CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools System is one of the top-achieving districts in North Carolina, yet closing the achievement gap is a urgent issue that has proven hard to solve.

The four candidates competing for three open spots on the CHCCS Board of Education spoke to this problem during WCHL’s Candidate Forum Monday.

Michelle Brownstein and James Barrett are the two incumbent candidates in the race, and the challengers are Ignacio Tzoumas and Andrew Davidson.

**Hear WCHL’s full CHCCS Board Candidate Forum below**


Brownstein, who was elected in 2009 and currently serves as Chair of the Board, said she believes that illiteracy is the one of the main factors contributing to the achievement gap.

“Interventions that we are providing for students also have to be evidence-based and be consistent. We have to look at our instructional time and how we are using those minutes,” Brownstein said. “There are children that need catch-up growth, and those children are the ones who are a part of this achievement gap. We have to follow them vertically as they go through the curriculum K-12.”

Barrett, who was elected to the Board in 2011, said the District needs to focus on improving the quality of instruction.

“We have pockets of really good instruction going on, but I think Dr. Forcella is clearly focused that every teacher, every classroom, has great instruction every day,” Barrett said. “And then the other thing that she [Michelle Brownstein] touched on is growth. Every student should be growing a year, and those that are behind should be growing a year.”

Tzoumas said if he were elected to the Board, he would work toward implementing sound policies as soon as possible.

“I think we’ve gotten to the point where it is rhetoric versus reality,” Tzoumas said. “We want to close that gap and start executing on the ideas as opposed to constantly bringing up the problem that is at hand.”

Davidson said one of the biggest challenges that disadvantaged students face is the “summer gap” in their education.

“Wealthier students show better academic progress during the summer than poorer students do, and that is one of the ways that the district has fallen short,” Davidson said. “And through no fault of their own, I think it is an innovation that we have to take on to focus on summer learning. We need to make that change so that when they get to the third grade, they make the change from learning to read to reading to learn.”

Early voting for the Nov. 5 municipal and Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board elections is underway now.