Name as it appears on the ballot: Jasper Fleming
Party affiliation: Democratic Party
Campaign website: JasperF4DPS.com
Occupation & employer: Financial Analyst: UNC Health
Years lived in the area:
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 am raising a young black female. It is my job and responsibility to do whatever I can to ensure she is prepared to live in an ever-changing world. I want to help be that voice for thousands of other parents like me in Durham. We work hard to help create better lives for our children. Many of those parents also work for our school districts. They, too, have a right to have an advocate for them. I want to be that advocate. I want to fight with and for the Durham community and the most precious among us, our children.
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?
DPS continues to improve on their processes of recruiting qualified educators in the area. However I think we need to work on how to retain and develop staff that has been recruited and are enhancing our school district. That includes ensuring staff also has the support from school and district leadership. Our district also has to continue the work being done around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) with curriculum and recruiting.
3. What are the three main issues that you believe the Board of Education needs to address in the upcoming year?
COVID: Recovery and Recuperation
Equitable Pay for qualified staff
Transparency with parents and community
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?
I feel that the school board needs to take a closer look into affordable housing for DPS employees. This can be used as a recruitment tool to attract and retain talent. Pay for bus drivers and classified staff is another topic that will need to be addressed. I do understand that the current school board fought to increase pay to $17 dollars an hour for bus drivers, but that is not an affordable living wage for those that live in Durham, NC.
DPS received about $460.5 million for the 2020-2021 School Year:
- State: $229.8 million,
- Local: $132.1 million,
- Federal: $49.2 million,
- Capital Outlay: $22.5 million,
- Child Nutrition: $17.6 million
- and Grants: $9.4 million.
I feel that we need to revisit the allocation of funds. I would like to see the portfolio of grants increase; more funds for capital projects to build and maintain our aging and overcrowded schools. The budget will never meet the infrastructure needs of DPS, we are one of the top fastest growing cities in North Carolina. We have buses that need to be replaced, schools that are not in the best conduction and technology is changing daily.
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?
The notion that Critical Race Theory is being taught in K-12 schools has been discussed, refuted, and debunked. It is a very right-winged theory that has been radicalized without proper proof or evidence. CRT is a theory derived and taught only in law schools. There has been, recently, a push to ensure that the true history of this country has been taught and that curriculums speak to the different identities in our schools; especially with the diversity of our student population in Durham County. I agree with Governor’s Cooper veto of the house bill. As a community, we have to embrace the truth and authenticity of our country’s and state’s history while educating our students and children on how they can impact and change our world for the better. Conspiracy theories that have no factual basis has no room nor space in our schools or community.
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 basic education?
Yes, the Leandro case has been paramount in education in many counties in NC for the past few decades. Every child in our country, state, and specifically Durham County should not have any limits to receiving a sound basic education. I believe our schools should be fully funded and we, as a county, utilized and and all resources available to provide that for our students.
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?
For many students, school is their safe place. Our doors and halls should be opened and welcomed to all students despite their race, gender, sexual identity, or gender expression. DPS should adopt policies that speak to the diverse student and staff population we have in our school communities. As a district, we have a responsibility to ensure that all obstacles are removed from our students being able to access their education.
8) How do you think the current school board handled the COVID-19 pandemic? Please explain your answer.
Covid-19 is still a big part of our day to day lives. This pandemic has done a number on our education system. We have to Create clear expectations and a plan for safely addressing the current COVID pandemic. In addition to that we have to collaborate with schools and parents to address opportunity gap widened by the impact of COVID
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 do not have a problem with the growing together assignment. With this new assignment, we have to make sure that students and schools are receiving the correct resources and allocations that are needed to ensure student growth. I believe that all students should have the same opportunity. We have to make sure that our students are receiving an equitable education and that our teachers are teaching a culturally relevant curriculum.
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?
SROs are a short term solution to a major issue that needs to be address in schools. It should be noted that resources used to pay SROs can also be used to pay social workers and counselors to get into our schools and address social-emotional issues that impact our students daily. Our schools should move to a more restorative space in which we find solutions and support to help student with conflict resolution. If we endeavor to continue to dispel the school-to-prison pipeline theory, then we have to find a way to help our schools ween themselves off the presence of SROs and embrace the presence of mental health professionals and school support staff that can support restorative justice in its truest form.
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?
First, we have to dispel the myth that there is an achievement gap. There is no achievement gap. The correct term should be opportunity gap – the gap in which students of colors experience when they are given less chances and opportunities to have access to grade-level curriculum and enhance learning opportunities than their white and more affluent peers. When our students are given the chance and space to achieve; they can and they will. Check out the 2018 article “The Opportunity Myth” by The New Teacher Project (TNTP).
The first thing we can do is address some of the financial and budgetary inequities that we
see in our schools. We have to ensure that the opportunities presented to one group of students is available for all of our students to take part in. Then we have to address the curriculum that is being put in front of students. We must ask ourselves constantly: Is it grade-level and is it culturally relevant to the students in front of us? We must then find the supplemental supports that our students need to continue to drive achievement (mentoring services, tutoring services, ensuring SpEd students are receiving modification and accommodations as outlined by their IEP/504)
12) How can the school board better assist students who lack broadband access and access to laptops?
I feel that the school board did a good job with giving out laptops to students, but giving out laptops without broadband access could have been executed differently. I believe that the internet is accessible now in different communities through Durham Housing Authority. The school board can work with the City of Durham on the City Broadband initiative to provide high speed wireless internet for the residents of eight Durham Housing Authority properties. I understand that funds from the CARES Act Federal Relief Program helps with funding this project.
13) Is the district currently doing enough to assist disabled students? What more could it do?
There is more that can always be done for our students that are differently abled. We have a major opportunity to ensure that teachers have the training and development necessary to welcome students with different learning abilities into their classrooms. Our classrooms should be more inclusive than exclusive of these students. Just because a student has an IEP or 504 does not mean they should not have access to grade-level curriculum. We have to support teaching and support staff more with knowing how to give students with different learning abilities access to content while still pushing them to be their best selves in the classroom.
14) If there is anything else you would like to address, please do so here.