Chapel Hill-Carrboro school council member who received close scrutiny last year following a controversial vote on a School of Mandarin Magnet says that he will not be a candidate for reelection. Instead, James Barrett announced that he would run as a Democrat as Superintendent of Public Schools in 2020.
"It's clear that the state superintendent needs better leadership to benefit all students and government teachers," said Barrett. He pointed out that his management skills and willingness to advocate for public education were selling points for his campaign.
"The first thing to do is restore the respect of our teachers," said Barrett. He hopes to be able to provide teachers with the resources they need "and then free themselves."
Barrett said that he thought the current testing system was too cumbersome, "putting the focus on everyone involved – students, administrators, and even the public." Instead of closing schools more than a week at a time for testing, Barrett advocates more regular monitoring throughout the year to better understand the progress of students and teachers. He referred to a plan originally proposed by A.L. "Buddy" Collins, former vice president of the State Board of Education, who allegedly completed the year-end tests for several years, as a starting point.
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Schools are currently marked on academic performance and growth Barrett does not believe the data tells us what we need to know.
"What we know from these data is that it measures levels of poverty, instead of each student's growth and the amount of learning going on," said Barrett. He advocates a more individualized scoring system, which would ensure that "we measure the standards we want to achieve instead of just standardized tests".
Barrett served on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board for eight years, including two years as Chair.
Barrett and another board member, Pat Heinrich, were charged last year with working too closely with parents who wanted Glenwood Elementary School, which already had a strong bilingual program in Mandarin, to become a loving school in Mandarin. . Barrett was relieved of any legal conflict of interest by the Board of says the N & O that he had not crossed any line. Directors requested that the implementation of the Magnet program, which resulted in a vote of four to three, be postponed to the 2020-2021 school year.
Republican Mark Johnson, current state superintendent, has not declared his intentions for the 2020 race.
"Superintendent Johnson is committed to working with educators and legislators to continue the positive transformations in our education system that strengthen all public schools in North Carolina. Students and educators are our top priority, not the political campaigns, "said Graham Wilson, spokesman for Johnson's office.
Jen Mangrum, professor of education at UNC-Greenboro, is explore the race for the superintendent as a democrat, but she has not declared a definitive campaign, according to the Longleaf Politics website.
Johnson was elected in 2016 at the age of 33 and sacked longtime Democratic incumbent, June Atkinson.
Of all his responsibilities as a member of the CHCCS School Board, Barrett said he would be most wanting to be with the students on the stage at graduation.