Name as it appears on the ballot: Deon Temne
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: deontemne4chccs.com/
Occupation & employer: Chief Operations Officer, Farmer Foodshare
Years lived in the area: 3
1) In 300 words or less, please give us—and our readers—your elevator pitch: Why are you running? Why should voters entrust you with this position? What are your priorities, and what would you want to see the school board do differently or better over the course of your term?
My name is Deon Temne and I am running for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board because I want to advocate, represent and build trust as a way to help EVERY child in our district meet their full potential. With your support I will advocate for programs that support those outside of the bell curve–including gifted and special needs students, I will ensure representation for those most adversely impacted by our achievement gap and I will build trust to facilitate more two-way communication between the board and the community.
If elected, I would specifically advocate to broaden our approach to gifted education to make it more inclusive. I would advocate for implicit bias and restorative practice training for teachers and administrators to address our disproportionate discipline rates. I would also advocate for increased teacher support and incentives to ensure a robust pipeline of diverse talent, and I would strongly encourage us to critically evaluate metrics that influence us to unfairly see certain students as deficient. And possibly most importantly, I would encourage our board to practice cultural humility as we listen and learn from those diverse communities we seek to support.
Everything I intend to do as a member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School board will be focused on advocating for all children, representing those often left out of the conversation, and building trust with the communities on both sides of the achievement gap. Thank you for the opportunity to serve our community and I ask for your vote on November 5.
2) Given the direction of the school district, would you say things are on the right course? If not, for what specific changes will you advocate if elected?
3) What are the three main issues that you believe the Board of Education needs to address in the upcoming year?
My goal is to help EVERY child meet their full potential. I am especially interested in advocating for programs that support those outside of the bell curve. I am running for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board because I want to ensure representation for those most adversely impacted by our achievement gap. In addition to building trust and facilitating more two-way communication between the board and the community, I would specifically advocate for implicit bias and restorative practice training for teachers and administrators to address our disproportionate discipline rates, increase teacher support and incentives to ensure a robust pipeline of talent, and critically evaluate metrics that influence us to see certain students as deficient.
Discipline Rates: I will encourage us to focus on restorative practices and bias training to address inequitable discipline rates – black students in our district are nearly 14 times more likely to receive a short-term suspension or be referred to the court system than white students. Some might suspect this means children of color are acting out more, but recent research conducted by NC State suggests teachers view behavior differently based on the race of the student. Implicit bias training is an investment in our teachers and administrators that can help them see blind spots. Training in restorative practices can also give teachers tools and strategies to use in the classroom, rather than relying on suspensions as a first resource.
Teacher Support: Teachers are our unsung heroes, especially in North Carolina. Our state leads the nation in the number of teachers who earned certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, yet we are 37th in teacher pay and 29th in per-pupil spending. In a time where recruiting and retaining quality teachers is growing more difficult, I challenge our district to invest more in incentives and classroom support to recruit and retain top talent. Equally as important is the need to apply an equity lens to our hiring to ensure we are filling our teaching pool with highly qualified teachers who can provide quality instruction, equitable access to educational resources, and differentiated teaching methods for those who need them.
Metrics: Our achievement gap conversations have mainly focused on metrics that help us identify deficits in our children’s performance. As a board member, I’d encourage us to adjust our orientation and identify metrics that help us identify and address deficits in the system that’s supposed to serve all of our children. When we measure the learning conditions that foster equitable development we can better support teachers in executing culturally responsive teaching practices that empower all students to learn and achieve their full potential. Conversely if we focus solely on student deficiencies it becomes easy to blame the student and their community for the disparity. If elected I would advocate for the district to critically look at our system and measure to what extent it’s creating equitable opportunities. And through this approach we can better provide more targeted opportunities for students to thrive.
4) Describe something you think the school board should have prioritized differently in the current budget.
As a new board member there would be much to learn about how our budget works. However I do know it’s important to direct our funding to the line items that most directly impact the quality of education we can offer our students. Per pupil spending, deferred maintenance funding, and equity training would be some of the items I’d expect to be prioritized. And of course, one area I know we can never invest enough in is teacher support. If we are going to recruit and retain quality teachers, they need a livable wage and classroom support that allows for differentiated and small group instruction. I am a huge advocate for challenging all kids at levels that are appropriate for them and identifying opportunities for every child to stretch. Teachers have to be supported so they can help all children meet high expectations.
5) What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective as a member of the Board of Education and as an advocate for the issues that you believe are important?
My extensive board and volunteer service have prepared me well for a position on our school board. I have been an active member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community since 2016, volunteering and adding my voice to the collective discussions related to excellence and diversity in our district.
I currently serve as the Vice-Chair of the Equity Advisory Council, as a member of the School Improvement Team for Northside Elementary and as the membership chair for a local association for cybersecurity professionals. I have also served as the Special Needs Advisory Council representative for Seawell Elementary, as a Steering Committee member for the Campaign for Racial Equity in Our Schools, as a tutor & coach for Math Olympiad and as a member of the School Improvement Team for Rashkis Elementary. I was also selected as the Northside Elementary and Title 1 representative on Dr. Pamela Baldwin’s Family Commission in 2018 and 2019. And for more than twenty years I have been a proud life member and tutor for both the National Urban League and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.
6) There’s been some controversy pertaining to the district’s magnet and dual-language programs. How can CHCCS work toward making magnet schools more inclusive? Are dual-language/magnet programs an effective tool to combat inequities, or do they further them?
I support dual language education because it offers our students the opportunity to learn languages at an early age, preparing them for college and the diverse world in which we live. The program helps improve inequity because it allows our students to be bilingual as well as develop a cross-cultural attitude. Students in dual language programs also tend to have higher academic performance compared to students in non-dual language programs. That said, dual language programs should not be used as a means to segregate or create exclusivity among any particular population. This contributes to inequities and is a move in the opposite direction of diversity, a core tenet and goal of the district. The CHCCS dual language program has been in place for years (in fact the Mandarin program was one of the first of its kind in the US). It has proven to be beneficial to those who participate in it, but it is not a program that will likely have a significant impact on the achievement gap. If possible, we should continue to offer magnet programs that appeal to a diverse set of families on topics like STEM with an additional language immersion component. Ideally we’d do this while also allocating additional resources toward efforts likely to have a more direct impact, such as diversifying our teaching staff, equity training to address disproportionate discipline rates, and more in class support for teachers to allow for differentiated teaching to raise the bar for all students.
7) In what ways can CHCCS can work to erase racial inequities in the education system? How can the Racial Equity Impact Assessment tool be better used to guide CHCCS in setting policies?
A number of factors are leading to our district’s large achievement gap. Some of the most obvious factors are the need for more diverse teaching staff, implicit bias that causes low expectations for certain children, and the need for more culturally relevant curriculum that allows students to see themselves positively reflected. As a board member I would specifically advocate for implicit bias and restorative practice training for teachers and administrators as a way to raise expectations for all students, increased teacher support and incentives to ensure a robust pipeline of diverse talent, more two-way communication and collaboration with the communities most impacted by the gap, and expanded metrics that measure the extent to which schools are creating learning environments that foster equitable development.
The Racial Equity Impact Assessment could be a useful guide for the district as it evaluates current and new initiatives. Our district has to decide how much emphasis it wants to put on equity and what it’s willing to prioritize to achieve a different outcome. In talking with parents in our district, it is apparent that some view our education system as a zero sum game. Many parents are fine with equity and inclusion, as long as it doesn’t impact the program their student is in. When this mindset is allowed to permeate, decisions can become skewed in favor of the dominant voice. A standardized tool like the Racial Equity Impact Assessment pushes decision makers to proactively and consistently seek input from, and empathize with, those who may be negatively impacted. One potential shortcoming of the tool is the idea that it is to be used once a proposal is under consideration. I would propose more community engagement and partnership from the outset to ensure those potentially impacted are a part of creating a solution that is culturally-relevant and -appropriate.
8) Last year, black CHCCS students were almost 14 times more likely than white students to receive short-term suspensions. Why do you believe that is, and in what ways can the district address this racial gap?
Some might suspect the disproportionate discipline rates mean children of color are acting out more than white children, but recent research conducted by NC State suggests teachers view behavior differently based on the race of the student. As a board member, I would encourage us to focus on restorative practices and bias training to address inequitable discipline rates. Implicit bias training is an investment in our teachers and administrators that can help them be more aware of their blind spots. Training in restorative practices can also help give teachers tools and strategies to use in the classroom, rather than relying on suspensions as a first response.
My second priority would be a focus on attracting and retaining highly qualified diverse teachers. Research shows that students of color, especially boys, often perform better on standardized tests, have improved attendance, and are suspended less frequently when they have at least one same-race or same-gender teacher. As a board member I would advocate for efforts that allow us to chase excellence through diversity by targeting our recruitment to identify more diverse qualified candidates, providing early career support for teachers who enter the field from non-traditional paths, and providing leadership development to ensure opportunities for those who seek administrative roles beyond the classroom.
9) Research has shown that increasing teacher and staff diversity can improve education outcomes. What do you think of the faculty/staff diversity in CHCCS? If you believe increasing faculty diversity should be a priority, how do you believe the district should go about it?
One of the keys to addressing the disproportionate discipline rates and our achievement gap is diversifying our teaching staff. Research shows that students of color, especially boys, often perform better on standardized tests, have improved attendance, and are suspended less frequently when they have at least one same-race or same-gender teacher. White students also benefit as they become more comfortable talking about issues of race, bias and inclusion. As a board member I would advocate for efforts that allow us to chase excellence through diversity. To recruit more diverse teachers I would encourage us to consider the following:
Targeted Recruitment: partner with local universities, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to recruit and coordinate student teacher placements. We should also ensure diverse representation on hiring committees.
Early Career Support: provide incentives and support for new teachers who may enter the field from non-traditional paths. This could be in the form of additional funding for training, mentoring from veteran teachers or housing stipends in exchange for a prescribed number of years of service.
Leadership Development: ensure culturally sensitive principal preparedness training for all new hires through placements in schools with highly diverse student and staff populations. We should also offer ongoing professional development and implicit bias training to administrators to ensure they are best prepared to support diverse teachers and students
10) Do you believe the district is sufficiently transparent with the community? If not, in what ways can the Board of Education increase transparency?
Community engagement is one of my campaign priorities. In 2015-16 our district launched a comprehensive equity plan to address the achievement gap. But despite our investment and good intentions disparities persist. I believe more genuine partnership with the most adversely impacted members of the community is needed to better identify opportunities for improvement within our system. Too many decisions are made based on the opinions or input of the loudest voices. I find that the most vocal parents are often advocating for equity, as long as it doesn’t impact the program their child is participating in.
We have incredibly capable and smart citizens already on our board. But the challenges we face can only be addressed head on when new voices and perspectives are welcomed into the dialogue. I intend to foster trust by listening and working together to find race-based solutions to our districts most pressing race-based challenges. I also believe we’ve missed an opportunity to ask students what they need to thrive. It is imperative that we adjust our focus to identify opportunities to create learning environments that foster equitable development. As a candidate I have already begun speaking with students from across the spectrum to understand what they need to meet their potential. If elected, I would encourage the board to practice cultural humility as we host listening sessions with students and their parents to ensure there is trust, transparency and collaborative problem solving.
11) Are you satisfied with the district’s school safety plan? What are its strengths, and what are some ways that you would like to see it change?
School safety is top of mind for all parents of school-aged children, including me. As a cybersecurity and physical security expert, I want to bring expertise to our district to ensure we are identifying our vulnerabilities and addressing them as quickly as possible. My biggest concern is that like many other small towns, there may be a complacency that allows us to believe a tragedy can’t happen here. The continuous news stories of random shootings have demonstrated that tragedy can strike anywhere.
One safety area that I’d like to focus more on is bullying. I have heard from concerned parents that bullying is an issue and in some cases administrators feel ill-prepared to address it. I want to ensure every student is safe and when persistent bullying occurs, administrators and parents are clear about the steps to be followed to remedy the situation. Stricter policies in this area may need to be articulated.