Wake County Board of Education
District 7


*Responses are printed as they are originally submitted. The Chamber has not edited any responses.

Candidate contact information is listed at the bottom of the page.

Please note: Deborah Prickett is also a candidate but did not return our questionnaire.



 


Zora Felton


Do you support performance based pay for teachers?

 No


Do you support pay differentiation for positions that are difficult to fill, such as STEM and Special Education teachers?

 Yes


Are you in favor of policies requiring students to pay for athletics and extra-curricular activities to assist with the budget shortfall?

 No


Given current budget constraints, would you support asking the Wake County Board of Commissioners for additional money?

 Yes


*DNA—Did Not Answer



1. Why are you running for public office and how would your experiences, knowledge and skills add value to the Board of Education?


Zora Felton

I have spent twenty-five years as a teacher in Wake County public schools, and now that I have retired this summer, I have the time and knowledge to share my experience in the classroom. My experience, from a teacher's point of view, will be important in serving on the Board. Since 2009, the Wake Board of Education has been through tumultuous times, and I want to keep calm the environment on the Board and focus on supporting our teachers and working collaboratively with an old colleague, our new Superintendent Dr. Jim Merrill. I want Board members to promote sound policy and solutions for students and teachers, not politics. I will work to keep the focus on student achievement – our students must be prepared to face the challenges in career and college that will face after high school.

I have lived in Wake County almost all my life, graduating from Sanderson High School and North Carolina State University. My three children graduated from Leesville Road High School and public universities. I believe in public education. I have spent my career in public education. I will be focused on the end product—educated young adults who graduate ready for college or career.

My family is filled with educators—my mother, my sister, and my daughter are all teachers, and I want to make sure School Board policy works for the classroom teacher as they educate our students. This perspective will be a great asset to District 7 and to the School Board overall. I will work hard to advocate for policies that provide the best learning environments for all students, policies that put students first so that our schools maximize teacher excellence and student potential.

 



  
2. How would you describe the role of an effective board member?


Zora Felton

An effective School Board member is someone who does their homework before each Board vote, someone who takes the time to study information, to ask questions, and to listen to answers. An effective Board member is open to parents, teachers, the business community, students, and taxpayers. They keep politics out of the Board room. I taught my students to gather data, study facts, and work in collaboration with colleagues—those steps are critical to making sound decisions that are more likely to be accepted and implemented over the long term instead of for a political 'sound bite'.

My years in the classroom have given me confidence in interpersonal skills, honed my communication skills, and taught me team building skills. I like working as part of a team, and I am willing to compromise when it means the winners are our children. The most effective Board member will make every decision with children foremost in mind.

I am dedicated to improving academic rigor for all students and will work diligently with staff, fellow Board members, teachers, and parents to do what is best to move our students forward.





   
3. What ideas or approach will you bring to the Wake County Board of Education to improve student achievement? 


Zora Felton

As a classroom teacher, I know how critical it is to provide excellent and continuous staff development to keep our teachers on top of changes in curriculum and improvements in instructional strategies. We have to look for every local opportunity available to attract and to keep the best teachers and staff in our schools. With all the recent changes facing teachers, we must work hard to ensure the best teaching environments possible here in Wake County to keep our best teachers from leaving our schools and the profession.

Wake County currently has a good reputation—strong principals and teachers must work together to keep the Wake County School system strong and competitive. I will advocate and support policies that enable learning environments where teachers can be most effective, including technology as needed. I will work hard to encourage continued professional development and team planning time for teachers. I want to invite our business community to help us keep our teachers in the Wake County Public School System.



    
4. If, as a Board member, you could improve one thing in the WCPSS, what would it be and why? How would you go about doing it? 


Zora Felton

Innovation in education comes not only from teachers, but also from all stakeholders who impact the classroom: principals, counselors, clerical staff, cafeteria workers, social workers, custodial staff, bus drivers, psychologists, students, parents and guardians, and community members. The student enters the bus and arrives safely at school. The cafeteria staff can provide breakfast. The student then enters the classroom for instruction in a clean environment provided by the custodial staff. Hopefully, the lessons that follow help the student to achieve. After electives and specials the student will return home. The bus or carpool arrives.




    
5. How would you blend Wake's historical strengths in public education with today's realities of operating the 16th largest school district in the country?


Zora Felton

Perhaps the greatest strength of the Wake County Public School System has been that our schools have been great places for great teachers to teach and for students to receive quality education. I also understand how children learn best, and I will bring that point of view and understanding to the Board. But we cannot do it alone. I want to involve our full community in supporting our students and our public school teachers. Every decision made by school board members should be made with a child's best interest in mind and to strengthen the classroom.



      
6. How will you establish a strong working relationship on key issues, such as construction, with your colleagues on the Wake County Board of Commissioners?


Zora Felton

Future economic success is directly linked to excellent public education, and our two county-based elected bodies need to find improved ways of supporting our public school system. Long term cooperation on school construction is needed. The Wake County School System has successful experience building and maintaining schools, and that work is central to its mission to provide high quality education for our students. WCPSS professional staff has managed more than $2.2 billion in construction since 2001—42 new schools and 62 major renovations. In the last bond program, the joint work of county and school staff saved more than $104 million, and that means more success and additional projects for school improvements.

That's a track record worth building on, so I support continuing the current system of shared responsibilities. The County Commissioners and School Board must work as partners for all of our students, not as adversaries. I look forward to building partnerships with the Commissioners to support our schools.





7. The last several years have been politically tumultuous for the Wake County Schools, what skills will you bring to the Board table that will improve Board governance and interpersonal dynamics?


Zora Felton

I became very concerned when the Board of Education became politically charged in 2009, and I think that has harmed elected government in Wake County. My opponent was part of the leadership in 2009 that brought chaos and negative national attention to our school system in 2009-2011, and I want to be part of a Board that restores respect and strengthens excellence in our school system. Our national reputation was damaged, and I want to work toward stability and calm again.

I am not a politician or a partisan political person. I believe in reflecting community values to support our schools. I will not feed political partisanship—that has harmed our children. I will listen and make decisions based on what is best for the classroom experience—period.





8. What is your opinion on student assignment in Wake County?


Zora Felton

For too long, politicians have used "student assignment" to pursue politics over children in our County. It is time for this to stop.

I support the current Policy 6200, policy that puts the emphasis on four pillars: academic achievement, stability, proximity, and facility utilization. These pillars should all balance for sound assignment policy. These values were the core message from Chamber consultant Michael Alves.

Student assignment should be based on home address and expanded by choice based on available capacity. The school system learned the hard way that we cannot overpromise or offer a countywide choice plan that is not tied to proximity or fairness. My opponent campaigned the last time against wasting money on bussing, yet she still supports an assignment plan that had no address based assignment and a plan that added $2 million to our bus costs—the failed implementation of the choice plan added 10,000 miles a day to our routes. That's $2 million should be spent in the classroom, not on busses.

The current Board—despite a negative vote from my opponent—has kept important aspects of the Choice plan that were advocated by the Chamber—the ones we could afford as a district.





9. What will be your legacy as a Board member?


Zora Felton

I want to bring a teacher perspective into the Board of Education's decision-making. What happens in the classroom is the most important work we do, and I want to make sure that perspective becomes a part of everyday decision making for the Board of Education. The Board of Education also should be driven by the needs of families, children, and taxpayers, not by special interest politics; I want to be part of a Board that responds to the community, not political parties. I am proud to have taught civics and social studies for my teaching career and my service on the Board of Education will be an extension of that work—showing the community that nonpartisan elected bodies (including the Wake County Board of Education) serve the community and reflect community needs, not political partisanship. We need strong and respected elected Boards of Education so that democracy can thrive in Wake County and in our nation.





10. Please briefly describe your position on any additional issues vital to the success of Wake County Public Schools.


Zora Felton

We must continue to develop strong academic programs for all students at all levels from the academic challenged and struggling children to the children who are academically accelerated well beyond their grade levels. This is a constant challenge as we look for ways to help students be career and college ready. As the push to expand STEM programs continues, we must may sure that we have teachers and staff trained and that we have the classroom resources to use with our students. This is an area that I where I would like to see more business and university involvement.




              

Candidate Contact Information


Zora Felton
5405 Turkey Creek Drive
Raleigh, NC 27613
919.787.0753
zoraforschoolboard.com

 

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