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.
Renee Peet is running for a seat on the Chapel Hill Carrboro City School Board.
Peet is the Chief Marketing Officer for Re:Peet Market Performance. She also serves on the board of the Research Triangle Clean Tech Cluster, and is an active member of the Northside PTA. She recently told Chapelboro that she stepped up after seeing the “growing extremism and intolerance directed at some of our most vulnerable children.”
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.
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 is high-quality education for all. Working to undo the systems that reinforce and entrench the achievement gap in our community. Working to build new systems that serve all our children with the environments and opportunities they need to flourish.
Our shame is the achievement gap. Our challenges are many in addition to that: inadequate state funding, aging school properites, lack of community support to drive change, lack of community support to demand better at the state level, lack of patience to let Dr. Hamlett and her team enact their strategies, extremist groups bringing hatred to our community and our schools. The list is long, and daunting, and more than the Board of Education or the School Administration can manage on their own.
As a nation we’ve been underfunding our schools since they were forced to integrate. But it really stepped up in the 80s. And we’re paying the price.
Free, quality public education for all is a cornerstone of a well-functioning civil society and democracy. We had some piece of that once, we can have it for everyone if only we want it badly enough.
What are three things that you believe the school board could be doing better?
Communicating to the broader community about our challenges, successes and plans to do better.
Using their platform to mobilize the community to demand full funding of our public schools from the state legislature.
Honestly, from reviewing the last 9 months of meeting minutes and policy resolutions, I think the board has been working to make positive change. And I have no doubt that it is significantly harder to do so than it looks from the outside. The Board and the Administration deserve the time and space to execute on their strategy. Not endless time. Not unaccountable space. But time. And space.
What are the things you think the school board is currently doing right?
One thing that leads to all others: bringing in Superintendent Hamlett and supporting her administration through the long and arduous task of driving real change.
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?
These results speak to the structural racism in our community. I think we can, and must, do better as a community. We know the programs that will help at risk kids achieve at higher rates. We know the programs that will help our high potential Black and Brown students get funneled into the learning opportunities that meet their gifts.
We must fund these programs and stop viewing school programs as zero-sum games where one group wins or loses.
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 am torn on this issue. I believe in transparency around performance. I do not agree with “vouchers” and “choice” for schools. These are pretty labels on something designed to further defund our public schools, deepen structural racism and transfer tax dollars to private religious schools.
I believe we should use performance data to improve our public schools for all, not further impoverish them.
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?
The job of translating policy into action is the job of Superintendent Hamlett and her administration. As a member of the board, I would work with Dr. Hamlett and her administration on policy and oversight of the execution thereof.
Dr. Trice recently presented findings from the first audit in 20 years – I’d start there. No doubt, Dr. Trice and Dr. Hamlett have priorities and projects in place. In fact, I know they do, after attending the School Board Subcommittee meeting.
Much of this gets back to my position on funding and budgets: Budgets are moral documents. They tell us what we value, and by how much. And even that starting point is not that simple – there is no doubt in my mind that much of the budget in place is the bare minimum to keep our schools running. To my point on fully funding our public schools. Until we do that, it is next to impossible to drive real change. But we must do what we can with what we have. And we must come together as a community to make this better.
In what school district or community activities/organizations have you been involved?
I’ve been a member of the Northside Elementary PTA.
What changes should be made on the state and local level regarding public education?
Fully fund our public schools. Eliminate vouchers and “choice” which are just a mask for destroying the public schools. Public school is a social good. It was the pride of the US and the envy of the world after WW2 (though we all know that it was not equally good for all our children and for what reasons). We started tearing it down when our public schools were forced to integrate, and we’re all paying the price for that now. Free, quality education for all is the foundation of a well-functioning civil society and democracy.
Relative to other schools, do our public schools have trouble hiring and retaining good teachers? (Explain your answer)
I don’t know what hiring or retention is like in other schools, or other school districts. I know teachers in the Durham schools and in some private schools. I know teachers in our schools. We don’t pay them enough or afford them enough respect. We don’t pay any of the supporting roles enough, or afford them enough respect. As a society, we wrap ourselves in the specious self-aggrandizing story that we love our children so much that we would die for them, but we do not love them enough to live differently for them.
But we ask our teachers, bus drivers, nurses, counsellors to live the actual terror of being willing to die for them.
I’m surprised anyone wants to be a teacher at all. So yes, as a sane person, observing an insane situation, I’d say we should have a hard time hiring and retaining good teachers.
What in your background leads you to believe that you would be an effective school board member?
I served on the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster Advisory Board and Board of Directors, so know the role of a Board with respect to a management team.
I am a well-respected people manager and business manager (don’t just take my word for it: https://www.linkedin.com/in/reneepeet).
I am a mother of two children in the CHCCS school system. I moved to Chapel Hill for the schools.
And as I said in the recent Landmark Tenant Association Candidate Forum:
- I create community and communion in my personal life as well as my professional life. Opportunities for people to come together in understanding. We need this if we are to succeed at anything, really.
- I am not afraid of hard work. I know that this will be long and arduous.
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 think this is a very interesting program and a way for our community to put our money where our mouth is. Again, budgets are moral documents. So long as it is housing that any of us would be willing to live in, housing that we would be proud to say that we, as a community made available to our school employees, I would say yes.
And I see this as a “yes, and” issue – yes do this, and start funding the schools appropriately. This should not be “in lieu of” funding. We should have quality middle class housing for quality middle class jobs. And working in our schools should not be an invitation to poverty and struggle.
What do you see as the primary work of the board of education?
The primary role of the Board is oversight and policy-setting. They are meant to work with the Administration to enable high quality, equitable education for all our children.
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 think hiring a transportation planner is great. AND we should pay bus drivers a living wage. A wage that respects the work that they are doing caring for our children. To my earlier point.