Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools Board of Education member James Barrett announced Friday he will not seek re-election this fall. Barrett is gearing up for a run as the Democratic candidate for North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Barrett said in an interview with WCHL Friday afternoon that this is “a chance to do good during the day.”
He added, “It’s a chance to take my skills in management of a large organization, take my love of advocacy for public education and use that to have a full-time career out of doing that work.”
Barrett has served on the CHCCS board in recent years, including two years as chair.
He finished fourth in the 2017 CHCCS race, where he is filling out the remaining two years of Annetta Streater’s term after she resigned from the board in September 2017.
Recently, Barrett has been the target of some criticism locally following his vote to approve a plan that would turn Glenwood Elementary School into a Mandarin Dual-Language program magnet school. The vote was ultimately 4-3 to approve the plan, but the board has voted to delay its implementation and possibly revisit options for the school.
He said he would work to make equity a piece of the everyday mindset in public education across the state.
“In particular racial equity,” Barrett said. “We did that fairly early on in my term at the [CHCCS] district. It is a topic that we don’t talk about enough around the state. We talk about rural-urban; we talk about poverty issues, but we don’t always talk about the issues of race. And that is something that we do need to make sure we focus more on.”
Barrett said advocating for teacher pay to be brought to the national average would be a priority, if he were to be elected to the statewide office.
“I do think that it is part of the position,” he said, “to create that advocacy both for the level of teacher pay, because that’s important, but also restoring the positions that have been cut.”
The state of public education across North Carolina versus specifically in the affluent Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools district are different pictures in some ways, in terms of resources and priorities. Barrett said he has already visited several portions of the state – he listed trips to Sampson County, Rockingham, Lexington, Rocky Mount and said he is going to Edenton next week.
“There are people that care about public education, that have good ideas, that we need to listen to in all those places.”
Barrett said, as a tenth generation North Carolinian, he does feel as though he has a good understanding of public education issues and priorities across the state.
“The very first thing is that we have to respect teachers; we have to restore that respect to the profession,” he said. “And, to me, from a leadership perspective, I view it the same way: provide them the resources they need to do the job and then get out of the way.”
Republican Mark Johnson is the current state superintendent. He knocked off longtime Democratic superintendent June Atkinson in the 2016 election. You can find out more information about Barrett’s campaign through its website.
Listen to the complete interview with James Barrett: