Mindy Hartman: 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.
Civic Involvement: Current board member for District 26, vice president for 2020-2021 term
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: Serving my community and particularly our schools is near and dear to my heart. When I was a kid, my mom was a room-mom, ran market days, and was my Girl Scout leader. My schedule is a lot more complicated than my mom's was, but I'm following her example and giving back in a way I think can be impactful. I also have a 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, so getting to help shape the ways the schools they will attend are going to run now and in the future is a definite motivator. One of the things that brought my family to Cary was the schools, so I have a vested interest in making sure we maintain or improve that reputation for the benefit of our kids and community.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: I'm giving us an A, but I'm a board member, so it's a bit of a biased rating. The grade comes from looking at a situation that was not in any playbook, learning from the first round in the 2019-2020 school year, and supporting and encouraging the administration to really turn things around to make 2020-2021 more successful. This year has had its challenges, but on the whole, we are seeing positive feedback. One of the biggest changes the board supported was getting technology into everyone's hands. Prior to the 2019 election, the board was firmly opposed to going 1:1 with our technology, and we had to pivot and get that into place to ensure access for 2020-2021. The district has done even better, by making sure any family that doesn't have stable access to internet can get a Wi-Fi hot spot. It is my hope that we'll continue to be more future-oriented and find ways to make use of the technology now that we have it.
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: I believe my role was to listen to all of the sources of information, from the parents, to the staff, to the County Health Department, and support a plan for our district that I believed would keep our community safest. This was not certainly something I ever envisioned facing when I decided to interview for an open position on the board, but I'm proud of the way the district has risen to the challenge. It's never been the case that everyone is on the same page, but the way to handle that is with a pragmatic process. First, the administration looked at the constructs which guide our ability to operate: what resources do we have, what resources can we get, what guidelines are we operating under, and what laws do we have to follow? Once those are known, then the administration has surveyed the stakeholders to determine what the stakeholders want. Finally, with those known, then it's been a matter of figuring out how to marry them and give the most people the most desirable, safe, outcome.
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: I believe we served the majority of the population well, as I referenced above, we rolled out 1:1 technology in a matter of months and provide hot spots to all in need. Our district also got breakfast and lunch service rolling right away in the spring of 2019-2020 and has kept that service for families, even with the schools being open for hybrid learners. I believe the shortcoming will always be in serving the population that requires a more hands-on approach from educators- those who need extra support or interventions. I believe there were populations that were not served in the same they which they are when schools are open five days a week, but I believe the district has thought of everything they could do safely to continue to offer interventions and support for those in need.
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: I support the District's current plan. I think the administration is doing a good job partnering with the County to watch the numbers and make decisions that keep our students and staff safe. The current plan allows those that want to be in school to get some days in the classroom and it allows those who don't to continue their social distancing and learn at home. It is my sincere hope that by following this plan, our doors are open to all by fall 2021.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: I find this to be a challenging question, because my gut reaction would be to shut down anything which requires close contact until the rates are much lower and the vaccine is better distributed. But, I have to balance that against the consideration that sports during the pandemic aren't just about this year, this season- there are a lot of student-athletes that need this season so they can play next year in college or get scholarships for their future. How do you flat-out say no to that? My position is that it should be a sport-by-sport decision, with the parents, the students-athletes, and the school having meaningful input as to whether each sport can be done safely, and whether there are alternatives that can be considered so that students don't lose out on the important college opportunities. Everything has risk and reward, and it is the high school district's job to find and weigh those within each sport.