As a North Carolina native, husband of 23 years, father to three children and scientist and laboratory director at Duke University, Charles Parker said he is running for the Alamance-Burlington School System’s Board of Education to enhance school safety, improve communication and transparency from schools to the community, recruit and retain teachers and address learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It just felt like there was no urgency on the board when it was doing a lot of damage for kids,” Parker said. “I'm really trained to look at data and make decisions based on it as a scientist, and so I feel like I could add something there because if you're not trained in that area, it's hard to get a report from an expert and really know how to translate that into policy.”
In terms of school safety, Parker said that although ABSS has established one school resource officer for each school, it utilized single year and grant funds instead of incorporating the expense on the continuation budget so that SROs can be funded each year.
Parker also said he believes there can be a lot more done to secure buildings. To do this, he suggested creating a safety taskforce to work with the sheriff’s office, as well as local law enforcement, to conduct school walkthroughs and assess what needs to be improved, changed and prioritized. According to Parker, this will make it easier to fix things like windows and doors that don’t lock, as well as push some of the more prominent safety issues to the board’s attention.
As a large issue for schools around the country, enhancing school safety will also help with teacher recruitment and retention, according to Parker.
“I want to help make the best education system for every student at every school in our county,” Parker said. “Making sure that the superintendent has the tools to work with principals so that our schools are safe and classrooms are orderly — and it's a good learning environment — I think will go a long way towards keeping teachers.”
According to Parker, a lot of teachers retired, moved or simply stopped teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. While he agrees with providing teachers signing bonuses — something he said the board is already doing — Parker also thinks the district should be providing recruitment bonuses to teachers who refer other teachers to ABSS schools.
For parents in the community, one of Parker’s biggest platform points is increasing communication and transparency from the school system to parents and members of the community. He also said parents especially should have easier access to seeing what their children are doing in the classroom.
“My sixth grader has dyslexia and it's very slow for her to read, and sometimes I need to go along with things with her and she can't always access assignments from home that she had at school,” Parker said. “We went virtual, so all of the infrastructure is in place, but making sure that that is easily available to parents — I think is critical.”
Parker also said in the spirit of communication and transparency, the board should be publishing its meeting agendas further in advance for people who have interest in commenting or providing feedback on a specific policy.
Although this is his first time running for public office, Parker said he feels that he has many attributes to contribute to the community and is passionate about inciting change within ABSS.
“I decided that I had something that I could contribute to the school board,” Parker said. “I've learned a lot along the way and it's been good to really be able to meet people all across the county as I'm out … getting input from folks.”