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.

Honoria “Honor” Middough is running for a seat on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education.

Middough is a teacher, and has spent over a decade teaching ESL in the Durham Public Schools. She has been a member of the North Carolina Association of Educators Organizing Experience since 2014, and is the parent of a CHCCS graduate.

Middough was recently interviewed by Chapelboro about her decision to run. You can see her 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.

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?

My vision for education in this community conscientiously holds an awareness that the community is a body; public education is a portion of that body, and all members of the CHCCS public academic institution will know and feel their value and inclusion as people who are necessary in order for our community to continue thriving.

As a parent of a 2022 CHCCS graduate and community member for almost a decade, I spoken with students, faculty, and other families who have expressed  there are issues accessing resources and training that would ensure the teaching and learning process was not superficially labeled as the best across the state, but without question, setting precedent for public education locally and nationally, as the best for all students who receive educational services from CHCCS regardless of their affluence, perceived lower socio-economic status, or their existence somewhere in between. For those reasons, one of the major issues might be best described as the disconnect between the day to day operations of our schools and the entire community of service.

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

There is room to grow the school board’s intentionality with initiatives set in place to ensure equitable education. Follow-up and follow through with funding when implementing initiatives as a board, is crucial. There can be a balance in meeting the lengthy legislative list and constant bombardment of ‘shoulds’ and perhaps using more discretion with ‘musts’ so that teachers don’t feel excessively burnt-out by the idea that everything is an important thing.

With that in mind, I would like to see better engagement with diverse families through surveys, roundtables, or similar, because it is important that the loudest voices are still included, but they do not drown out those others who’s impact matters just as much. See what’s going well with the voices that aren’t heard as much; meaningfully incorporate their needs and vision of the school community and move forward accordingly.

Additionally, I would like to see the board do a better job with teacher recruitment (and especially with regard to educators of color), as well as retention. Representation and reflection make a positive difference for all students with regard to the ways they might perceive the world around them.

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

The district and its present board have done many things right to include: standing in professional solidarity against efforts aimed at bullying and intimidating the current superintendent; setting precedent among neighboring district counterparts (and ultimately, the state of North Carolina) with regard to more reasonable parental leave and understanding of familial responsibilities outside of the classroom; setting forth an admirable 2022-27 CHCCS Strategic Plan.

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? 

As a community member for close to a decade, a parent, and an educator of color- I have long been aware of and disappointed by the dual existence of CHCCS’s reputation as a preeminent school system that simultaneously maintains one of the highest “achievement gaps” in the nation with respect to its Black and Brown students. This can no longer stand as acceptable and change is overdue in addressing this demographic failing with material effort.  I’d like to see CHCCS make stronger efforts- taking this as an opportunity to be innovative with the purpose of ensuring no student stands in any gap that they cannot be brought out of. I believe we are not entirely deserving of the label ‘preeminent’ until that gap closes.

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? 

Elections can be somewhat of a popularity contest and throughout my life, I’ve learned to embrace the reality that I am an eclectic leader, believing that performance data absolutely, never, is an absolute vantage of all angles making a view. That said, I fully support posting CHCCS, school specific demographic performance data on the front page of the district and school websites because without transparency, there becomes a lack of awareness which is the equivalent of a lack of truth.

Since performance data is the measure of our school systems in the state, it makes sense that if we are not clear and truthful about where we stand as a district, consequently, nothing will change and we will continue to hide under this obscurity of prestige that leaves out portions of the narrative; the entire narrative is essential to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School District. We must be cognizant of the so-called better and the termed, worse if we are claiming and aiming to maintain that position as the best.

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? 

A few deliberate, fairly uncomplicated efforts to bridge the gap and see growth would be making it best practice to identify and encourage historically marginalized students (aka more commonly, ‘minority students’), into AP and Honors courses. There are so many students who don’t realize they can thrive in those classrooms because a certain narrative has been placed on them.

Exposure and actively engaging more students- specifically Black and Brown students, and through more than just first generation themed college prep programs that have their place, but also tend to bear assumptions that those students are the first in their family to have access to higher education, could go a long way to reduce the width of the gap and I would love to advocate for this being expected policy and practice across the district.

Children with IEP’s and 504 Plans, as well as their families, should know their rights and I would also like to see policies that encourage making children participants in their IEP Meetings more often so that as they continue to grow into an adulthood that places them outside of the school setting, they will know how to advocate for themselves just a bit more, and on their own behalf- feeling and seeing that their experiences matter directly and their existence is valid.

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

Within the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School District, I have been a member of the PTA, been a team parent responsible for coordinating and organizing the flow of communication and information; I have also participated in a few NAACP activities and engaged as the parent of an active Chapel Hill-Carrboro Youth NAACP member.

I have been an active member of the North Carolina Association of Educators since 2014 and have done work as a Community Organizer with NCAE. I have actively engaged with my local based on employment- Durham Association of Educators, under the presidencies of Bryan Proffitt and Michelle Burton. Additionally, I have taken on various leadership responsibilities in the community as well as within my school building over the years and presently.

I have also done volunteer activities with several local organizations and am a former member of a Chapel Hill based religious institution where my daughter and I both served and engaged in community prior to the Covid19 pandemic.

In 2018 I received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for educators which afforded me an amazing opportunity to spend 3-weeks at Shepherd University in West Virginia.

In 2019 I was chosen to convene sessions during the Appalachian Studies Conference which took place at UNC Asheville; I also had the opportunity to present my own conference paper and presentation during the course of the conference.

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

On the local level, there should be more visible initiatives encouraging people to understand that everything is political and if you are able to vote, it is important to exercise that right, and even more so when it comes to the quieter municipal elections, which includes school board elections. It is crucial that we are aware of who we are placing in positions of power.

Some elections cycles get more traction than others (for understandable reasons); however, we can no longer sleep on doing just a small bit of independent research on candidates ourselves and the state and local districts could do better in making it clear to community members that elections and politicians we vet, can make or break our public education system.

At present, NC Governor Cooper has been tirelessly pushing against an unethical, yet intentional NC General Assembly. This General Assembly is actively making the lives of educators, students, and everyday families, very uncomfortable and I wished there were changes in awareness; we need to be more transparent about the intersection between politics and public education and uplift people by purposefully making them knowledgeable of their power to influence what happens in public schools and regarding public education via the power to vote and reach out to their elected officials, being unafraid to challenge them on around why certain decisions are made and what outcomes they might have.

I think many people care and have concerns, but don’t realize they can change the trajectory of public education but voting out those people in the state government who are basically trying to pin all of the problems on local public school districts in hopes these districts will fail.

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

I am not sure that in the current climate, CHCCS has an easier or more difficult time hiring and retaining good teachers; I believe the national state of public schools/public education is being challenged by something that is greater than the issue of hiring and retention.

I would like to see more efforts specifically aimed at hiring and retaining more educators of color across the CHCCS K-12 district but will say that overall and with respect to hiring and retention efforts, CHCCS has the  advantage of name and reputation of a historically prestigious background which makes educators more likely to seek out teaching positions within this district as opposed to neighboring counties.

Again though, due to the politics that layer public education, North Carolina has left little to no incentive legislatively for people to seek employment in any of our school districts regardless of the district.

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

I am an experienced educator with over a decade in Durham Public Schools, parent of a 2022 Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools graduate, and a community member who has done well in building relationships with diverse individuals.  Along the way, I have listened and observed and through my close proximity with educators, students, and their families, I believe my insight will allow for an enhanced connectivity between the issues addressed and implemented per school board action and ultimately, my perspective and input would hopefully have a positive impact on the instruction and daily operations of our community’s respective school sites.

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?

Prior to completely reading this question, that was the exact solution I would have suggested- school employee housing is something I fully support if there are no other feasible solutions to the cost of living and affordability challenges faced by educational professionals.

Almost, if not daily, school faculty and staff must make tough decisions about livelihood outside of the school’s halls. It feels defeating to know one has done academic work, possibly acquired student loans in the process, shows up to work (possibly with a lengthy commute for whatever reason), gives time, energy, and knowledge to students- only to still be incapable of providing for one’s standard hierarchical needs.

Additionally, school employees living in the community give that added dose of what might be needed in order to enhance our society which is that fading feeling of connectivity among neighbors by having people live and work and shop in spaces where they can engage as humans, from all walks- simply doing life.

Many educators have had to either leave the profession entirely, rely on a spouse/partner as the primary income, have roommates, or have another job along with being in the classroom. Having a housing solution for educators would relieve a lot of burden and aid in retaining qualified teachers.

One of the features of the CHCCS is its magnet schools, including the Spanish language programs at Carrboro Elementary and Frank Porter Graham Elementary, and the STEAM² program at Glenwood Elementary and LEAP. In the past, some in our community have criticized these schools for poor performance or contributing to furthering social and economic inequity. Would you support closing, consolidating, or otherwise reimagining the use of magnet schools in our district? Please explain.

Language matters and at times it appears the words magnet schools easily turn into code for academic spaces where unequal resources and attention tend to go; unfortunately, there also seems to be an attachment of magnet schools as the unspoken place of deferral for students who might make any given district’s data look less appealing.

Prior to considerations of consolidating or closing, I would first be interested in seeing how our minds as a board could reimagine these magnet schools and destigmatize these schools. It would be important to speak with the actual teachers- perhaps by means of a town hall or similar,and allow not just the principals but all members of the school body from custodial staff, cafeteria, teachers, IAs and in between- to have a voice in stating why the schools may be underperforming and allow suggestions on what would truly work to uplift their buildings. These professionals know their spaces best and by starting there versus taking away a school or consolidating as a first response, this feels like the best place to start.

Elementary school is a pivotal time in a student’s education (for several factors including state mandated benchmarks that might point to future academic performance) so, if reimaging fails then yes, I do believe other steps should be taken to make success more probable for all CHCCS students as they continue their education within the district. I am in no way however, advocating for public schools to be taken over by privatizing businesses who disguise themselves as changemakers, while selling dreams of coming in and transforming these schools and their performance.

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