Candidates crowd Durham school board races

jalexander@newsobserver.comMarch 27, 2014 

— Thirteen candidates have filed for the Durham Public Schools Board of Education.

Four seats are available — the hottest races in Districts 2 and 3, where five candidates and four candidates are vying to succeed Frederick Davis and Nancy Cox, respectively, who are not seeking re-election.

The seats in Districts 1 and 4 are also up for election. The incumbents are Omega Curtis Parker and Natalie Beyer.

Here are the candidates for Districts 1 and 2. Look for the candidates in Districts 3 and 4 on Sunday, and see the whole list now at thedurhamnews.com.

District 1

•  Name: Michael Lee

Age: 39

Address: 607 Fanning Way Durham, NC 27705

Occupation: Product manager for local data bases Credit Suisse

Related Experience: 16 years of volunteering and mentoring for junior achievement, and mentoring youth.

Why I’m Running: My mission is to improve Durham Public Schools in all aspects, especially technology for children, teachers and parents. I have three kids, one in Durham Public Schools and I am deeply invested in the success for DPS. I want to be a part of the selection of the superintendent and help shape the vision for schools moving forward. When I look at our board the majority are from education or childhood services backgrounds. In order for us to surpass other boards we need all backgrounds on deck to make decisions on all aspects as it relates to schools.

•  Name: Omega Curtis Parker

Age: 77

Address: 111 Oakmont Ave Durham, NC 27713

Occupation: Retired from Durham Public Schools

Related Experience: Board member since 2006. Former Durham Public Schools as media coordinator at Little River Elementary School, where she served for 39 years. After retirement, she was a substitute teacher in the school system. Worked at Orange County and Moore county as a teacher/librarian.

Why I’m Running: I know that I am an assest to the board . We have made some accomplishments but there is still work to be done. I would like to use my knowledge and wisdom to continue to make improvements in the school system. I believe that all children can learn, and it is up to us as a board to provide the teachers and resources to make each child successful for college or the workforce.

•  Name: Thomas Poole

Age: 58

Address: 809 E. Ellerbee St. Durham, NC 27704

Occupation: Retired educator. Taught title 1 at Research Triangle Charter Academy.

Related Experience: Sitting secretary for the Durham City County North Carolina Environmental Affairs Board, community activist, volunteer at Holton Career and Resource Center Durham Parks and Rec, former chair of NAACP ACSO.

Why I’m Running: I’m concerned with the leadership and guidance over early childhood education. The child’s total personality and characteristics is shaped as a young child. It’s so important. The school system isn’t enhancing the program and leadership and guidance is needed from the board. Our best qualities are investing in our young children. We need more work in the field and there are a lot of things that can be done. We need to make sure our principals are getting what they need in their schools.

District 2

• Donald Allen Hughes

Age: 26

Address: 1005 N. Roxboro St. Durham, NC 27701

Occupation: Online advertising strategist with a local online advertising agency

Related Experience: Member of the Durham Workforce Development Board (DWDB), led youth advisory group for The Durham Health Innovations Project's Adolescent Health Initiative, previously served as a Democratic Party Precinct Chair and member of the North Carolina Democratic Party State Executive Committee. Also served as Youth Committee Chair for the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People.

Why I’m Running: We must do all that we can to reduce the achievement gap and prepare all of our students for success in today’s increasingly competitive global society. We must provide teachers with the resources they need to be successful in the classroom. Finally, I am running for school board because I believe that ending the school-to-prison pipeline must be one of the district’s top priorities. Disparities in discipline have led to many of our young people are sitting in the seats of courtrooms instead of sitting in the seats of classrooms.

•  Name: Terrence Scarborough

Age: 38

Address: 6310 Coronado Ln. Durham, NC 27713

Occupation: Administrator at University of N.C. General Administration

Related Experience: Served on Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, mentored kids at various schools around DPS, coached basketball.

Why I’m Running: Being a product of Durham Public Schools, I want to give back to the system that has done so much for me. I would like to use my experiences and knowledge to ensure public education continues to strive and flourish. I want to continue to close the achievement gap, look into teacher salaries and teacher working environments, and growing parent and community involvement.

•  Name: Sendolo Diaminah

Age: 28

Address: 512 Dunbar St. Durham, NC 27701

Occupation: Community organizer

Related Experience: Mentor programs, ran summer program at McDougald Terrace. Community organizers, spent time with families in district 2. Work closely with teachers. Experience working with budgets.

Why I’m Running: I think teachers and educators need a representative who is willing to stand up for public education and their rights, public education being a foundation for a successful democratic justice community. I’m for keeping public funds and public schools. I oppose the vouchers and charter school process. I also feel really strongly about literacy in our schools. Making sure early on early literacy is the foundation for success for kids. Suspension and discipline and the school to prison pipeline is something we need to disrupt.

•  Name: Jimmy Doster

Age: 22

Address: 2616 Erwin Rd. 1531 Durham, NC 27705

Occupation: Business analyst

Related Experience: Recent college grad. “Part of the generation that are in school right now.”

Why I’m Running: Creating a spirit of unity. Increasing interaction between DPS schools, magnets, charters, home schools, community colleges, and our two great universities. Community outreach. We’re not omniscient. Some parents and teachers can’t come to school board, so I will go to them. Door to door. Alliance with business community for economic development and jobs. Safe and secure schools for our kids, improving school discipline policies and practices. Improve logistics of bus routes and bus overcrowding. Incentivizing and empowering improvement for students and teachers. Emphasis on early education and literacy to prepare kids to read to learn by third grade. As a recent graduate, I relate to students since I grew up in their generation. Time for new generation’s perspective on the school board, while fostering spirit of civil discourse over divisive dialogue.

•  Name: DeWarren Langley

Age: 29

Address: 1030 Moreland Ave. Durham, 27707

Occupation: Legal analyst

Related Experience: Vice Chair of Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, former Vice Chairman Youth Civic Engagement for Kids Voting Durham, created Durham Youth Commission to City Council in high school, past chairman of Board of Directors for Partners for Youth, member of Youth Council Workforce Development Board, tutor for Project FINE, volunteer with Leaders of Tomorrow Program of the National Black MBA Association, volunteer for DurhamYouthWork Internship Program, member of NC Juvenile Services Association.

Why I’m Running: I want to work with the school system to better partner with youth service organizations in Durham. To provide better support for youth outside of the classroom in terms of academic enrichment and professional development training, things that will help them for the workforce or college, whichever route they might take. I want to help eliminate the disparities and achievement and discipline among students of color, and assure that our teachers are receiving an equitable salary and facilitating a search for a superintendent that has experience leading a school system with the demographics comparable to Durham’s. One that will help us continue to strengthen our graduation rate and provide a world class education for our students.

District 3

•  Name: Steven Gatlin

Age: 35

Address: 2512 Yorkdale Ct. Durham, NC 27707

Occupation: High School Civics and Economics and AP U.S. Government teacher at Voyager Academy

Related Experience: Teacher for eight years. Taught at Northern High School for five years before going to Voyager.

Why I’m Running: Since I’ve moved to North Carolina I’ve always kept up with what the school board is doing. My passion is education. Since I’m not employed by Durham Public Schools, it gives me the unique opportunity to be on the board. I can provide a unique perspective from a current classroom teacher. What I’m really seeking is teacher empowerment. To bring them to the table of the decision-making process. They are the ones who are the professionals in the classroom. The results will be gained by the students.

•  Name: Lisa Gordon Stella

Age: 45

Address: 4325 Swarthmore Rd. Durham, NC 27707

Occupation: Mediator/attorney

Related Experience: Director of Truancy program in Durham Public Schools, Vice president of Maureen Joy charter school, President of Elma B. Spaulding Conflict Resolution Center.

Why I’m Running: Because I want to change our public school system so people can want to send their children there. I have a daughter who was in Durham Public School and she is no longer there because I was dissatisfied with the education she was receiving among many reasons. Spent a year trying to make changes. I’m very passionate about education. I believe in public education. Me and my husband want our schools to do better than this. I want to help change it so that people want to go to Durham Public Schools. I’ve looked at Durham Public School budgets to see where our money is going. That’s our job on the school board to understand our finances.

•  Name: Deborah Bryson

Age: 62

Address: 2 Coolidge Pl. Durham, NC 27705

Occupation: A founder/head of schools for the first black owned Montessori in the Triangle. Bryson Christian Montessori School

Related Experience: Head of Schools at Bryson Christian Montessori School for 28 years. Appointed committee member for the Durham Public School Budget Advisory Committee, Co/Chaired the Education Forums for the Community, runs NC Pre-K Progra.,

Why I’m Running: My reason for running for school board is for the past 28 years I have served children from every social economic status, diverse races and cultures from across the world; all to find that their parents want the best for their children. I will be dedicated to ensuring that all children are successful in completing their education through high school; as well as opportunities for college or trade programs. My top priorities are reducing school suspension through alternative restorative practices, teachers’ salaries to increase, committed to a “Student First” philosophy in all decisions, parent involvement, and to establish a community Advisory Group.

Children enrolled in high quality child care have a higher level of academic achievement, which promotes long term academic success. I also believe that supporting good schools is good business. I possess the leadership skills necessary to meet the challenges presented by an ethnically and culturally diverse community.

•  Name: Matt Sears

Age: 35

Address: 622 Morningside Dr. Durham, NC 27713

Occupation: Director of School Services for NC New Schools

Related Experience: Sears is a former Durham Public Schools educator. He was a math teacher at Hillside and Hillside New Tech, and won Durham Public Schools “Teacher of the Year” in 2008. He has two children, one that will attend Kindergarten in Durham Public Schools in 2015.

Why I am running: There’s 3 issues. Right now the situation is such that a lot of great teachers are leaving our classrooms and not entering the profession. And I think my experience can bring that expertise to the school board. The second reason is that I believe that every student regardless of their level of need can get a great education in DPS and I will work to make that happen. And finally having been a teacher and now having worked across the state in education, I think I have a strong set of experiences that can do the necessary functions of the job, he said.

District 4

•  Name: Natalie Beyer

Age: 45

Address: 2206 Hayfield Dr. Durham, NC 27705

Occupation: Beyer is a school and community volunteer and she works part-time for Smith and Associates in Durham.

Related Experience: Beyer has been a board member since 2010. She is a founding member of Parents Across America, a grassroots organization that connects parents and activists from across the country to improve our public schools.

Why I am running: I’ve been honored to serve the students and families in Durham and I think we have some important work to do over the next four years. Chief among those are the superintendent search, making sure we retain and support excellent teachers, we advocate for best practices for all students, and that all of our schools are safe and discipline is fair.

I really want to work to make sure that Durham is a great place to work, live and learn for all families. That all students have an enriched curriculum and that we minimize the use of standardized testing and maximize instructional time.

Alexander: 919-932-2008; Twitter: @jonmalexander1

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