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Kathie Russell for School Board

By Kathie Russell
Posted Monday, November 6, 2006

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Moncure, NC - My name is Kathie Russell and I am running for Chatham County School Board in District 3. I live in Moncure and have three young children who will be attending Chatham County schools for many years to come. I am employed full time as an attorney as well as being a parent (which is always a full time job)!

I understand what the citizens of Chatham County want in thier schools because it is the same thing that I want. I leave my children at school every day and go to work, and I want to know that my children are attending schools that are safe. I want to know that they are attending schools that are soundly constructed, with roofs that do not leak. I want to know that the schools provide a pleasant learning environment, not a drab and oppressive atmosphere, so that they are conducive to learning - a place where my children can enjoy attending and learning.

I want to know that the teachers at our schools are the best teachers we can find. I want to know that our children have reasonable transportation to and from school, and do not spend an overly long amount of time on bus rides. I want to know that the lunches provided to our children are nutritious and well balanced.

How do we achieve this? We must choose locations for schools that make sense based on location, safety, and demographic need. Our school locations should not be chosen because someone related to a county official has land for sale. Decisions must be made in the best interests of our children.

We must make sure our school construction contracts are properly drafted so
that the contractors and architects are held accountable for their work. We
should never have schools with leaking roofs that take 5 years to finally end up in litigation. Accountability should be built into the contracts.

Architects and contractors who do not give us quality work should never be hired again. In my law practice I have had many years experience in negotiating and drafting multi-million dollar construction contracts from North Carolina to Costa Rica and many places in between. I will use this expertise to assure that our children get the well constructed schools that they and the taxpayers deserve.

We must take advantage of the wealth of talent in our community. We have so many wonderful and talented citizens who are willing to volunteer their time and expertise for our children. We can bring public art into our schools to create more pleasant environments. We can bring public music and other art programs to enhance our children's learning experiences. We can set up citizen advisory groups to assist the school board in these and other endeavors.

These citizen advisory groups can provide assistance with special programs, such as nutritious lunches from local sources, and even setting up gardening programs in the schools whereby our children learn to grow their own food, prepare it, and get to eat the results of their labor.

We must begin to construct our schools in a sustainable manner and to teach our children the value of green building and alternative energy. This is another area where the citizens of our community could volunteer to bring their knowledge and skills to our children. A very good example is the new solar water heater that is going to be installed at the Moncure School with the cooperative efforts of local individuals, a local foundation, and local businesses. In addition to solving a long standing problem of no hot water, this is a valuable opportunity for our children to learn about energy sources and the savings we can achieve.

We must find a way to attract and retain top quality teachers. Too many teachers spend a couple of years teaching in Chatham County and then leave for more pay in another county. This gives our children what amounts to an apprentice teacher. In addition to offering more pay for our teachers, I think there are creative, community based ways which we can keep teachers in our schools. We need to make our teachers part of the community, and to elevate them to the level of professionals. Providing schools with pleasant environments and offering the use of the latest technology to our teachers will help.

They should also be offered lesson planning time, increased educational opportunities, and first year mentors. I would like to create a community discount program for teachers. This would include discounts at local merchants and restaurants, and a housing assistance program. I would like to use my financing expertise to negotiate discounts with local homebuilders, in partnership with low interest loans from local lending institutions in order to help our teachers purchase homes in Chatham County. This will give them incentive to become a part of the community and stay in Chatham County.

We must undertake a comprehensive review of resources and routes in order to make sure our children have reasonable transportation times to and from school. Pending the results of the review, the resources should be reallocated to make sure that no child has too long of a bus ride.

We must manage the growth that Chatham is about to experience. I do not believe the commissioners should approve new subdivisions without considering the impact upon schools. Too often, growth is approved and the schools are worried about later, as an afterthought. The commissioners should seek an impact statement from the board of education before any subdivision is approved.

The commissioners can then consider the needs of and impact upon schools as a part of their decision making process. This way, we can plan for our future school needs ahead of time, instead of when it is too late. This can be used as a portion of the developer's responsibilities when building the new subdivision.

I believe that I have the unique combination of education, experience, and understanding of the issues to make a difference and to accomplish these goals which will give the children of Chatham County the best possible education.
I would like to see our schools rival any private school, so that we can all
be proud of Chatham County schools. Better educated students will give us
a better workforce for the future. This will allow Chatham County to attract good industry to our county, that will provide the kind of jobs we all want to have for ourselves and our children. It ALL starts with education.

I respectfully ask for your vote on November 7, and look forward to working with all Chatham citizens to create better schools for our children. Thank you!

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