School board candidates lay out priorities

jalexander@newsobserver.comSeptember 30, 2013 

— Four candidates will run for election for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education on Nov. 5.

But only three will win seats.

Incumbents Michelle “Shell” Brownstein, and James Barrett will each try to defend their seats against newcomers Andrew Davidson and Ignacio Tzoumas. In a forum at the Carrboro Town Hall last week, the candidates each explained why they should be elected.

Brownstein, the board’s chairwoman, said her goal is to make sure every child in the school system can read.

“I’m passionate about education and our district,” she said. “I believe in working hard with our community and making the district the best district it can be.”

She was first elected to the board in 2009, and has served as the chairwoman for a year. Brownstein prides herself on being involved in the decision to hire CHCCS Superintendent Tom Forcella.

Barrett, 43, highlighted some of the strides being made while he’s been on the board and under Forcella’s leadership. Barrett was elected in 2011 to fill an unexpired term and is running for his first full four-year term. He said he wants to continue making those strides and help students grow every year.

“To get there, we need to continue the focus on improved instruction in every classroom for the benefit of every student,” he said.

Davidson, 39, a database administrator with Verizon Terramark, said he is passionate about technology.

“Some of the biggest challenges we have as a district, technology gives us the tools to help us overcome those challenges,” Davidson said.

He also said he wants to create equity among the schools, and would like to put more emphasis on the Karen refugee and African-American student population as well as those with disabilities.

Davidson has served on the Frank Porter Graham Elementary School Improvement team, and the CHCCS Technology Advisory Council.

Tzoumas, 39, a business start-up investor, said he is a first-generation Mexican-American and that the school system could benefit from having more diversity on its board. Of the seven board members only two are minorities (African Americans), one of whom will be leaving when his term ends this year.

Tzoumas said one of his main goals is to assist with the budgetary problems.

“Without a sound budget, addressing issues ranging from supporting fragile populations to adding news schools will come with prohibitive restrictions,” he said.

Tzoumas was also a strategic consultant for PricewaterCoopers advising state of North Carolina in 1997 on best practices for government agencies.

“I will definitely be competing with some of these board members because they really know their stuff,” Tzoumas said.

All candidates say their No. 1 priority is to close the achievement gap.

Alexander: 919-932-2008

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