Solomon Gibson III is running for a seat on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education.

Gibson decided to enter the race after receiving a notice from the president of the Progressive Democrats of Orange County. He is a long-time voice-over artist, performer, and radio announcer. Gibson was recently interviewed by Chapelboro about his decision to run. You can see his voting history in primaries and municipal elections here.

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.

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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?

Diversity and accessibility, which are the foundational strengths of public education. One of the greatest obstructions to the consistent advancement of education in our schools is state government; this is, currently, being seen throughout the country.  SCOTUS rulings, unrelated  to public education, are being used to exercise administrative muscle-flexing and create policies detrimental to the educational well-being of our children.

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

-Insuring State intervention and social politics do not diminish commitment to the Board’s mission and district priorities.

-Focus on less need and/or elimination for classes  to crowdfund as a means of supporting educational resources and field explorations.

-Focus on facilities maintenance for those schools in need of repair and/or improvement.

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

Honestly, the current board seems to be hunkered down and doing its job; lack of public controversy is a testament to efforts in, at the very least, addressing the issues and problems, making sure that our educational system continues to function relatively smooth. The focus on attracting good teachers, and the current driver shortage are just a couple of examples.

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?

I’m not quite sure what this question is asking. If its pointing out a dichotomy between the achievement gap and system reputation, which could lead to inconsistent policies and/or ignoring certain issues, then my initial response is that the two can be mutually exclusive; having a good reputation does not mean the system is problem free; as such, with that clear separation, efforts should be made to focus on the problem, finding an effective solution, and implementing it.

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?

This appears to be placing two separate things under a single umbrella and asking about blanket support for both. While I am a supporter of complete transparency for many issues, in this case, first, I would need information on the amount of data released, the specific purpose, and overall effects releasing it would have; second, I would want a clear and specific understanding of what is meant by choice options.

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?

-Expand the Tutor programs; increasing availability and accessibility for those students in need.

-Increase number and/or hours of Teachers’ Assistants to give Teachers more opportunities for parent/teacher interface.

-Ensure the availability of technological resources necessary for successfully completing class assignments, through donations and budgetary support.

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

-Delivered food to public supported summer camps, pre-pandemic, and to families in need during the early months of COVID. Currently doing food delivery for TABLE, located here in Carrboro.

-Involved with shaping the 2024 NC Democratic with the PDOC.

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

State government should be supplying more funds for local elementary and secondary level schools, decreasing the need for local fundraising (bonds and crowdfunding), and less restrictions on public education in general.

Relative to other schools, do our public schools have trouble hiring and retaining good teachers? 

I don’t believe that there is, relatively speaking, any more trouble hiring here than various other places throughout the country; it is appalling that there are regions where teachers have had to go on strike for salary increases and resources support. The salaries and benefits rarely align with the increasing responsibilities of the job of classroom teaching; it goes well beyond the eight hour five day work week; even some the summer months can be taken up with future class/ administrative planning or left over projects. My son-in-law is an elementary school teacher, who is presently charged with caring for a garden and class pet. Such responsibilities and more are placed on these fine workers throughout the country with, sometimes, little real reward or respect; no one ever says “I’m going into teaching, where the money is.” It is one of the most altruistic of careers, and can be difficult to recruit and retain good people for, no matter the location.

For new candidates: What in your background leads you to believe that you would be an effective school board member?

I am a staunch advocate for children and teachers, specifically; and public education, generally.

One of my most reliable abilities is being a resourceful problem-solver.

I have 20+ years of childcare experience in local public and private after-school and summer camp programs; including with CHCCS and FPG Child Developmental Research.

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?

My initial concern about employee housing is the risk of ghettoizing these individuals and families. While this idea could be part of an overall strategy, I’m more inclined toward rental subsidies and negotiating with area realtors for lower cost housing for school employees.

Like many school districts, CHCCS has had difficulty hiring and retaining school bus drivers. Last year, our problems were so acute that many students were routinely late to school, or spent two hours or more each day on the bus. This past spring, CHCCS took some small steps toward addressing this problem. Do you agree with their policy approach? If problems continue, what do you recommend that the CHCCS do next? Would you support CHCCS hiring a transportation planner, as the Durham County schools did in 2022?

I’m not sure how hiring a transportation planner solves driver hiring difficulties. The salary increase was a good first step, consulting with drivers and their supervisors concerning their needs, thoughts on the problem, and actually implementing some of their workable suggestions, should follow. Only after that would I support spending funds to hire a transportation planner.

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