Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Jimmy Doster
Full legal name, if different: Daniel James Doster
Date of Birth: Representing the early ‘90s
Campaign Web Site: www.JimmyDoster.com
Occupation & Employer: Business Analyst, Silver Eagle LLC
Cell Phone: (919) 809-9890
Twitter handle, if applicable: @JimmyDoster
1. If elected, what are your top priorities?
1) Work with fellow Board members to ensure that DPS is defined by all the successful andinnovative programs and results achieved by our hardworking administrators, teachers, parents,volunteers and students. We must have a louder voice than the naysayers. And I would expect thevocal support of the County and City leaders, as public schools are always the key factor in anycommunity’s success.
2) Increase the number of children in high-quality, pre-kindergarten classes. This will require ajudicious top to bottom review of our current expenditures and programs. I will not hesitate to shiftresources to our most important and leverageable programs. There will be no sacred cows to mewhile I am a Board member.
3) Retain and recruit excellent teachers, with great emphasis on professional development. Forinstance, the use of Master Teachers can provide development through coaching of lessexperienced teachers, multiply the influence of our exceptional teachers and give a career path forexcellent teachers.
2. What is there in your public record or other experience that demonstrates your ability tobe an effective leader? Please be specific about your public and community servicebackground.
Still a young man with so much enthusiasm and optimism, and hopefully it’s contagious.
3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself inyour past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am a unifier and not a divider. The Board of Education should not be a place to play politics. It isour duty to deliver a good education to our students, that is the most effective way to make Durhamas a desirable community for all people.
You can see in my platform on my website and this questionnaire that I am looking for pragmaticsolutions that will enhance the DPS brand and lead to literate, prepared, and potential-achievingyouth. While it is a given that there will be tension with our political partners on the CountyCommission and in Raleigh, it should be a creative, not divisive, tension to make our schoolsstronger. The present board’s emphasis on a political agenda is not the best path to provide to ahigh quality education. I am not criticizing Board members who may differ with me on certainissues, but suggesting that these issues can be a distraction from common goals. The School Boardhas the responsibly and opportunity to make Durham better through are schools which should neverbe politicized.
4. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost yousome popularity points with voters.
I have already done so in this campaign. I was the only candidate to attend the Board of Educationmeeting at which the Board chose to join the lawsuit with Guilford County over teacher careerstatus. I told the press at that meeting and have continued to state that a lawsuit was not theappropriate way to resolve this political issue. The Board must endeavor to work with the GeneralAssembly and the Governor for the good of our youth. Attacking leaders who differ with the Boardover reforms is a dead end and does not in my opinion serve the best interests of either DPS or ourchildren. These attacks hurt the DPS brand, making the schools look like they are in disarray. WhenI am elected, I intend to look for pragmatic solutions, which will enhance our brand and lead toliterate, prepared, and potential-achieving youth.
5. The INDY’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would yourelection to office help further that goal?
When I am on the Board of Education, my foremost goal will be to move our schools closer toproviding high quality education. This is the most important contribution the Board can make tosupport a just community. Being a unifier and not a divider, I will be positioned to work with allstakeholders, not just those with whom I agree or who are my political allies. The Triangle is awashwith concerned citizens and organizations eager to assist our schools. The Board must embracethese supporters.
I will urge the Board to open the doors to support and innovation, whatever the source. We need tomake our schools the engine to justice in our community. This is a challenge that the Board musttake up.
6. Minority children and children with disabilities are suspended from DPS at higher ratesthan their white counterparts. To what do you attribute this disparity? How should thisdisparity be resolved?
Our schools must be safe havens. Our policies should define the behaviors that require discipline.There was recent publicity about suspensions of pre-schoolers. On its face suspending a three yearold sounds absurd. But a three year old who bites creates a safety issue. So mere numbers cannot bethe sole basis for addressing the suspension issue.
Four community meetings were held late last year, but I have not yet seen a report. Also, we havenot seen DPS data on what the reasons are for suspension, such as fighting, late for school,absences etc. To develop a new policy, analyzing and understanding this data is essential.
I agree with those who have suggested that the schools should hire an outside consultant to examinethe reasons behind the disparate impact on minority and disabled children. But regardless of whatconclusions may be reached in this study, DPS must embrace the opportunity to improve itssuspension policies and, more important, implementation.
Disciplinary methods and standards should be applied consistently to all students. I believe weshould remediate student behavior at the school level, not by sending students home (unless there isa known safety issue). For those that must be sent home for out-of-school suspensions, soon, it willbe feasible to use alternative methods of learning such as E-Learning so the suspended student canuse time at home or at a public library to “virtually” attend school. While finding other means forstudent without E access. Upon returning to school, he/she will not be behind in their work. In allcases, learning from community best practices is important, for example, observing successes atinstitutions such as the YMCA could lead to alternatives in out-of-school suspensions. Ultimately,more rules and policies won’t solve the central issue, which is the character of the individual. Asleaders, we need to lead by example. As a community we need to be supportive.
The new Board must work to rebrand our schools—safe, secure and caring for all students.
7. The Durham Board of Education recently joined a lawsuit with dozens of other publicschool districts challenge the law that ends teacher tenure. Tell the voters about your viewson this law and the board’s legal challenge to it.
See my answer to #4 above. The Board is justified in its concerns about this reform. I haveaddressed the proposed pay hike for new teachers, which, while deserved, does not address thecritical need to develop and retain experienced teachers.
8. The General Assembly passed sweeping legislation on education budgets, teacher pay,vouchers and charter schools in the last session. Assess the impact of that legislation, eitheras a whole or individual laws. Which laws do you agree/disagree with? Why?
I do not feel that it is up to the Board of Education to make public attacks second-guessing theGeneral Assembly or the Governor. Our duty is to provide the best education possible for ourchildren. Endless political debates do not deliver that goal. Reasoned discourse and collaborationdoes deliver. See my answer to # 4 above.
It is too early to assess the many reforms enacted by the General Assembly. Implementation isoften as important as the law itself. Certainly the number 1 game-changer from the GA will beCommon Core. The GA has a committee studying CC at this time and will craft legislation forconsideration in the short session in May. CC dwarfs all other changes facing DPS.
Another important issue is been the decision to require 3rd graders to pass the literacy test beforegoing on to 4th grade. Although DPS has been active in preparing the community for this change, it will still likely be a surprise to many. The State Board of Education has been working with theschools to implement this plan in the more effective way, including alternative means to qualify.
I have made it a part of my campaign to carry the message of the literacy requirement in all myvoter contacts. Parents need to know about this requirement and feel a duty to their children tomonitor this practical goal. With over 65% of our children having failed last year’s literacy test,everyone on and running for the school board should be a loud advocate for literacy.
Finally I think we need to appreciate the new Letter grade program to be assigned to each school.Again this is only beginning, but this may be a powerful tool for parents to use in working with theschools. By no means do I see this is as the exclusive way to evaluate our schools, but parents andcitizen do need markers to start them in their evaluations and choices.
9. Several candidates in this year’s school board election have strong ties to charter schools.For candidates with those ties: Why are you seeking election to a public school board?What are the pros and cons of vouchers? How would you respond to perceptions thatcharter school employees could have an agenda in pursuing election to the public schoolboard? And if you were to share the board with members who are unaffiliated withcharters, how would you address your policy differences?
For those candidates unaffiliated with charter schools: Should the state provide vouchersto parents who choose private (K-12) schools for their children? If so, for what amount?What are the pros and cons of vouchers? What is the impact of the voucher program onpublic schools? And if you were to share the board with members who are affiliated withcharters, how would you address your policy differences?
I expect to work with all Board members who will have many different experiences and views frommine. Views on school choice are simply another issue that I’ll approach through civil dialogue.
As for vouchers, that program has been enjoined. When the courts have ruled, the Board can thenexamine the issue.
Lastly voters must face the fact that some parents are not satisfied with the education provided byDPS at this time. School choice is a way for these parents to stay here in Durham, while finding aneducation that satisfies their needs. In essence, school choice can lessen the flight of families tosurrounding communities. We all want families who care about their children’s education to remainin Durham. We should learn from best practices—we can learn from our competition, and viceversa. The vision is literature, prepared, and potential-achieving youth for Durham’s youth. Alongwith that, my hope is that all Durham’s families will choose DPS as the best choice for education.
10. Durham’s school system is facing perhaps one of the most challenging budget years inrecent history. What direction will you give to school administration to balance thebudget? In what areas would you recommend cutbacks and which services should remainuntouched?
It is my understanding that Dr. Becoats prepared the budget and then gave the Board membersvarious options of where cuts could be made to balance the budget. The Board has asked for a different model whereby they would be able to see how the budget was built to avoid limiting theirchoices. I do not know if this has been instituted yet, but it is the type of process that must occur totruly shape the budget.
One area that stands out for review is the Central Office. While Central Office is essential to DPS,every dollar spent there competes with dollars spent on teachers and direct classroom instruction.
It is important to note that there are serious concerns about the sufficiency of the current evaluationsystem used in Central Office. The new Board must address this promptly. Too often we hear theCentral Office staff may be moved from job to job rather than deal directly with performanceissues. I do not mean to disparage Central Office staff. If they are not being managed efficiently,then I hold the upper management and ultimately the Board responsible.
11. The previous superintendent, Eric Becoats, resigned amid allegations of financialirregularities in his office. What oversight was lacking that led to Becoats’ financialquestions? How should this oversight policy be rectified? What is the board seeking in anew superintendent? Are there aspects of the search process that could be improved?
Every member of DPS must be subject to a second signature on all expense reports. This isstandard practice in business all the way to the CEO. The lack of such a process having been inplace for Dr. Be coats is an example of a less than good financial management, just like theunreported and unknown $19M surplus in the rainy day fund. The Board has reported that underDPS’s new CFO these matters are being rectified. While irregularities must be dealt with, weshould not let this issue detract from the crucial issues facing DPS nor let it be used by detractorsand naysayers to call DPS is a failed organization.
Concerning the new Superintendent, through collaboration with the search firm, the Board needs toassess the skills and experience the candidates have. Given the achievement gaps so widelydiscussed, I believe that the best candidates will have experience in a school system with thesocioeconomic characteristics similar to those found here in Durham. While one can compile a longlist of useful attributes, in our search we must emphasize the key elements.
While financial management competency is necessary in the superintendent’s position, it is equallyimportant that our new superintendent have significant experience in dealing with low achievementscores, especially in reading, and in building community support for the schools and their effort tobring all our children to the proper level of education they need for their future.
The superintendent selection process needs to allow adequate time for deliberation that includes allrelevant stakeholders: administrators, parents, teachers, community representatives, and new schoolboard members. The superintendent has a significant impact on the success of our schools andschool children. Working through the process and listening to the needs of the group will result in atimely execution of this important selection.