Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Tom Carr
Legal name, if different: Malcom Thomas Carr
Date of Birth: Oct. 10, 1949
Mailing address: P.O. Box 344, Hillsborough, NC 27278
Campaign Web Site: www.gotgrit.org
Occupation & Employer: Retired from Orange County Schools (30 years)
Home Phone: 919-732-7183
1. What are three most important issues facing Orange County? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
Note: My responses to these questions come from my position on the Board of Education if elected.
1. Many of our students are not totally prepared to work in the ‘real world.’ Our schools are doing the best they can in the academic areas but more important than teaching hard skills is the teaching of soft skills. In the real world young people who possess good soft skills (social skills) tend to successful. Many years ago Teddy Roosevelt noted, “The key ingredient in the formula for success is the ability to get along with others.”
2. Our county is losing great teachers because of salary issues and more and more demands/stressors that are placed on them.
3. There is a need to provide more opportunities to keep our young people involved in positive activities such as clubs and sports in school, and more after-school activities in the community (volunteering, church, sports).
If elected I will address these issues at Board meetings. I will encourage and support our Superintendent and administrators as they attempt to ease many of the stressors placed on teachers. This can be done with fewer meetings, less time on testing, fewer benchmark tests/assessments, and by treating our teachers as true professionals. I will do my best to keep abreast of legislative issues in Raleigh that affect teachers and students.
I will encourage principals to utilize their school counselors, social workers, and other support staff in ways that will allow them to implement programs to help our students garner good social skills.
I hope to meet with community officials to address more opportunities for children to keep involved in positive activities.
2. What is your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the Orange County School Board? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
First of all, I recently retired after 30 years as a counselor in Orange County; I’m fresh out of the trenches! I am well aware of issues that are affecting teachers, administrators, and parents. And because I’m retired, I’ll have plenty of time to be a frequent visitor to all schools. Because of these visits and my years of experience I will be better prepared to vote on vital issues that affect teachers. As a school counselor I’ve had years of experience and training in conflict management. I have written 15 books on education issues (conflict management, anger, motivation, discipline and parenting). My books are published by Youthlight Books, Inc. in Chapin, SC.
Also I’ve presented over 400 workshops throughout the United States and Canada for educators and parents. I have learned a lot in my numerous visits to other schools in our state.
3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I rarely think about my politics or political philosophy. I only think about what is best for our teachers and students. Over the years I have had the ability to work well with others, regardless of their political views/philosophies.
4. A recent national report ranked the average teacher pay in NC at 46th in the nation. Considering that pitfall and ongoing tumult in the N.C. General Assembly over education funding and teacher tenure, how do you recruit and retain quality teachers in the school system?
First of all, our county is a great place to live and work. Luckily our reputation has drawn quality teachers. But how long will they continue to come, and more importantly, stay. While the salary battles are occurring in Raleigh, here in Orange County we must treat our teachers professionally. This can be done by:
*Eliminating some of the stressors involved in testing.
*Encourage creativity. Why should all teachers have to teach the same way? Many new ‘silver bullet’ programs seem to do away with individuality. When the Common Core program came out, many states, including ours, were jumping with joy thinking it was a savior. Now, recent reports are coming out that many states are rethinking their decision about implementing Common Core. In fact, a few states are voting to drop the program. Common Core and other new programs are aimed at ‘every teacher must be on the same page’ every day; what happens in one classroom in NC must be closely matched by a classroom in New York, Georgia, Florida and so on. Let teachers teach the way they know best. In my many years in Orange County I’ve noticed that some of the best teachers were very unorthodox; they didn’t fit in the normal ‘mold’ but were very effective.
*I would encourage the Central Office and principals to look at ways to decrease the number of meetings, inservice, and faculty meetings that teachers are required to attend. In the last few years I was amazed at the number of hours teachers sat in these gatherings. I personally found few of the meetings/inservice valuable. Many of these gatherings were to learn the latest and greatest new programs. Every year it seems teachers spend numerous hours learning a new program only to find out the next year that program is out! Also, many quality hours of teaching are lost when substitutes watch classes while teachers are learning the latest ‘flavor of the month.’ Let teachers teach. One of my favorite quotes is, “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’.”
5. Considering funding cuts at the state level, how do you shape a budget that maintains the school system’s reputation for quality, innovative education?
*Continue to monitor positions in the Central Office. Can some positions be combined or eliminated?
*Here is a unique idea. Every year require Central Office staff and other ‘non-school based personnel’ to be a substitute teacher 10 days a year. We could save a lot of money this way, plus it would allow these people to get a better feel for what is ‘really’ happening in classrooms.
*While looking at budgets I will stress the importance of keeping after-school activities such as sports, band, and clubs. A recent study found that the more of these positive activities a school had, the higher their overall school test scores were.
*Another way to save money is to not jump on every new bandwagon (program) that comes along. Major book publishers and national workshop companies drool with excitement when a new program comes along because they know school districts will be spending oodles of money to teach their teacher another new program. My old office had shelves full of old training manuals that were collecting dust.
6. Recent changes to the SAT scoring system have made the essay question optional and reduced the emphasis on tough vocabulary words in an effort to make long-time testing system more modern and fair. What do you think about the changes? What else can be done to make the college prep testing process fairer for all students?
*First of all, many colleges and universities are no longer utilizing the SAT. These colleges focus more on GPA and other factors such as extra-curricular activities and character.
*Also, we need to get out of the mode of thinking that all students need to go to college. We want to make sure that students graduate from high school, but can many of these students succeed without a four-year degree? Can they learn a trade, go a couple years to a community college or tech school? We need more plumbers and electricians than we need four-year college graduates with degrees in philosophy! I know many high school graduates, with good social (soft) skills, who never went to college, but hooked up with a company and eventually rose into management or became self-employed.
*Overall, I think our two high schools are doing a good job with SAT preparation, AP classes, and offering college-prep classes.
7. Anti-bullying campaigns have become popular in the wake of numerous school shootings in recent years. Would you further the anti-bullying campaign in Orange County Schools?
Bullying can’t be ignored, but I think there are better ways to address it. We must remember that bullying and teasing are not new issues. Many of us adults have tougher skins and better coping skills today because we survived rude kids in school. The problem today is drawing the line between what is teasing and what is bullying. It seems to me that the more we talk about it, the worse it gets. In the past, kids would adjust/cope with a ‘mean’ student but now many are taught to ‘tell the teacher’ when someone calls them a name. Yes, there needs to be major consequences for students guilty of serious bullying or harassment. I would like to see more programs that focus on teaching kids skills on how to deal with rude kids instead of trying to focus on ways to punish the perpetrators.
8. Identify a principled stand you would be willing to take if elected, even if it cost you popularity points with voters.
Two ways: 1) I will fight for those teachers who are creative, unique, and unorthodox. I will fight for those teachers who are not afraid to speak up or challenge authority in a professional way. Teachers should not be afraid of retaliation just for speaking up at a faculty meeting! We need more ‘Galileos’ and fewer ‘bobbleheads.’ Note: I would love to see every school create a Galileo Award given to a teacher on staff who wasn’t afraid to speak up, who took a risk, or developed a better way of doing things. 2) I think we need to eliminate early-release days. They are tough on working parents. Many parents lose money by leaving work early and they struggle with childcare issues on these days. This is not a good PR! Also, most teachers are usually ‘burnt-out’ at the end of the day and aren’t excited about ‘another meeting.’
9. The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
I plan to work closely with the Superintendent, fellow Board members, principals, teachers, counselors, and other staff to make sure we stress the soft skills as much as the hard skills. Graduates who ‘get along well with others’ will be great assets to our community. They will volunteer more, give back to the community, will commit less crime, and hold on to jobs for a longer period of time.