Name as it appears on the ballot: Deon Temne
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: www.DeonTemne4CHCCS.com
Occupation & employer: Cybersecurity Professional
Years lived in the area: 7 years.
- 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?
Greetings, my name is Deon Temne, and I am seeking re-election to a seat on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City school board because I believe in “Empowering Every Student’s Unique Journey.” My unwavering commitment has been proven through my first term, where we navigated the complexities of a pandemic, implemented rigorous safety protocols, enhanced our infrastructure, and took significant strides toward inclusivity and equity in our educational programs.
Why trust me? Because results speak louder than words. Under my leadership, we have ensured wage raises for our dedicated educators and support staff, spearheaded equitable identification processes in advanced placement programs like LEAP, and continually put the well-being of our students at the forefront of every decision.
My priorities remain steadfast:
- Student Safety & Infrastructure: An uncompromising commitment to mental, physical, and emotional well-being through adaptive safety protocols and inclusive environments.
- Student Development: A culturally relevant curriculum that resonates with our diverse student population and fosters personal discovery, skill acquisition, cognitive enhancement, and critical thinking in every student.
- Student Voice: Advocacy for student participation, ensuring their rich, diverse perspectives shape our educational strategies and implementations.
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?
While the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City school district has made notable strides in prioritizing safety and initiating steps toward inclusivity and equity, there’s always room for growth and enhancement. I firmly believe that while we’re steering in a commendable direction, specific areas warrant our attention and advocacy to truly say we are on the right course.
- Culturally Relevant Curriculum: A curriculum that respects and reflects the diverse tapestry of our student population is vital. I will advocate for a more culturally relevant and inclusive curriculum, ensuring that every student sees themselves represented in their learning journey.
- Prioritize Mental Health: The mental health of our students and staff is critical to our overall success. If re-elected, I will advocate for a more robust and accessible mental health support system within our schools, ensuring that every individual within our district can easily access the support they need.
- Address Learning Gaps: The pandemic has inevitably created learning gaps, particularly affecting students from marginalized communities. Identifying and implementing strategies to bridge these gaps is imperative, ensuring every student is given equal opportunity to thrive.
- Retain Top Talent: Our teachers often bear the brunt of systemic state and local underfunding, finding themselves undervalued in salary and stretched thin in their responsibilities. My focus is creating an ecosystem where educators feel valued, supported, and equipped to handle the diverse needs of their students.
- Environmental Sustainability: As we move forward, incorporating sustainability into our policies and practices ensures we contribute to developing environmentally conscious citizens and safeguarding their future.
Our district is a vibrant, diverse community and should reflect an educational environment where every student, regardless of their background or circumstances, sees themselves, is heard, and is empowered to navigate their unique journey confidently. Given the chance, I will continue to advocate for these changes, ensuring we become the exemplary model of excellence in education.
3. What are the three main issues that you believe the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools Board of Education needs to address in the upcoming year?
My top three are:
- Addressing Educational Inequities and Learning Gaps: The pandemic highlighted and, in some cases, widened existing disparities within our educational system. Addressing these inequities must be prioritized by implementing strategies to bridge learning gaps, especially for marginalized communities. This includes our special needs, low-income, and Black and Brown students most impacted by the opportunity gaps.
- Enhancing Student and Staff Well-being: Ensuring students’ and staff’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being is critical. This includes refining and implementing comprehensive mental health strategies, enhancing physical safety protocols and infrastructure, and ensuring a healthy work-life balance for our educators and administrative staff.
- Culturally Responsive Education: To truly empower every student’s unique educational journey, we need to create an environment that reflects and respects our diverse student body. Implementing a culturally responsive curriculum and ensuring that staff are trained to foster an inclusive, accepting, and supportive educational environment is pivotal. This encompasses reflecting the diverse tapestry of our student and staff population in the curriculum, empowering student voices, and enhancing inclusive practices.
While these issues provide a snapshot, it’s crucial to acknowledge that our schools exist within a dynamic context. If re-elected, I would continue maintaining a flexible and responsive approach to adapt to emerging challenges and opportunities that the district may face. My mission is to advocate for policies and practices that ensure every student and staff member in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools is supported, heard, and empowered to navigate their unique journey in a safe, inclusive, and equitable educational environment.
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 affluent families? Does the budget meet the district’s infrastructure and staffing needs?
Although our NC schools are woefully underfunded, our board works to allocate the funding to meet our overall needs. However, I would have liked to see us emphasize expanding the availability of preschool programs, primarily targeted toward students from lower-income families. Access to quality preschool education is a foundational element in leveling the educational playing field.
I also would have liked us to allocate more funding for summer programs targeted at learning gaps, such as the Summer Success program. This type of intervention, which includes meals and specialized support for reading and math, can make a difference for low-income, under-performing, and special needs students.
In terms of infrastructure and staffing, our budget falls short. Our aging school buildings need consistent upkeep, and we must carefully evaluate staffing levels, especially within our programs for exceptional children, to ascertain if student’s needs are met. The seeming sidelining of salary increases for classified staff is concerning. As we’ve seen with bus drivers, continuing to overlook these roles risks further shortages. Additionally, continuous professional development for teachers is vital to keep them updated with current educational methods and resources.
5. 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? What other policies should lawmakers enact at the state level to strengthen public education?
Yes, our General Assembly is obligated to ensure a sound basic education for every child in our state. Unfortunately, North Carolina’s ranking at 48th in the nation for school funding paints a clear picture: education is not a priority. As a state that seeks to attract well-educated residents and innovative businesses, our education system needs to be front and center. Here are the changes I envision:
- Increase Funding: Beyond mere numbers, it’s about strategic allocation. We require more funds to hire and retain diverse, highly qualified teachers, modernize our facilities, and invest in programs that holistically develop our students.
- Curriculum Flexibility & Autonomy: Standards are crucial but shouldn’t stifle creativity or local relevance. Local districts should have the latitude to modify curriculum to better resonate with their communities. Moreover, the influence of political agendas on educational content and practices should be minimized to maintain the integrity and objectivity of our teaching.
- Budgetary Autonomy: The individuals most familiar with a community’s educational needs are its educators and administrative leaders. Thus, decisions should be made locally, especially regarding budget allocations. Furthermore, streamlining school budgets to interface directly with the state, including granting taxing authority, could enhance efficiency and transparency.
- Depoliticizing Education: Our children’s future shouldn’t be subject to political whims. We must prioritize an education system that values learning and development over politics.
We must rally for these changes at both state and local levels. Our children’s future depends on it.
6. Despite boasting a 94.8 percent graduation rate last academic year, and ranking in the top four percent of all public school districts in the nation, an achievement/opportunity gap still exists between white students and students of color. What specific policies should CHCCS pursue to close this gap?
The achievement gap reflects not just a curriculum misalignment but also the absence of high expectations for our students of color. Acknowledging our district’s dual identity – being top-ranked but under-serving certain student groups – is crucial. Addressing this gap calls for holistic policies:
- Culturally Relevant Curriculum: Ensure learning is inclusive and resonates with every student.
- Evidence-Based Decision Making: From pilot programs to resource allocation, every strategy should be backed by evidence and continuously assessed for effectiveness.
- Stakeholder Engagement: Regular feedback sessions with students, educators, and parents are essential to ensure our approaches stay relevant and impactful.
- Partnerships: Collaborating with external organizations amplifies our resources and expertise.
- Transparency: Every stakeholder should be informed of our actions and their rationale.
- Personalized Learning Plans: Cater to individual learning needs.
- Block Scheduling: Implement a uniform schedule across the district for cohesiveness and enriched learning experiences.
- Technological Advancement: Use technology to bridge opportunity gaps by making specialized courses accessible to all.
Our mission is not just about conceptual efficacy but also about creating tangible improvements that empower every student’s unique journey.
7. Despite working for CHCCS, many teachers and staff can’t afford to live in Chapel Hill or Carrboro. What role should the school district have in ensuring that affordable housing is available for its workforce?
The affordable housing crisis in Chapel Hill and Carrboro is a significant challenge. While housing largely rests with local governments, CHCCS must be an active voice and partner in finding solutions.
- Advocacy and Collaboration: CHCCS can partner with local governments, developers, and nonprofits to champion affordable housing, emphasizing the benefits of community-based educators.
- Incentives and Partnerships: The district might offer housing incentives, such as rental subsidies or partnerships with developers to reserve units in new developments for CHCCS staff at reduced rates.
- Competitive Compensation: Enhancing salaries to improve living affordability, making housing within the district more attainable for staff.
- Transportation Alternatives: Where direct housing isn’t feasible, CHCCS could consider shuttle services or commute discounts for its staff.
8. Recently, groups of parents with students in North Carolina public schools have mounted efforts to ban certain books from school classrooms and libraries. How should school boards handle these efforts?
Addressing concerns about books in school classrooms and libraries requires a careful approach. I do not support the banning of any book. As a parent, I understand and respect the concerns regarding the content their children are exposed to. Here’s my approach:
- Open Dialogue: It’s essential to foster open dialogue with parents when concerns about specific books arise. Understanding their specific issues can lead to meaningful conversations.
- Opt-Out Option: Parents can opt their child out of specific lessons or readings they deem inappropriate instead of banning books. This allows for academic freedom while respecting parental concerns.
- Uphold Academic Freedom: Schools should promote critical thinking and expose students to diverse perspectives. Restricting access to certain books can limit this exposure. It’s important to differentiate between shielding students and depriving them of valuable learning experiences.
- Transparency and Communication: If a book is considered controversial but educationally relevant, ensure it’s taught with the proper context. Inform parents in advance about such content and clarify the educational goals tied to the material.
9. Do police officers (School Resource Officers) have a role in schools? Please explain your answer.
Drawing from my background in securing sensitive and high-stakes environments, I’m know that the daily educational setting should be free from routine law enforcement presence. Many active shooter incidents have shown that an on-site officer doesn’t necessarily prevent tragedy. True safety is cultivated when students and staff are adequately trained to respond to crises – it’s akin to instinctively putting on your oxygen masks first.
Moreover, SROs can unintentionally bolster the school-to-prison pipeline, disproportionately impacting marginalized students. This leads to a heightened risk of over-policing and escalating everyday disciplinary issues. Our primary focus should be on instilling students and staff with knowledge and readiness, ensuring our educational spaces prioritize learning and support rather than surveillance.
10. CHCCS was able to hire drivers for all bus routes this academic year, but, as with other school districts in the state, it has had a hard time filling transportation vacancies in the past. What steps should the district take to ensure that there are enough bus drivers for all routes in order to get students to school on time going forward?
In light of driver shortages affecting timely student transportation, I backed CHCCS’s approach, including consolidated stops. Further, I championed benefits and the introduction of an after-school activity bus, offering more hours for drivers and fostering equity for student participation in extracurriculars. Our future steps should prioritize competitive salaries, full-time employment, and understanding the core reasons for these shortages. Only by addressing the root causes and offering compelling incentives can we truly progress.
11. If there is anything else you would like to address, please do so here.
“I stand for students. Every decision and vote I make aims to shape our environment where students emerge empowered and ready to confidently take on the world. Even if it means standing alone.”–Deon Temne
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