Chris Jenner's Candidate Questionnaire Responses

Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what? What will be your main priority?

Voluntary service is an essential part of a great community and a great country. I have the interest, desire, drive, and background needed to help keep Cary schools great. My 15 years of management experience in customer services businesses would be of significant value to the board. My beliefs in personal responsibility and accountability would add to a strong school board. I'm interested in all aspects of the district -- policy, planning, finances, curriculum, etc. -- not just a particular issue. My priorities would be to see the district establish rigorous planning policies and procedures, to strive for a sustainable financial model, and for district employees to have the respect, support, resources and working environment they need to deliver a great education to the children of District 26.

What contributions would you make?

Diverse perspectives foster better decisions. One contribution I'd make is adding diversity to the board, coming from outside the education establishment. Other major contributions would come from my business education and experience. One would be ensuring the district's goals are quantifiable, so it's clear whether or not they're met. Other contributions would include scouring the state, the country, even the world, for best practices (e.g. standards for excellent budget reporting), and applying critical thinking to all decisions. My long experience in customer service will help in driving the district to delight its customers -- the community, parents, and students. I would also encourage and assist the board in developing core values and policy, on which all decisions would be based.

Do you feel a tax-rate increase necessary? If so, when? If not, how do you feel the district can keep its books balanced without one?

Many things need to be studied before we can say whether we're at the correct property tax rate. Both the funding and the spending sides of the equation must be studied. On the funding side, are transition and impact fees from new construction fair, and do they cover costs? Is there a quantifiable goal for grants? Would bond refinancing help? With increased pressure for action at the state level, the board should consider different scenarios of what the state might do. On the spending side, which costs are rising significantly faster than revenue increases? Why? What can be done to contain them? Are we maximizing use of volunteers? How efficient is our use of district resources, including space? It's incumbent on the board to ensure it gets the most effectiveness and efficiency for every dollar spent, and that every dollar spent benefits the children to the greatest possible extent.  

Since the previous tax-rate increase was rejected by 70 percent of voters, how would you possibly convince voters to pass one in the future? (If you think one is necessary).

The Cary community cares about education. The defeat of the referendum a year ago was not a vote against education, teachers, or kids. It was a directive from the community for the board to get more innovative and creative than just demanding a higher percentage of taxpayers' money. There was also an element of a lack of empathy. Many community members outside the education establishment had been through very difficult financial times during the preceding three years. Many had lost jobs, gotten little to no raises, had their insurance premiums and deductibles rise. When the community sees that district employees have gone through similar times, they'll be more inclined to provide financial support to the district.

Communication seems to be a constant issue in District 26. How would you help the district communicate better with the community?

Due to what's gone on in the past, the board may need to overcompensate in this area for a while. When community members and parents take the time to research issues and gather community support, the board must give them serious consideration and engage them in fair and open discussion. As Cary is very much a connected community, much more information should be made available via the web. A version of the budget that's understandable to non-financial experts should be available. Freedom of Information Act requests should be easier, perhaps web-based, and more reasonably priced. The issue isn't accessibility to school officials, it's community members and parents getting fair consideration. I would work to ensure the board gives fair consideration to all inputs from community members, staff, parents, and students; and that fair and open discussion of these inputs occurs.