As we noted in our post about vetting school board candidates, we have sent questionnaires to each school board candidate and are publishing them in the order received. Questions were compiled by board members of both Triangle Blog Blog and Bridging the Gap, and attendees of a four-part community read and discussion series on reparations and race at the Chapel Hill Public Library. The discussion series was led by Danita Mason-Hogans and Simona Goldin, the co-charpersons of the Equity and Schools Task Force, members of the UNC Commission on History, Race, and a Way Forward and members of the Chapel Hill community.

Rani Dasi has been a member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education since 2015, serving as board vice chair from 2016-2017 and as board chair from 2017-18.

Dasi was recently interviewed by Chapelboro about her decision to run for reelection. You can see her voting history in primaries and municipal elections here. On social media, she is on Twitter and Facebook.

Make your 2023 municipal election voting plan

Beginning with the 2023 municipal elections, North Carolina voters will be required to show photo ID when they check in to vote. Voters who vote by mail will be asked to include a photocopy of an acceptable ID when returning their ballot by mail.

Check your voter registration now. You can look it up here. This is really important particularly if you’ve moved in the past year.

Make a plan to vote during early voting.
This ensures that if there’s a problem, you can sort it out. Early voting runs from October 19-November 4. Here is the complete schedule of voting sites, dates, and times for Orange County.

Read about the new voter ID requirements. Every vote counts in North Carolina, and this information must be shared early and often. If you know of people who have just moved here, or students, or new neighbors, please let them know about registering and the voter ID requirements.

Read all of Triangle Blog Blog’s 2023 election coverage

What is your vision for education in this community? What do you see as the major issue(s) facing the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools? Public education?

We must redesign our core education systems to create success for all students. This requires proactive efforts to eliminate institutional structures and practices that create barriers to student learning and achievement. Specifically, we must focus on the following:

  • Teacher and school employee compensation to enable recruitment and retention
  • Build community support to address issues of race
  • Mental health resources
  • Strengthen accountability systems, communicating progress on success metrics and check points for interventions as needed
  • Renovate our school buildings to create appropriate learning spaces

What are three things that you believe the school board could be doing better?

  1. Communication to build awareness of state education issues
  2. Partnership with community groups to support district plans

What are the things you think the school board is currently doing right?

  1. Focus on resources which directly support teachers and staff
  2. Alignment on strategic plan
  3. Assess what’s working in programs and make changes as appropriate

How do you feel about CHCCS’s reputation as a preeminent school system while also maintaining one of the highest achievement gaps in the country for Black and Brown students? 

A successful school district should enable all students to become highly proficient community members who can effectively participate in the global economy. CHCCS can be considered a top-rated school district when we improve educational outcomes for all children by eliminating racial predictability and inequalities in achievement.

Do you support posting school demographic performance data on the front page of the district and school websites for transparency and choice options for parents and caretakers? 

I support posting data and context on what is being done to support student growth.  Parents, families, and caregivers should have access to information that helps them consider choices for their students. It is also important for school data to be transparent so that the community knows what supports schools need to improve.

What specific education policies would you advance to tackle the achievement and therefore opportunity gap? Then, how would you translate policy into action to ensure that all children are having their needs met by the district?

  • It is important to focus on consistent implementation of policies and practices and fully consider the impact to all students. This sets clear expectations for all involved and minimizes frustration and biases. Examples: Homework and grading policies.
  • Policies which support teachers and staff are especially critical. Teachers have the most significant impact on student learning. Polices such as those that direct investment in professional development, equity policy, and employee benefits are critical to student success.
  • Policy to action:
    • Prioritize resources to highest needs
    • Focus on supports for teachers – the lack of adequate compensation is a current gap negatively impacting CHCCS’s ability to attract and retain teachers and staff. We must continue to advocate for increasing compensation including salary and benefits.
    • CHCCS needs more teachers of color in our classrooms. This is strongly supported by research which concludes that having just one black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade reduced low-income black boys’ probability of dropping out of high school by 39 percent. By high school, Black students, both boys and girls, who had one Black teacher had much stronger expectations of going to college.
    • Continue to prioritize leadership focus and defined action plans towards the goal of improving growth for all students
    • Continued focus on maintaining a school and district climate which welcomes and engages families and students of color including the implementation of culturally inclusive rigorous curriculum and instruction to meet the wide range of student abilities
    • Invest in social/emotional resources
    • Focus on reducing discipline disproportionality
    • Raise awareness on implicit bias and provide professional development for school staff to apply school discipline policies and practices in a fair and equitable manner so as not to disproportionately impact students of color, students with disabilities, or at-risk students
    • Accountability: Embed robust system of accountability with metrics that are frequently reviewed by leadership. Use data to understand where growth is happening, and leverage what we learn to continue growth district wide.

In what school district or community activities/organizations have you been involved?

I have long been an active contributor to the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS). As a classroom volunteer, Reading Partners program participant, elected member of School Improvement Teams (SIT) and parent chair of the Smith Middle School SIT. Additionally, as a parent of four children in different stages of the education process, I’ve worked with teachers, staff and administrators to help drive my children’s learning. My children have attended Seawell Elementary, Frank Porter Graham Elementary, Smith Middle school, McDougle Middle School and Chapel Hill High School and my engagement has provided perspective on the challenges of all the parties involved. 

In 2015, I was elected to the CHCCS Board of Education and over the last 8 years I have served as a board member including terms as vice chair and chair of the board.

Additionally, I have served various community organizations:

  • Executive board of the North Carolina Caucus of Black School Board Members
  • Board Chair of The Walking Classroom, a national award-winning education non-profit organization that provides students and teachers with an innovative way to get exercise without sacrificing instructional time
  • Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA Board member
  • North Carolina Beginning Teacher of the Year Steering Committee

What changes should be made on the state and local level regarding public education?

We need leaders who understand the value of public education, who work to understand what makes public education successful, and who act to invest in those areas. Specifically:

  • Refocus public dollars to invest in public schools. Fully fund Leandro recommendation
    • Increased investment in compensation for all school employees (bus drivers, cafeteria workers, teachers, principals, administrators, etc.)
    • Reinstate Teaching Fellows and other measures to rebuild the teacher pipeline
    • Increased investment in facility improvements to meet current building standards
    • Increased investment in building health resources (physical and mental health)Increased local flexibility for school districts to determine what works best for their communities

Relative to other schools, do our public schools have trouble hiring and retaining good teachers? (Explain your answer)

Chapel Hill-Carrboro community values education and show that through actions such as a special district tax that enables us to add a local supplement to the state teacher salary schedule. So CHCCS is slightly better off in the compensation we are able to provide teachers.

However, local funds cannot sustainably cover funding gaps that the state has the constitutional responsibility to provide. Because of the state’s refusal to adequately fund teacher compensation, public school districts across North Carolina are struggling with skyrocketing teacher vacancies and we only see this worsening with significant declines in enrollment in teacher preparation programs (down by 50% over the last decade).

This is also a national issue. The Washington Post led with, “‘Never seen it this bad.’ America faces catastrophic teacher shortage.”

Another important note is that compensation is only one factor in recruiting and retaining teachers. All schools are also impacted by the environment and the perception of how educators are valued. In North Carolina the conversation around education is misguidedly focused on legislative micro control on how teachers deliver instruction so that negatively impacts our ability to hire and retain teachers.

How have your experiences informed your decision to re-run for school board?

I was elected in 2015 and again in 2019 and am seeking to continue the work. With the potential to have so many new board members, I look forward to sharing experience for continuity to support the districts work toward the strategic plan.

I am also deeply concerned about the future of education in North Carolina. The climate of the state continuing to underinvest in resources to support education will require continued vigilance and advocacy to be able to make the necessary investments to sustain public education.

In the past five years, housing prices in southern Chapel Hill and Carrboro have risen almost fifty percent. Homes in the CHCCS district are now selling for $600,000 and up, and two bedroom apartments rent for almost $2,000 per month. Unable to afford to live in our community, many CHCCS teachers and other school employees commute an hour or more each day just to get to work. Other than raising the salary supplement, how can CHCCS can help employees afford to live in our community? Would you support building school employee housing on school-owned land, as Buncombe County Schools did in 2017?

I strongly support community partnerships to explore options to provide school employee housing. The key challenge for CHCCS is the limited site options for school expansion. We have explored the Lincoln Center campus as an option and need additional funding to continue to understand how to make this work.

What do you see as the primary work of the board of education?

  • Policy and collaboration with superintendent: School boards are the policy-making body for school districts. Their function is to set sound educational goals and establish policies for the school system based upon state and federal laws and community values and hold the superintendent responsible for implementing the policies and achieving the goals.
  • Communication and advocacy: The school board represents the concerns of the residents, taxpayers and parents to the school administrators, represents the needs of the students and school district to the residents, taxpayers and parents of the community.
  • Manage financial matters: This is done through budget development and approval, monitoring financial expenditures throughout the year in collaboration with the superintendent.
  • Plan for adequate school facilities: In NC, the responsibility for funding school capital is the responsibility of County Commissioners. Historically every ten years, the state has provided funding through state obligation bonds to help counties with school construction projects.  However, the state has not done so since 1996 so the burden of school renovation has fallen to local communities.

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