Anthony Wesley Stefani: 2021 candidate for Cary District 26 School Board
Five candidates are running for four seats on the Cary District 26 School Board in the April 6, 2021, election.
Occupation: Senior Vice President of Information Technology
Civic Involvement: None listed
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A: Being raised in the area, I know how deep our community ties go. I've now come back to Cary, and I want to help our community out as much as possible. In my professional career, I have an expertise level in information technology and facility management. I believe there should be a split in knowledge in the board to help protect all areas within the district and community.
The pandemic has sent District 26 into a frenzy and it has clearly shown that D26 was not as prepared as they needed to be. Since D26 has started to bring their tech and facilities to the 21st century, they are spending money left and right. We need to start asking more questions around spend and why, which has been missed over the last couple years.
Though the current board has had conversations around 'what ifs,' it's time to start asking the questions that the community wants answers to.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: I would rate the current school board as a "C." Leadership has not always been present, and it has shown in the board virtual calls. The CDC has stated since December, that schools can open, yet here we are only 2-3 days a week in person for our students. Our community is asking the questions, and it seems that no one is asking or answering them on the board. The other question that the board can't seem to ask/answer is, where is the push back coming from? Is it the unions? Admin? Superintendent? Our community needs answers, and the current board is not providing them.
Q: How do you view your role in confronting the pandemic: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state authorities?
A: It's been clear over the last several months that parents have been unhappy with the changes. District 26 is saying 'we're following science,' but yet they haven't. Numbers have been going down since October, and not much has changed. Positive or negative, they need to be discussed and it needs to be represented in the communication of the board. My role would be to take the positive and negatives and ensure that they are all discussed. It's important to understand that we are elected officials, and we were put into our seat to ask the tough questions on behalf of the community.
Q: Did your district continue to adequately serve students during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to continue providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.
A: After taking time off, District 26 started having remote learning. Remote learning seems to have had it's up and downs with curriculum roll outs as well as meeting special education IEP goals.
Having a 1st grader in remote learning, it has been extremely difficult watching him and hearing his struggles. But overtime, he was able to adapt to the change as most Americans have. I'm just wondering where the Business Continuity Plan was and if a Disaster Recovery Plan for something like this was published. Businesses, Charter Schools, Catholic Schools, etc. plan for outages or pandemics like this, and I'm wondering why District 26 wasn't prepared for this regarding the roll out?
Q: Do you have a plan on how to safely and effectively conduct classes in the spring? What have you learned from the fall semester that you would change in the spring?
A: It seems that District 26 does not operate on their own. They're too busy seeing what surrounding schools are doing before making a call on what they want to do. It's time that District 26 takes a stand and effectively follow CDC guidelines with opening up schools 5 days a week while protecting children and staff. Schools should continue best practices for social distancing, wear a mask, and make proper adjustments to keep class sizes smaller.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: I 100% agree with having high school sports back with proper guidelines being followed. Games being limited to in-person attendance, requiring coaching staff to wear masks at all times, and lastly, all players, coaches, and fans to follow social distancing provided by the CDC guidelines to help ensure spread of COVID-19.