Mia Munn | Candidate Questionnaires - Chatham County | Indy Week
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Mia Munn 

Name as it appears on the ballot: Mia Munn
Full legal name, if different: Marion Tee Munn
Date of birth: 9/10/1961
Home address: 694 Sugar Lake Rd, Pittsboro, NC 27312
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign website: mia4chatham.com
Occupation & employer: Data Analyst / Robert Half Technologies (at Cisco)
Home phone: 919-542-5338
Work phone:
Cell phone: 919-630-1208
Email: mia4chatham@gmail.com
Twitter handle, if applicable:

Other material
• Resume – www.linkedin.com/in/mmunn/
• Campaign website – http://www.mia4chatham.com/
• Campaign Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/Mia4Chatham
• Education Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/MiaMunns.education.group/
• Video of statement at Carolina Meadows candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters September 22, 2014 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=IQ1JMoXYnOU
• Statement to the local NAACP April 12, 2014 – http://www.mia4chatham.com/?p=285
Chatham County Schools Board of Education Questionnaire 1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing the school system. If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

The number one issue for Chatham and all school systems is continual improvement in all schools so that every student receives an excellence education. The second issue in Chatham is planning for growth of the district in the next 5-30 years. To address continual improvement, I would ensure that the curriculum is rich in history, science, arts, and literature, to build rich content knowledge systematically grade by grade. This curriculum approach has been shown to improve achievement for all ability levels and aligns with the requirements of the Common Core standards. Narrowing the curriculum and focusing on test prep is counter-productive. Instead, we should integrate history, science, and the arts into the literacy blocks in the elementary grades, and ensure all students develop broad content knowledge. I would also try to improve the climate at the schools to encourage a feeling of community and positive relationships between teachers and students. Building community does not just happen: it needs to be fostered by school and classroom activities. Aligning school-wide behavior / leadership programs across the schools that feed into each high school could also give students and teachers a sense of community with a common language and common expectations for academic behavior, which will improve the school climate, reduce disciplinary issues, and increase learning.

I discuss planning for growth more in question two. In short, the board needs to be proactive in determining how we want future schools to be structured, to work with developers, county and town governments, and the Chatham Economic Development Corporation, and to ensure that the consultants we use provide the best guidance possible.

2. Chatham Park is on the way. Considering the implications this development has for the county’s population and, thus, its schools, how would you work as a school board member to prepare for the changes in store?

Though Chatham Park will have an impact in the coming decades, the megasite north of Siler City will potentially have a major impact on the county and the district within the next 3-10 years. This is the first certified mega-site in the state, and the state and county Economic Development Corporation are actively recruiting for an auto plant or other large manufacturer; State Secretary of Commerce Decker travelled to Japan in September to tout this site to Japanese car manufacturers who are planning to expand in the southeast United States in the near term. This site could bring thousands of jobs, and new families and students, to the county. Another site in Moncure is going through the mega-site certification process and may become a certified site next year.

To deal with expected growth from the mega-sites and Chatham Park, the board should be proactive in discussing its philosophy for new schools. Do we want new K-8 schools or separate elementary and middle schools? Should there be multi-school campuses, with separate schools of different levels sharing the same site? What is the best size for future schools? Do we want to co-locate new schools with park or library sites? We need to decide what we want before we can plan for the future growth.

We have used Or/ED as consultants for a number of years, but they have used some questionable assumptions in the past (such as linear charter school growth for the period when there was a charter school cap). We should explore if there are other consultants who can help guide board discussions on the need for new schools. We need to use the best data available to guide our planning.

The board should keep in close contact with the county government, the towns of Siler City and Pittsboro, and the Chatham Economic Development Corporation as well as with the Chatham Park developers so that the district can be ready for the coming growth.

3. North Carolina lawmakers approved teacher pay raises in 2014 that offered relatively little to veteran educators in the state. As a local school system leader, how do you work to recruit and retain some of the most experienced teachers for Chatham County Schools?

In the current school year’s budget, the school board proposed and the Chatham County commissioners approved a local incentive plan, the first of its kind in North Carolina. This gives the opportunity for every school employee to earn a performance bonus. The county commissioners also increased the amount of the local supplement for all teachers last school year. Both of these will help in recruiting and retaining excellent teachers. We also need to ensure that the school climate is supportive to both new and experienced teacher, providing adequate professional development, planning time, and teacher input into school and district programs.

The Department of Public Instruction issues a report on teacher turnover each year. In the December 2013 report, Chatham had a lower 5-year average turnover, 12.04%, than 8 of 9 of our neighboring districts, including Chapel Hill Carrboro, Orange County, and Durham County. Chatham County Schools continues to be an attractive district for teachers.

4. In 2014, Chatham County became the only county in the state to offer a district-wide, locally funded incentive program for teachers. If you support the program, explain how you maintain the local funds needed to offer the incentives. If you oppose the program, tell us what you believe is a better alternative.

I support the local incentive program, and the Chatham County commissioners have committed to funding it on an ongoing basis. We should evaluate the plan, look at models in other districts and states, and possibly modify our incentive plan in the future to serve the needs of our district. We also need to look at other incentive programs, such as differential pay for hard to fill positions or working in high-needs schools. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools have implemented Project LIFT in some of its schools, using the Opportunity Culture approach developed by the Chapel Hill education think tank Public Impact, to change the delivery model to allow master teachers to reach more students in exchange for significant increases in pay. We need to be open to adopting incentive programs that are working in other places.

5. 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 service; be specific about its relevance to this office.

I have been involved with Chatham County Schools for almost 30 years as a parent of students in the system and a concerned community member. For the past six years, I have been an informal community advocate for education. I have attended most school board meetings and posted the information I collect at those meetings through social media. I have shared education research and articles with administrators and school board members. I have been a resource for parents, students, and school staff. I have been involved in the district’s Raising Achievement/Closing the Gap task force, participated in community work sessions for the district’s strategic plan, served on the district budget committee, and was a subcommittee member for the district accreditation process. I mentored an at-risk student from Northwood for the graduation project through Chatham County Together and was an assessor for graduation project presentations at Jordan-Matthews High School. I have written articles in local publications and spoken to community groups on the importance of community involvement in our schools. I know the issues our district faces.

Now I want the opportunity to sit on the other side of the table, and serve the county more directly as a school board member. I believe my background provides a valuable perspective that no one on the current board possesses.

Early in my career, I was a middle school and high school Social Studies teacher, but for the past 25 years, I have worked in Finance, Project Management, and Data Analysis. I spend my days working with and understanding the meaning of numbers and data. Much of the school board’s time is focused on the district’s $88 million budget. I have built budgets, reported on budget performance, analyzed budgets, and asked questions about budgets. I understand the financial information presented at board meetings. Data concerning the district results on tests and other measures is a frequent topic for the board. Part of my job is to look at data, ensure it says what people say it says, and use that data to make decisions. My experience will help the board use data to make decisions to improve the education we provide to our students. My husband and I have lived in Chatham County for 30 years. We know Chatham County is a wonderful, unique place. I want to help make our county even better, by ensuring that every student gets an excellence education.

6. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

I agree with Whitney Tilson, co-founder Democrats for Education Reform, who said, “We must change the debate from Republicans versus Democrats to those who defend the educational status quo versus those who demand more for our children.” I am registered Unaffiliated. I want the Chatham County Schools to provide an excellent education to every student. Though we are doing pretty well (all 17 schools met or exceeded growth expectations in 2013/14), not every student in Chatham County schools is succeeding. I don’t care where good ideas to improve our schools come from.

I have been reporting on school board meetings through social media for six years. I am known for being factual and providing source documentation for what I say. People from across the political spectrum, including current North Carolina Democratic Chair Randy Voller, have told me they refer to my school board meeting notes when they need to verify what happened at board meetings.

In order to provide an excellent education for every student, I will focus on three things:

1. Teaching, not bureaucracy: for every decision we make as a board, we should ask, “Is this helping the teacher and the student in the classroom to be successful?” Everything else we do needs to support that classroom relationship.

2. Investment in the best programs: Former State Superintendent Mike Ward spoke at the NC Council of Churches seminar on public education in Chapel Hill last summer. He ended his keynote by saying, “There is no magic pot of money. We can’t do everything. We have to make hard choices.” Instead of asking, “will this have any positive effect”, the board needs to look for and invest in the most effective programs so that we can do the most good possible with the available funding.

3. A coherent curriculum that builds informed, engaged American citizens: the goal of our schools is to produce graduates who can be successful as adults. Students need a broad foundation of knowledge, including not just English and math, but also history, geography, science, and the arts. This helps them to be better readers in all content areas, but more importantly prepares them for the adult world of work, college, and civic responsibilities like voting. Students can best develop this foundation when the curriculum systematically builds rich content knowledge grade by grade. The most at-risk students need this systematic alignment even more to help them catch up.

7. Spanish-speaking students present unique educational challenges to the district. Evaluate how the district is 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?

Several Chatham schools have large or growing native Spanish speaking populations. Though the English Language Learner subgroup lags other subgroups in most measures, our schools continue to show improvement with this population. For the 2013/14 school year, all 17 schools, including the schools with high numbers of English Language Learners, met or exceeded expected growth, something only a handful of districts in the state have done. We need to continue to focus on bringing this group up to proficiency.

The most important factors for student achievement are teachers and curriculum. Though these are important for all students, they are especially important for at risk students, including non-native English speakers. A rich, sequenced curriculum is my highest priority. This helps students to build vocabulary and background knowledge necessary to be better readers in all content areas.

Four Chatham County schools have a dual language program. This has been a benefit to native Spanish speaking and native English speaking students alike because students become not just bilingual, but also bi-literate. The program in Siler City is at all levels (Siler City Elementary, Chatham Middle, and Jordan-Matthews High School). The program in the eastern part of the county is only at North Chatham Elementary now, but will expand to Pollard Middle and Northwood High School as the initial class moves into those schools. When other elementary schools have a sufficient population of both native English and Spanish speaking students, we should consider expanding the dual language program. Teachers of non-native English speakers need appropriate support, training, and materials. For all native Spanish-speaking students, we need to ensure that the schools are welcoming to their parents and that school information is available in Spanish.

8. Chatham County Schools has piloted a laptop program aimed at offering computers for high school students and teachers. Do you support or oppose the program and why? If you support the program, how do you open up the program to offer the technology to more students in the school system?

All teachers in all grades in all Chatham County Schools have been provided laptops for several years. Chatham County Schools has had a 1 to 1 laptop program at all of its high schools since the 2009/10 school year. This is not a pilot program. I support continuing this initiative, but I want to ensure that there is proper support, including planning time for teachers, technical resources, and most importantly, sufficient bandwidth to handle the number of users, before expanding it to the middle grades. Large parts of Chatham County still only have dial-up internet access, and there is no low-cost internet provider for low-income families. We need to work with the county commissioners and internet providers to ensure that all students can access the internet at home. Randolph Telephone has recently agreed to expand high-speed fiber optic lines in the southwest part of the county. This is a good start to expanding internet access in Chatham County. Technology is a tool, not an end to itself. We need to evaluate the 1 to 1 laptop initiative and all technology programs on an ongoing basis to ensure they are having a positive impact.

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