowledge curriculum, which I had learned about in the mid-1990s and which I believe is the best curriculum to address both the needs of bright children from educated families and the needs of children from difficult backgrounds who struggle in school. In total, I had children in the Chatham County School system for 14 years and at Woods Charter for 9 years.
My 17 year old son describes Woods as "academic excellence, no matter what it takes". I think that should be the description of every school in Chatham County. We need to develop a school culture that believes and acts on the belief that every child can learn and succeed and where excellence is encouraged and nurtured. Those schools will be more attractive to parents and to teachers.
7. In general, what is your opinion of the job Superintendent Logan is doing?
I am hopeful about Mr. Logan's leadership as a superintendent. As I've campaigned at Chatham events, I've met a number of teachers from Lee County where he was previously a superintendent who speak very highly of him. I liked the process he used to hire the Northwood and North Chatham principals. Mr. Logan has personally been responsive when I have asked for information. He presented suggestions for improving the process of board members getting information from the central office that I believe will be a positive change. Mr. Logan also seems to have found a better definition for Sage Academy, with a way for students to graduate with fewer credits (still meeting the state requirements) as well as training in a trade.
To me, the superintendent is the key person in the district. He sets the tone for the district, and he hires the principals who set the tone for each school. So far, I'm pleased with how Mr. Logan has met those responsibilities.
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?
Too many of our students drop out of high school and limit their futures. High school dropouts earn about one-third less than high school graduates and they are more likely to commit crimes or require public assistance. A good education, with the minimum goal of high school graduation, benefits the students as well as society as a whole. I believe my passion for education and my background will allow me to help the Chatham County schools to improve, thus improving the lives of its students and the whole community.