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.
Taylor Tally is running for a seat on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education.
Tally served in the Air Force for more than a decade, where he was an instructor for F-16 pilots and the Director of Operations for the 53d Test and Evaluation Group, Detachment 3. He is now an independent consultant for Windlift, a Durham-based firm working on wind energy solutions.
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.
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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?
My vision for our community’s education is simple: every student, regardless of their background, deserves a fair shot at success. A major issue facing our district, as well as many others, is the persistent achievement gap. I envision a well-funded school system that supports our educators and places a strong emphasis on closing this gap. Our schools should be inclusive, nurturing environments where all students can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. To achieve this vision, we need to invest in our schools, support our teachers, and implement targeted strategies to bridge the achievement gap. Together, we can ensure that every student has the opportunity to succeed and that our schools remain a source of pride for our community.
What are three things that you believe the school board could be doing better?
Incentivizing Faculty and Staff: We should work to attract and retain top talent by offering incentives such as additional paid parental leave beyond the state’s policy. Collaborating with local townships to address the issue of affordable housing for educators can also make our district more appealing.
Transportation: While the board has made progress on transportation issues, there’s more to be done. We should explore creative solutions to reduce car drop-off and pick-up congestion, promote walking and biking to school, and ensure we are proactive in preventing bus driver shortages.
Achievement Gap: Eliminating the achievement gap is crucial. To achieve this, we must prioritize hiring a more diverse cohort of teachers and staff, as representation matters.
What are the things you think the school board is currently doing right?
Equity-Focused Policy: The current school board’s commitment to examining policy through an equity lens is commendable. They have shown dedication to understanding how policy changes impact a diverse spectrum of students and staff.
Long-Term Planning: Developing and implementing a comprehensive long-term strategy is crucial for the stability and growth of our district. The current board has demonstrated this forward-thinking approach.
Safety Protocols: Recent events highlighted the importance of strong security protocols in our schools. I would continue to support and update these policies to ensure the safety of our students and faculty.
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?
It’s bittersweet that our district is renowned for its educational quality but faces one of the highest achievement gaps for Black and Brown students in the country. To tackle this issue, I propose:
Diverse Workforce: We must actively work to recruit teachers who reflect the diversity of our community. Partnering with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) both in and out of state can be an effective strategy.
Restorative Justice: Implementing restorative justice practices can address discipline disparities and create a more inclusive and supportive school environment.
Parental Involvement: Encouraging greater parental involvement can empower families to play a more active role in their children’s education, bridging the gap between home and school.
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?
Information is power, and I support posting demographic performance data on the front page of our district and school websites. Transparency is essential in empowering parents and caretakers to make informed decisions about their children’s education. However, it’s important to recognize that data can be nuanced, and it’s crucial to provide context to help interpret the information accurately. By presenting this data transparently and with context, we can discourage the selective use of statistics and ensure that our community has a clear and balanced understanding of our schools’ performance. This approach will promote informed decision-making and foster a deeper partnership between our schools and families.
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?
One of the most effective means of improving outcomes of Black and Brown children is having black and brown teachers. Representation matters and having a staff that mirrors our population gives kids additional role models. To address the achievement and opportunity gap, I would focus on:
Diverse Teacher Recruitment: Actively partner with HBCUs and support principals in recruiting a more diverse teaching staff.
Affinity Groups: Foster intra-school and inter-school affinity groups for staff members to voice concerns, build community, and improve retention.
Best Practices Exchange: Collaborate with districts with smaller achievement gaps to learn and implement effective strategies.
In what school district or community activities/organizations have you been involved?
I have been involved in a variety of community organizations, including volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, TABLE, and I recently joining Public School Strong, a group advocating for fully funded public schools and organizing school board involvement across the state.
What changes should be made on the state and local level regarding public education?
- Teacher Compensation: Advocate for raising teacher base pay and supplements and offering significant incentives for advanced degrees and certifications at the state level to attract and retain quality educators.
- Stop Culture War Distractions: Call on the state assembly to focus on policies that genuinely support students and teachers, rather than engaging in divisive culture war issues.
- Local Teacher Incentives: Explore creative ways to incentivize teachers to stay in our district long-term, including fair compensation and policies that provide support and cover for educators.
Relative to other schools, do our public schools have trouble hiring and retaining good teachers? (Explain your answer)
In our district, like many others, attracting and retaining excellent teachers can be challenging. Our community’s strong reputation as a school system of excellence should ideally make us a magnet for top educators. However, the high cost of living in our area can deter potential teachers. To address this issue, we need to find creative solutions to incentivize teachers to not only join our district but also stay here for the long term. Fair compensation and an enjoyable work environment are essential to dissuade them from seeking employment elsewhere, whether in private schools, other districts, or alternative careers.
Additionally, it’s crucial that we accurately capture data on why teachers leave. Conducting exit interviews and surveys can provide valuable insights into the reasons behind teacher turnover. This information will help us develop targeted strategies to improve teacher retention, further strengthening our educational community.
What in your background leads you to believe that you would be an effective school board member?
My experience as a fighter pilot has equipped me with the ability to operate effectively and efficiently in diverse teams, make data-driven decisions, and navigate complex and ambiguous situations. I am committed to problem-solving, learning from others, and ensuring that the board focuses on long-term impacts of policy changes.
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?
Our district faced significant challenges in school bus transportation, resulting in students being routinely late to school and extended bus commute times. The steps taken by our transportation office have shown a good understanding of the situation, and we should continue to monitor their effectiveness. If problems continue, I would consider hiring a transportation planner. This step would only be taken if all other avenues have been thoroughly explored, and it becomes evident that expert guidance is necessary to improve our transportation system.
What do you see as the primary work of the board of education?
The primary role of the board of education is to oversee district policy, including hiring and evaluating the superintendent, approving budgets, and setting measurable goals. It’s important to strike a balance between oversight and trusting the superintendent and staff to execute the policies effectively.
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