Election 2016: Anne McGraw running to keep District Four seat

Election 2016: Anne McGraw running to keep District Four seat

Only two candidates will run for the unexpired term for the District Four seat with Anne McGraw aiming to stretch her September appointment into another two years.

Hoping to continue her unexpired term in District Four, Anne McGraw said she hopes to use her now year long experience to help parents and students transition through rezoning in a Williamson County area potentially the most impacted.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is each of our schools has a character,” she said. “It’s taken walking the halls to know the ins and outs. That’s always going to be at the forefront for me as their representative – voting accordingly to protect what we care about.”

McGraw, a mother of two daughters and Atlanta native, works for Nissan North America. She received her bachelor’s degree from Georgia Institute of Technology. She regularly helps with PTO at Trinity Elementary School, where her daughters attend. She moved to the Nashville area eight years ago, and relocated to Franklin three years ago for her job and the public school system.

In her first year on the board, she said she was able to learn a lot that could prove helpful in continuing the term left open when Paul Bartholomew announced his resignation last summer. For the last three years, three different people have maintained the District Four seat.

My concern as a parent is if there is a new school board member this fall, that is three school board members in three years,” she said. “I want someone representing in these rezoning talks who knows what they are talking about. It’s important for people to think about.”

The Home Page has interviewed each of the 16 candidates running for the seven board positions. Each candidate received the same questions.

Rezoning is one of the first issues the new board will deal with together as the Nolensville schools open and Thompson’s Station’s is on the horizon. What’s your philosophy on school rezoning, grandfathering and the anticipation of future growth for rezoning?

Rezonings and school size decisions are going to happen in early fall, and we will need a board member who’s completely up to speed on the multiple dynamics and complexities involved to best represent our district’s unique needs.

Many of our District Four schools are near or even over capacity, and we need to be thinking strategically about things like feeder patterns, grandfathering and where and how to build new schools in order to minimize the impact on our families and taxpayers.

We are really feeling the burn with the new home construction in the southern portion of the county. So rezoning is going to happen, and we are already out of space. We need to build new schools, and as soon as we build a school, it’s full.

What might seem obvious and easy never is, as I’ve quickly come to learn in this role. Open communication and intense focus on this pressing issue is critical during this time.

What is your position on standardized testing – is there too much, too little?

State testing has been a nightmare for our students and teachers this year. To say everyone is frustrated is an understatement.

Testing certainly has a place in public schools, but the high stakes environment and instructional time spent preparing for them needs to be reined in immediately for everyone’s sake. I think we’re at a tipping point right now, and districts across Tennessee need to stand firm with what we will and won’t accept while working with the state to find common sense solutions.

I think there needs to be healthy conversation about what is reasonable. I think most people involved don’t think it’s the way it should be. It’s a state issue, and we don’t have much control. If school boards stood united across the state, that could become a unified voice. The momentum is swinging for a reduction in testing.

What is your position on Common Core, and what do you agree with the state phasing it out?

I’m glad that our legislators just voted to phase it out here in Tennessee so it’s no longer an issue we need to worry about at a district level. I don’t know anyone that was a fan of Common Core.

What do you think of current state education standards?

The new standards have certainly had a great deal of public involvement and scrutiny, and I believe they’re appropriately rigorous and will thereby prepare our students for their next stage of life, whatever that might look like for them after graduating from Williamson County Schools.

Do you think world religions should be part of history or social studies curricula?

Absolutely. There is no way to learn about world history without knowledge of the many religions that influenced events throughout the centuries.

Our children will be living and working in a global community and need to have academic, contextual knowledge of past and current cultures and societies in order to be successful. I live this firsthand in my job at a global corporation where cultural diversity is the norm, not the exception.

The fear of indoctrination from religious awareness is unjustified and baffling to me. When I was in school, I was part of a role-playing project where we reenacted the Nuremberg trial over a few weeks, and I can promise you that having to comprehend and even play-act the words and arguments of Nazi leaders didn’t turn me into a Neo-Nazi.

Rational people understand the difference between exposing or explaining belief systems versus imposing or promoting them. We need to give our kids – and our teachers – more credit than that.

What is your opinion of the current state of WCS and the current leadership?

Current leadership is exceptional, and I believe we have the right team to see us through this time of growth. Working in public education right now isn’t for the weak of heart. The team we have in our schools and running the district is truly excellent, and I believe they truly have our children’s best interest in mind with everything they do.

There is always more when it comes to underfunded schools, but I am confident that’s what we will figure out how to do together.

We need to trust our teachers and administrators to do their jobs and speak their minds. When we all work cooperatively as an educational ecosystem, everyone benefits.

What is the best thing about WCS?

First, we have amazing kids. But we have amazing kids because we have amazing parents. Seeing it through the PTO events and the level of parent involvement is off the charts – both the time and financial commitment. They are keeping our schools the best in the state and the country. I don’t think a lot of people have any idea how lucky we are to have the level of parent involvement that we do here. I think that makes a huge difference.

The teachers, really, they go above and beyond. Their passion and energy is contagious. I hope they know how valued they are.

What needs attention, and what aspect of it could need adjustment?

Our schools are underfunded in general here in Tennessee, and we’re having to make really tough choices when it comes to maintaining buildings, adequate staffing levels and even academic programming and school service offerings – choices that I don’t think we should be forced to make at the expense of our children’s educational experiences.

We’re incredibly smart with every dollar we have to spend, but there’s only so much magic you can pull out of a hat that isn’t growing along with our student population.

Emily West covers Franklin and Williamson County government and schools for Home Page Media Group. Contact her at emily@franklinhomepage.com. Follow her on Twitter via @emwest22.

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