Last month, Governor Pat McCrory tapped Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board member Eric C. Davis to replace outgoing State Board of Education member Marce Savage, who left her post in the wake of a controversy over her spending of state funds.
N.C. Policy Watch talked with Davis this week to learn more about his background and his philosophy on matters related to state education policy. He will attend his first state Board of Education meeting this week in Raleigh.
Name: Eric C. Davis
Occupation: Relationship Manager, corporate properties group at Wells Fargo. “A simple way to understand it,” said Davis, “is when you see one of our bank branches out in the community, that property is what my group handles. I work with the senior leaders in each bank to develop a real estate strategy that supports their business strategy.”
Education and training: Davis is a 1983 graduate of West Point, finishing ninth in his class. “I was commissioned as a combat engineer officer, airborne and ranger qualified. During the first six years of my career, I was an officer in the Army Corps of Engineers.”
Current residence: Charlotte.
From: Charlotte, born and raised. “A product of CMS public schools through fifth grade, then we moved to Lincoln County. I graduated from East Lincoln High,” said Davis.
Family: “I’m married to another East Lincoln High graduate, and we have two daughters,” said Davis.
Hobbies: Davis enjoys American military history, sports of all types and really enjoys running—he runs nearly every day. “It’s easier [to run] now that I’m not getting shot at,” said Davis, referring to his military career.
Why are you interested in serving on the State Board of Education? “I believe that public education is the foundation of our democracy,” said Davis. Because North Carolina has a state-run public education system, Davis says he was looking for an opportunity to contribute on a broader level than just at the local district level. “I’m grateful to Governor McCrory for the opportunity,” said Davis.
What do you believe are the most important issues facing public education today in North Carolina? “Public education, like any successful organization, starts with leadership,” said Davis. The key to success is to build leadership capacity from the very top all the way down to the classroom level. “The quality of education that our children receive is most impacted by the quality of teachers we are able to attract, retain and reward. It’s a great challenge for us in North Carolina to find the talent we need for our students to succeed,” said Davis.
What is your position on:
Virtual charter schools: Davis says he’s still learning about virtual charters, since the education community hasn’t been super engaged on that subject at the district level.
“I do believe we have got to continue to do a better job of leveraging technology to the benefit of our students’ education,” said Davis. “And we need to be very thoughtful and deliberate in how we implement technology, whether it’s in the traditional public schools or through charter schools.”
School Vouchers: “Given that the majority of our students attend traditional public schools, then the majority of our attention and resources should go toward where the majority of our students attend school,” said Davis. “We are in a period of scarce resources, so it’s important to use those resources efficiently and rally public support around public schools.”
Merit pay for teachers: “I don’t find that we need to incentivize our teachers. They join our profession despite the lack of financial reward we provide to them. We need to provide a competitive salary that attracts our most talented graduates to join the profession of teaching. That’s the first step,” said Davis, who added the state is not only competing against other school districts around the country, but other industries as well that offer a more compelling employment proposition.
But once that baseline is established, says Davis, then a meritocracy could be created that rewards performance. “The largest roadblock, however, is the difficulty in measuring performance. But that is a challenge we need to face up to.”
Public funding of education: “I’m fiscally conservative. It’s up to us as education policymakers to constantly find ways to be more efficient with the dollars that the public puts in our trust,” said Davis. “But with my business background, I recognize that you have to invest in order to generate a return, so we have the opportunity at this point to both increase efficiency and increase investment in terms of helping our students’ education.”
“A key question: how do we incent local districts to be even more efficient with the dollars that they are entrusted with? It’s not just we need more money – it’s how can we be more efficient,” said Davis. “But at some point it is also about needing more money.”
Politics – Davis is an independent, unaffiliated voter who describes himself as fiscally conservative and a moderate.
Something about you most people don’t know: “My two boyhood idols are Vince Lombardi and Robert E. Lee.”