Rani Dasi | Candidate Questionnaires - Orange County | Indy Week
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Rani Dasi 

Chapel Hill/Carrboro School Board

Name as it appears on the ballot: Rani Dasi
Party affiliation, if any: Democratic
Campaign website: dasiforschoolboard.com
Occupation & employer: Corporate finance and strategy
Years lived in Chapel Hill/Carrboro: 8
Please return with a digital photo to jbillman@indyweek.com

1. Given the current direction of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education, would you say things are generally on the right course? If not, what specific, major changes will you advocate if elected?

Priority focus on raising outcomes for all children with particular focus on students who have historically been underserved. The gap in testing outcomes in some communities has been persistent and it is critical to raise this to the top of every agenda. A community is as successful as all the individuals who make it up. Because we’re all connected, everyone’s success matters.
• I would contribute to developing milestones to determine progress toward elevating outcomes for all students. We need to develop metrics that will help the community understand if we are on track.
• These plans and milestones should be reviewed at least semi-annually by the board to ensure our goals are met.

Increased community interaction/communication:
• We are fortunate to have a strong, engaged community of parents and other interested parties in the district. I’d like to help the board strengthen communication by holding listening sessions and being more engaged in community events.
• There should also be increased clarity on how decisions are made and how the community can provide input. This can be achieved by sharing the summaries of board discussions via community email blasts or a community site where all members can provide comments or suggestions.

2. Please identify the three most pressing issues the school system faces and how you will address them.

Issue 1: Budget constraints: The current environment of increasing financial needs and flat to decreasing educational funding.

How to address:
• Prioritize spending related to instruction
• Plan budget spending to align with long term plan and results
• Review special programs to assess value
• Partner with other school boards and community groups to continue to advocate for increased state funding

Issue 2: Achievement gap. There continues to be a significant difference in outcomes on proficiency tests between some populations. This issue requires consistent attention from the community. I would focus on the following areas:

A. Inside the classroom:
• Recruiting, training (including equity awareness) and retaining high quality teachers with high expectations of students. Introduce top local high school students to careers in education. Continue to refine professional development training to meet instructional needs.
• Focus on early childhood education. Ensuring early identification of issues that challenge the learning process.
• Pilot a year round school program. Students need more time in the learning environment and reducing the gaps in instruction would enable more learning.
• Focused action on issues that impact learning (e.g. reducing disproportionate punishments for some students that reduce available instruction time)
• Determine milestones that indicate success and review at least semi-annually with the board and community members

B. Outside the classroom:
Educational outcomes are highly affected by family structure and community engagement. Within that context, improvement ideas include partnering with community groups to strengthen children’s environments. Supporting efforts to enable access to good nutrition, stable housing, employment opportunities, and mentors who can provide exposure opportunities. The school board and the district can partner with community groups (TABLE, Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate, Family Success Alliance, Parent University, etc.) to support these efforts.

Issue 3: Teacher recruiting and retention. How to address:
• Partner with other school boards and community groups to advocate for higher state funding
• Develop programs to introduce high school students to careers in education
• Partner with local teaching universities to strengthen pipeline
• Provide professional development opportunities to allow teachers to have more control of their advancement

3. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective as a member of the Board of Education? If you’ve identified specific issues above, what in your record has prepared you to be an effective advocate for them?

• My experience in corporate finance and strategy planning would enable strong contribution to decisions on budget issues and long term planning
• Genuine consideration for all children demonstrated by long standing engagement in education
• Effective style - Demonstrated strength in listening to community members and incorporating multiple points of view in decision making. My style is collaborative and I’m willing to challenge ideas and consider new solutions to solve problems while keeping the community and all parties involved.
• Multicultural background – long history of positive interaction with various cultures, religions, genders, ethnicities, etc.

4. Please give one specific example of something you think the Board of Education has done wrong or that you would have rather done differently in the last year. Also, please tell us the single best thing the town has done during that span.

• Some community members have felt a lack of transparency in how their input is included in decisions the board makes. It would improve community relations to increase transparency on decisions like redistricting, board appointments, etc. (what issues were considered in the decision, how does the decision tie to the long range plan, etc.)

• The board and district has shown leadership in reviewing discipline processes and taking corrective action to progress toward fair treatment of all students. One important outcome is the development of a memorandum of understanding between the district and the police force. This document clarifies involvement of officers in the schools and outlines appropriate training.

5. How do you identify yourself to others in terms of your political philosophy? For example, do you tell people you’re a conservative, a moderate, a progressive, a libertarian?

For the most part, I consider myself a progressive. However I see value in ideas across the spectrum and believe that removing labels allows broader, more productive discussions.

6. The INDY’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. If elected, how will your service in office help further that goal?

Education is the key to addressing many of the issues that affect society. My goal as a school board member is to focus on improved educational outcomes for all students. Effective education will further the goal of building a just community in the Triangle and beyond.

Please address, in detail, the following major issues in Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools:

7. While North Carolina lawmakers have approved some modest raises for teachers in recent years, teacher pay continues to lag behind most states in the country. What would you do as a local school board member to offer incentives for high-quality teachers to remain in the school system? Please offer specifics.

• Support district work on Project Advance which will allow teachers to advance financially based on professional development and implementation of innovative teaching methods.
• Work with other school boards and community groups to advocate for higher pay for teachers

8. Where do you stand on the ongoing debate over the Common Core curriculum in North Carolina? If you would support doing away with Common Core, please explain what you would substitute.

I support Common Core because the idea of a consistent set of standards connecting student learning across the country and district makes sense. The speed of implementation may not have enabled optimal curriculum development. So there has been confusion about how the standards are being taught which has led to frustration directed at Common Core generally. Current district work is focusing on developing curriculum based on the standards.

9. Orange County is expected to consider a $125 million bond referendum next year with the stated goal of paying for infrastructure improvements for local schools. Many school officials say that spending amounts to less than half the total needed for aging school facilities. Considering budget constraints, what kind of innovations can you offer as a school board member to help manage these costs?

• Prioritize spending to highest need buildings
• Review long term plan for capital management to avoid future situations where the required investment is so high in a short term period.

10. Racial academic disparities are a perennial problem in every school system. Please provide fresh ideas you have for addressing this long-running problem.

See my answer to question 2.

11. Schools in the 21st century face the task of educating an increasingly diverse student population. What about your background has prepared you to lead a 21st-century school system, knowing the unique challenges students from different backgrounds face in the schools?

• My background as a student with experience with various education environments (homeschool, public, private, charter)
• Multicultural background
• My life is a testament to the power of education. During my childhood, my family did not have a lot of financial resources. The gift my parents gave us was an understanding of the value of education. Through education, I have been able to pursue many opportunities.

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