Name as it appears on the ballot: Frederick Xavier Ravin III

Age: 41

Party affiliation: Democrat

Campaign website:  

Occupation & employer: IT Governance & Budget Development Manager – City of Durham

Years lived in the area: I’ve lived in Durham since I was six years old after my father retired from the US Army (excluding my college years 1998-2003)

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?

I’m running for re-election to the school board because, like most parents and long-term residents of Durham, I care about our children and want to ensure their access to a high-quality education. Five generations of my family have been proud to call Durham home. I’m a 1998 graduate of Southern Durham High School, two of my three children that are old enough to attend school go to Oak Grove Elementary school just like I did.  I have degrees in marketing, finance, MBA, and MIS in Strategic Information Management, and I’ve consistently used my expertise to support DPS with fiscal and information technology and innovative strategies. Before my time on the board, I co-founded Durham Special Needs Advisory Council (D-SNAC), was a PTA president, and served as a mentor/advisor at every level from Elementary School (RN Harris) to college (UNC & NCCU). My three priorities are as follows:

  • Retention/Recruitment of highly qualified educators and staff – We have a considerable challenge due to the “great resignation” we’re all witnessing. Our primary need is to ensure we have great educators and staff who care about our children.
  • Improving the health/wellness of our students – Going into the third year of a pandemic necessitates the continued utilization of our nurses, social workers, and school counselors, who are a line of defense to discover and battle the invisible mental/emotional scars of our students.
  • Mentoring for success to increase academic achievement – As a community, we must allocate resources more equitably. Mentoring is a part of that. Mentoring programs historically have extremely favorable success rates. Like apprentice programs, it allows transferring information, insights, and tacit knowledge.

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?

One of my roles in my day job deals with performance management and ensuring that key performance indicators (KPI) are constantly being tracked, reviewed, and, if needed, new implementation strategies are put in place to ensure that continued growth is attainable. It’s easy to highlight what’s wrong with almost any school district, but when you look at the DPS track record since Dr. Mubenga, the metrics tell the true story when you look at the trends over time. Below are the five strategic plan goals that each how metrics and initiative that are being enacted to reach their annual milestones

  1. Increase Academic Achievement
  2. Provided a Safe School Environment that Supports the Whole Child
  3. Attract and Retain Outstanding Educators and Staff
  4. Strengthen School, Family, and Community Engagement
  5. Ensure Fiscal and Operational Responsibility

Absent a global pandemic; I would say that every school in Durham would have reached its goal of having most, if not all, the schools attain a grade of A, B, or C. There’s always room for improvement and constructive criticism. Still, you have to give credit when credit is due and acknowledge progress.

3. What are the three main issues that you believe the Board of Education needs to address in the upcoming year?

I previously mentioned my three areas, but I’ll use this opportunity to expound on them.

Retention/Recruitment of educators and other staff – Due to the “great resignation” we’re all witnessing, a considerable challenge is ahead of us. Our primary need is to ensure we have great teachers and staff who care about our children. With inflation at 7.9% since time last year, we have to devise a plan to move forward by embracing a two-prong approach. The first is advocating for a stipend increase for our licensed staff. The second approach is going to go through a compensation study. An additional effort will need to be made to ensure that DPS staff with comparable positions to those at the County are paid an equivalent wage. When people are paid their worth, they feel respected and know they’re being heard; they’ll hold their heads high and support their organization.

Health / Wellness of our students – We have been extremely fortunate to be supported by our community via the funding provided by the County Commissioners. The nurses, social workers, and school counselors are an additional line of defense to discovering and battling invisible mental/emotional scars. Improving the effectiveness efficiencies and broadening our levels of engagement are very much necessary. We continue to work on helping our families understand that we’re also here to help connect them with resources. We must ensure that public schools are the primary source of high-quality education conducive to well-rounded growth opportunities as our children become contributing adults.

Increasing the overall academic performance of our students – I’ve toured schools, volunteered, read the research, and taught financial literacy. I’ve been a board member with Evolve Mentoring Inc., which manages the My Brothers/My Sisters Keeper for a decade. The one thing that I’ve seen that generates the best return on investment (ROI) for education is mentoring. We have to expand mentoring opportunities into more schools with a methodical, data-driven approach. We as a community must ensure that we’re being more equitable with allocating resources necessary to level the playing field, and mentoring is a part of that. Our youth are our collective responsibility, and they are whom we will have to depend on one day, so it only makes sense to provide them with all the tools necessary to ensure that they cannot only take over from where we left off but surpass us.

4. Describe something you think the school board should have prioritized differently in the current budget. Do you think the budget supports students from lower-income families as well as from wealthy families? Does the budget meet the district’s infrastructure needs?

The only thing that should have been prioritized was even more of an emphasis on marketing/communication.

This question can be answered with a yes and a no. Budget development is something that I train people on, and it’s something that I’ve lectured on at UNC and as recently as April at North Carolina A&T State University. When looking at the funding, we have to break it down into a few buckets to ensure that we’re examining it appropriately. When it comes to funding from the County, we have to thank the County Commissioners and the residents who, thru their annual survey, consistently state that schools need more funding. There’s an operational fund and a capital fund. The operating fund is equivalent to your paycheck, where you expect to receive roughly the same every year with a slight increase due to inflation and new asks. You then have a capital fund like taking a mortgage out so you can move to a new home or renovate the home you’re living in. The County has graciously supported us, but ultimately there has been a lack of funding from the state. The County is committed to helping DPS build new schools and renovate other schools to the tune of 3/4ths of one billion dollars. The issue is that the state has neglected to pay its fair share. When it comes to the operational funding, that state plays a huge there too. 5/6th of our operations budget is salary and benefit-cost. With over 5,000 employees and wages, challenges have been a significant issue, especially when it comes t0 retaining staff.

5) What is your understanding of what Critical Race Theory is? Is CRT currently taught in K-12  public schools? What are your thoughts on House Bill 324, the bill Gov. Cooper vetoed because he said it “pushes calculated, conspiracy-laden politics into public education?” Would you support such a bill?

Critical race theory is not currently being taught in DPS. Critical race theory and this conversation emerged from law school courses that deal with intellectual history. It critiques how race was constructed socially, yet it statistically mirrors the system often referenced when data conveys what institutional racism looks like.

I would not support Bill 324 because it attempts to erase the context of our history. Historical data has canonicalized a recurring theme for many minorities in our great country who aren’t even asking for equality because right now, we’re still too busy fighting for equity.

6) Does the General Assembly have a constitutional obligation to comply with the state Supreme Court order in the Leandro case to fully fund public schools and give every child in North Carolina a sound primary education?

Yes! If any residents reading this article failed to comply with a judge’s order, we would be held in contempt of court. How can people advocate for stricter laws while simultaneously ignoring judgments against them? It’s disingenuous at best and criminal at worst.

7) Orange County’s Board of Education has passed some of the most progressive policies in the state around strengthening racial equity and providing a safe, inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ students to learn. Should Durham follow Orange’s lead and implement Gender Support guidelines that create a protocol for students who are transitioning or want to?

Durham should have led Orange on this. The LGBTQIA+ community should be accepted for who they are, whom they love, and whom they were born. I’m confident that Durham will implement Gender Support guidelines; the only question is how soon. Durham is and has always been an inclusive community relative to our neighbors. Durham was ahead of the curve even back when Black Wall St was thriving, and African-Americans were earning higher rates for their tobacco than most of our peers throughout the south.

8) How do you think the current school board handled the COVID-19 pandemic? Please explain your answer.

As a school board, I believe we did well with handling COVID-19 relative to our neighbors. If something could have been improved, it would constantly disseminate information quicker. Relying on emails, text messages, robocalls, notes from home, class dojo, and others undoubtedly presented a change, but the district was highly responsive to all its challenges. As a board, even when we disagreed, it was done tactfully, which allowed us to accept the decisions whether we agreed with them or not and support the implementation of those decisions.

9) Recently the DPS board voted to change how it assigns students based on community infrastructure in an attempt to address disparities and increase equity. Do you support the new Growing Together assignment model? Please explain your answer.

I support the Growing Together assignment model 100%. As a board member, I only have one vote, but one of the things that I always asked our administration about was in the future ensuring that all sides of Durham had access to our programs. I was happy to see the initial draft of the product. I’m confident that the community will embrace this model once it’s realized that the community will have more access to educational pathways. They’ll appreciate all the hard work our staff put into this model. For instance, I have lived in the Eastern region of Durham virtually my entire life. At one time, growing up, Oak Grove, Bethesda, and Merrick Moore would all send buses to my neighborhood. Now within our Eastern region (Oak Grove, Bethesda, Spring Valley, Glenn, and Merrick Moore), we may be able to have access to a year-round school of our own. Each of the other regions would have a year-round school too. Eastern Region is one of the fastest-growing parts of Durham, but we all had to compete to apply to Holt’s year-round program that unfortunately had no seats available.

10) Do police officers (School Resource Officers) have a role in schools? Do you agree with the way the current board is trying to address the role of SROs in Durham County Schools?

The question references police officers, but to be clear, deputy sheriffs are the school resource officers provided by the Sheriff/County. The question was asked a bit too broadly because I don’t think any parent would not want SROs to be onsite in the event of an emergency. We as a district have to continue to not utilize SROs for issues like insubordination that APs and principals can handle. As a school board member, I can say the current school board has not addressed the role of SROs in our schools this school year. No vote has been made, nor has any public agenda item been discussed regarding SROs this entire school year. That is not to say that individual board members haven’t utilized their own freedom of speech.

11) Research has shown an achievement gap for Durham County Schools students based on race and socioeconomic status. What specific policies would you support, or what actions would you take to help close the gap, so that race and socioeconomic status don’t persist as predictive factors?

The gaps we’re referencing often are more about poverty and access to resources than anything else. Durham the height of the pandemic, I would receive emails about some parents sending their children to tutors and seeking out help for their children. On the other end of the spectrum, I heard parents saying we need to get these kids back in school so they could learn. That was the tale of two cities. One of my top three priorities is mentoring for that exact reason. The reallocation of resources in an equitable manner is the only way to address the gap and close it. Those resources in a class setting would have to be intentional and tactical. Mentoring allows for another perspective and introduces new future paths for mentees that encourages and motivates them.

12) How can the school board better assist students who lack broadband access and access to laptops?

There are (3) ways the school board has worked with or empowered the administration of DPS to ensure students have broadband access/laptops:

  1. The Executive Director of Information Technology was a participant in the meetings that led to a growing number of DHA properties gaining access to fiber, thanks in part to the City/County/Duke fiber partnership
  2. DPS is a 1:1 laptop district, so every student has a laptop. On top of that, some MiFis are still available to students who have no connectivity at home.
  3. The final opportunity is if we, the board direct the DPS administration to apply for a middle mile grant from the federal government that would support the deployment of the internet to the more rural areas of Durham County.

13) Is the district currently doing enough to assist disabled students? What more could it do?

DPS has a hard-working, award-winning Exceptional Children’s program that supports students with disabilities who may have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)/Section 504 of the rehabilitation act of 1973 (504). It doesn’t help that the great resignation that has impacted our nation is also part of why our EC educator roles have had vacancy rates exceeding 20% this year. As an executive committee member of (D-SNAC) and a parent who has sat through my fair share of IEP meetings, I know first-hand how hard our team is working. The other thing to remember is that the state caps funding for EC support services at 12.75%. That means that DPS must absorb the offsetting cost.

14) If there is anything else you would like to address, please do so here.

The other thing I want to convey is that the challenges of public schools, in general, are broad and far-reaching. Our current board is very diverse. We each have our strong points, mine being my experience fiscal accountability experience.  That experience is then complimented by my information technology experience, which is innovation-based and gives me a unique perspective and role on the board. I would advise everyone to view a meeting on youtube and validate my assessment based on what I’ve detailed. )