Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Lisa Gordon Stella

Date of Birth: 11/6/1968

Campaign Web Site:

Occupation & Employer: Attorney/Mediator/Truancy Court Program Director

Work phone: 919-274-5719


Twitter handle, if applicable: @LisaGStella

1. If elected, what are your top priorities?

1. Facilitate system-wide culture shift at DPS that will:

a. Change what is driving the perception of our school system by truly improving oureducation system at every level. DPS should be perceived as the number one choice for anexcellent education.

b. Recognize that our education system’s purpose is to educate students. Reliable supportfrom great teachers and principals are at the heart of this endeavor. The school system mustfocus on supporting them and value their expertise when deciding how to best educate ourstudents. The focus must be on students and teachers rather than on Central Office.

c. Support our teachers as professionals with higher pay, mentoring, meaningful evaluations,and relevant, customized professional development.

d. Engage in clear, focused, and authentic communication with parents, students and thecommunity, so as to create confidence and trust in our school system.

e. Create a unified school district through collaboration between our traditional public schoolsand charter schools. Working collaboratively we can leverage resources and expertise tobenefit all Durham’s students.

2. Provide strong Support Services that will:

a. Promote dynamic and committed leadership that understands the challenges facing our mostat-risk students and is dedicated to serving students effectively and swiftly. Interventions tohelp students should occur when a need is identified and should not be delayed.

b. Dedicate strong social workers to every school. Social workers should no longer split theirtime between two schools; they must be dedicated to a single school to best serve studentsand families.

c. Strategically address through evidenced based programming suspension, student behaviorand the school to prison pipeline. Embrace restorative justice models to address behavioralissues such as peer mediation, preventative mediation, re-entry mediation and peacefulschools. Ensure that teachers and school personnel receive proper training to addressstudent behavior.

3. Promote fiscal responsibility, transparency and clear accountability throughout DPS that includes:

a. The School Board and top administrators to be committed to understanding how publiceducation money is spent and ensuring money is spent effectively and responsibly. DPSbudget should be analyzed and a thorough cost analysis conducted for every line item in thebudget.

b. Community budget advisory committee must have complete access to clear budgetinformation for the entire budget. The entire DPS budget must be available online, not justselected sections.

c. There must be regular evaluation of all existing programing to best identify what works andwhat does not. We should no longer add new programming without eliminating thoseprograms that are not serving their purpose.

d. Establish clear standards of performance and meaningful reviews of Central Office andadministrative staff. We should stop promoting and shifting individuals who do notperform, and instead, support improved performance or separate poorly performing staff.

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.

My commitment to public and community service and demonstrated leadership ability has been alifelong endeavor—as a foster sister, attorney, education leader, business owner, and my ongoing working invarious leadership positions on non-profit boards. When I was eleven, my parents opened our home tofoster children. From the age of eleven until eighteen, I shared my room with nearly thirty different fosterchildren, mostly teenage girls facing traumatic family situations. Two of these children eventually becamemy adopted siblings, making me the oldest of six. As the oldest, I took a leadership role and responsibilityfor helping to care for my foster and natural siblings, helping with homework, bedtime, and later drivingthem to and from school. I assisted in integrating each foster child into our home and school, providing peersupport, active listening, and role modeling. Living with children from myriad backgrounds was an amazingexperience that left an indelible impression on me. I saw first hand the incredible challenges many childrenface and how they can be tremendous obstacles to success. Many of my foster siblings were returned to ahome life where their chances of escaping crime and poverty were grim. My interest in advocating andhelping children is, in large part, due to this experience.

While practicing law I devoted hundreds of hours to providing pro bono service to those whowere unable to afford legal counsel. While my pro bono work included Guardian Ad Litem Appeals andserving as the firm’s liaison to Legal Aid Advocates for Children, I primarily specialized in InternationalChild Abduction cases. I worked closely with the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children toreunite parents with their children who had been kidnapped to the United States. I represented parents fromEurope, Central and South America, whose children had been kidnapped to the United States, by a parent.While I rarely had the opportunity to meet in person with my clients, I was heartened by the knowledge thatI could help them navigate the Unites States legal system and represent them so their child could bereturned. In my first case, I represented a mother in Mexico whose child was not returned to her after a visitwith the father in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The child suffered from a serious medical condition and afterfailing to return the child, the father was deployed oversees, leaving the child with a friend. I negotiated thereturn of the child to her mother. The mother could not afford to come to North Carolina to take her childhome, so I was charged with ensuring the child’s safe return to Mexico. I can describe the joy (and relief Ifelt) when my client called me that evening to thank me, between tears, for her child’s safe return. For twoconsecutive years, 2003 and 2004, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children recognized mewith their Award of Merit for my work on behalf of families and children. In 2004, my law firm alsorecognized me with the Claude Scarborough Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Work for the Poor. And, in 2005, the North Carolina Bar Association awarded me the Younger Lawyer Pro Bono Service Award inrecognition of my outstanding pro bono service to children and families.

My devotion to children in need continues today. I serve as the Program Director for Truancy Courtfor the Elna B. Spaulding Conflict Resolution Center, which has a contract to provide truancy court to allDurham Public Schools. This program uses a restorative justice model where we bring the student’s“education community” together to address the problems facing the student and put together a plan tocorrect it, which can include identifying services inside and outside the school to assist the student inattendance, academics and behavior. According to DPS, truancy court is praised as one of two programscurrently offered to help prevent student suspension. It is also often the only school program to preventstudents from dropping out of school. Funding for the program from Durham Public Schools is currently$72,000 per year so we rely heavily on volunteers who serve as volunteer judges acting as mediators tofacilitate the truancy court sessions. In my capacity as the Program Director, my duties and responsibilitiesinclude:

1. Recruit and Train 25-35 professionals to serve as truancy court judges in Durham Public Schools,
including law professors, retired law enforcement officers, attorneys, mediators, retired educators,
and law students.

2. Coordinate and assign judges to serve every Durham public school.

3. Supervise 25-35 judges to ensure truancy court is operating effectively.

4. Evaluate and provide feedback to every social worker (20-25) assigned to a Durham Public School.

5. Develop and draft a truancy court manual and forms to standardize truancy court operations
throughout DPS in collaboration with DPS administration.

6. Create a data collection tool to track truancy court efficacy in collaboration with administrators and
staff at DPS.

7. Provide in-person truancy court training to all social workers serving DPS.

8. Travel to, and observe, truancy courts throughout Durham Public Schools.

9. Engage regularly with DPS Central Office and administrative staff to improve truancy court.

Meet with former superintendent Dr. Becoats to improve truancy court, discuss challenges at DPS,
and assist with community engagement.

10. Present truancy court outcomes and experiences to the Durham Public School Board at their Support
Services work session.

11. Served as a truancy court judge at the following schools:

• Elementary Schools: Creekside, Parkwood, Oak Grove, Spring Valley, Merrick Moore, Bethesda,
Burton, RN Harris, Hillandale, Forest View, Southwest, Holt, Hope Valley, Lakewood, Little River.

• Middle Schools: Githens, Lowes Grove, Brodgen, W.G. Pearson.

• High Schools: City of Medicine Academy, Durham School of the Arts, Jordan.

• Other Schools: Lakeview Alternative School.

My ongoing public and community service also includes non-profit board service. Since 2010, Ihave served as the President of the Elna B. Spaulding Conflict Resolution Center. In that capacity I havecommitted hundreds of hours as a volunteer mediator helping people in and out of the court system toresolve disputes peacefully. I have also worked to train peer mediators at Githen Middle School, co-trainedcommunity mediators, and provided training to non-profit and government employees on using mediationskills when dealing with clients. I have met with DPS Executive Team members to discuss implementationof additional restorative justice programs in Durham Public Schools to reduce suspensions and behavioralproblems. And, I served as a facilitator at three of the four Community Conversations DPS held regardingthe disproportionate suspension of minority students and students with disabilities. Additionally, in my roleas Board President, my duties and responsibilities further include:

1. Examine, evaluate and approve budgets.

2. Balance the budget when faced with funding cuts. Creatively problem-solve budget cutbacks, and
aggressively identify and seek additional areas of revenue.

3. Lead productive, focused board meetings.

4. Recruit board members.

5. Lead board retreats for successful strategic planning.

6. Organize and coordinate yearly fundraisers that have consistently increased organizational
visibility and donation base year over year.

7. Engage with local non-profits to undergo board review and evaluation to improve board
performance, outreach and communication.

Furthermore, currently I am the Vice President of the Maureen Joy Charter School in Durham whereI have served on the board for over eight years. My duties and responsibilities include:

1. Served as Vice President since 2012.

2. Conduct board meetings to ensure all agenda items addressed and meetings stay focused and on

3. Review, understand, and approve budgets.

4. Actively participate in the interview and selection process of school leadership including the current
principal to ensure strong dedicated individuals lead the school.

5. Chair of Personnel Committee charged with addressing all human resource matters.

6. Conduct meaningful and comprehensive annual reviews of the Principal that include staff and
teacher evaluations.

7. Evaluate and approve school policies and procedures, including use of best practices.

8. Engage in strategic and long term school planning.

9. Review, approve and negotiate real estate transactions for Maureen Joy current and former campus.

10. Represent the board in meetings with Durham Public Schools to discuss potential collaborations,
including meetings with Heidi Carter and Minnie Forte-Brown.

11. Receive board training from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

12. Designated board representative to work with other Durham charters schools to improve education
and collaborate with DPS.

13. Initiate the Durham Charter Collaborative, where representatives from each charter in Durham meet
monthly to discuss collaboration among the charters as well as with DPS.

14. Organized the first Durham charter school fair at Northgate Mall to increase Latino and low-income
student access to charter schools in Durham.

15. Communicate with County Manager’s office regarding charters and education in Durham, including
budget, student performance and finances.

16. Appear before the Durham County Commissioners with a presentation on charter school funding,
accountability, student achievement and collaboration.

For me, service on the Durham Public School Board will continue my lifelong commitment to publicservice and helping children.

3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself inyour past achievements and present campaign platform?

I consider myself someone who is a progressive, open-minded, principled, and an independent freethinker. My decision-making and opinions are based on seeking out reliable information, carefulinvestigation, first-hand experience, and critical thinking, not dogma or blind adherence to ideology. While I have strong opinions, I believe it is critical to listen, learn and collaborate, even in areas where I believethat I am knowledgeable. My philosophy and approach is demonstrated in my work as a mediator, as thePresident of a non-profit, as the Director of the Truancy Court Program, and as the Vice-President of theMaureen Joy Charter School.

I began my professional career as a litigator, but by training and practicing mediation, I realizedmediation is a more effective and productive method of reaching solutions. While I enjoy advocating forothers, I get tremendous satisfaction out of listening to people and helping them work out their differencesthrough communication, cooperation and understanding. I use these skills in my role as Vice President ofthe Maureen Joy Charter School and President of the Elna B. Spaulding Conflict Resolution Center. As aboard member, it is my duty to listen carefully and keep an open mind in order to make decisions based onsolid information that furthers the goals of those we serve—our children and community.

My philosophy also drives how I conduct myself every day when I work with children and familiesin schools across Durham as the Truancy Court Program Director. To connect with and serve children andfamilies it is critical that we truly listen to them and ensure that we are strategically addressing problems.This is why I am advocating for stronger and strategic Support Services. We need dynamic and committedleadership that understands the challenges facing our most at-risk students and are determined to servestudents diligently, appropriately and swiftly. Our students and families need dedicated social workers innearly every school. And, we must embrace restorative justice models to address behavioral issues,programs such as peer mediation, preventative mediation, re-entry mediation and peaceful schools.

Restorative justice is a community-based approached to dealing with problems, whether the problemis crime or truancy. Cities around the country, from California to Illinois to Ohio are using restorativejustice programs to address problems with youth. Unlike retributive and punitive models which employ anadversarial system that focuses on fixing blame, past behavior, and punishment, restorative justice focuseson the individual and social dimensions of a problem. Restorative justice programs engage the community,using problem solving and emphasizing dialogue and negotiation. Restorative justice programs such astruancy court make personal responsibility and future behavior central to the process. That is whyrestorative justice programming is part of my platform because it reflects my philosophy and is best suited tomeeting the needs of our students.

Perhaps, the best illustration of my philosophy is my experience serving on the Board of MaureenJoy Charter School. When I was first approached about joining their Board, nearly a decade ago, I knewlittle about charters, and I was wary. As a strong supporter of public education (someone who attended onlypublic school, including college and law school), what I knew about charters gave me pause. I decided tojoin the Maureen Joy Board not only to provide a public service, but also to give myself an opportunity tolearn and grow. Through the knowledge I have gained in my service to Maureen Joy, I have come to realizethat great education can happen for all children and that continuing to engage in an ideological discussionregarding the propriety of charter schools in North Carolina will not improve public education in Durham.The extremes on both sides of the charter school issue must cease their posturing and propaganda and putour children first. We must shift our focus to how best to serve the children, through collaboration andthoughtful strategic charter growth which I have written about in my views on charter growth in opinionspublished in the News & Observer on September 17, 2013 and January 22, 2014 and in the Herald Sun onJanuary 12, 2014. We need to educate ourselves and look at what other districts and states are doing foreducation, such as district and charter collaboration, which is part of my platform. Places like Denver,Colorado where district/charter collaboration is producing impressive student success and reversing “whiteflight,” with a student population that is over 75% minority and over 75% economically disadvantaged. Bybeing open-minded, independent and receptive to new information and facts, I can best serve our communityand our students.

4. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost yousome popularity points with voters.

If elected, I would advocate for Durham Public Schools to study the feasibility and cost of movingthe majority of our elementary and middle schools to a year round school calendar, providing a longerschool day for schools with high concentrations of struggling students, and changing schools’ start times. Ifwe truly want all students to succeed, it is imperative that we take whatever steps are necessary, includingexamining our school calendar, to meet the needs of our student population, even if it might not be popular.A hallmark of strong leadership is being willing to do what is right and make difficult but thoughtfuldecisions, something that I have done in my current leadership positions, and am prepared to do if elected tothe school board.

Working with at-risk youth throughout Durham Public Schools in my role as the Director of theTruancy Court Program, I have come to believe that we need to take a hard look at our school calendar tosee if it is meeting the needs of our students. While not conclusively proven, year-round schools can reducethe summer learning loss, particularly for low-income students. Studies have shown that students in yearroundschools do as well or slightly better in terms of academic achievement than students in traditionalschools. In addition, year-round schools are most beneficial for students from low-income families. And,students, parents and teachers who participate in year-round schools tend to have more positive attitudesabout the experience. Over seventy-percent of Durham’s student population is from low-incomehouseholds. While Durham has some year-round school options, given the current student demographic inDurham, we must consider expanding year-round programming to stem the tide of learning loss and toprovide our students and teachers with periodic learning breaks that can rejuvenate them.

In addition, the current school day is often difficult for our students and their parents. The reality isthat many parents are often juggling more than one job. The school day often causes difficulties inarranging for childcare because is does not follow their work schedule. Many of our students also need extraacademic support that a longer school day can provide. A longer school day offers an opportunity fortutoring, protected homework time, with assistance if needed, or engagement in enrichment activities thatmight not otherwise be available to many of our students.

We must also examine school start times. Currently, the elementary students start school at 9amwhereas older students start at 7:20. One problem that occurs fairly often is that parents with jobs thatrequire them to leave early have difficulty getting their elementary student off to school without the help ofan older sibling. This causes the older sibling to be late or miss school entirely. In addition, researchdemonstrates that biologically, older students function better with a later start time. While a change to thestart time could raise other concerns, we should at least consider such changes, balance these concerns andsee what is best for our children and families.

5. The INDY’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would yourelection to office help further that goal?

Building a just community is part of my vision as well and I work every day to further that goal. Inmy role as Truancy Court Program Director, I use restorative justice programming to help at-risk youthsucceed in school and connect with their school community. And, as Vice President of Maureen Joy CharterSchool, I am committed to closing the achievement gap so that every child can succeed regardless of socioeconomicstatus.

My work as the Director of the Truancy Court uses a restorative justice model where we bring thestudent’s “education community” together to address the problems facing the student. At truancy court, thesocial worker, counselors, administrator, parent, student and judge sit together to identify the underlyingcause of truancy and develop a plan to correct it. During that meeting the student’s attendance, academics,and behavior are discussed. We work together to identify the student’s and sometimes family’s needs andensure that the student and parent are connected to support services. Those services can be servicesavailable at the school, such as intervention programs, assessments, or tutoring, or in the community, such asmental health and mentoring. The truancy court sessions not only serve to reduce truancy but also connectand engage students and parents with their school community. So often, parents are unaware of the varietyof resources available to them and their child and that the school wants to do all it can to help their childsucceed. Using restorative justice programming, like truancy court, peer mediation, and peaceful schools,requires that problems be solved through community engagement rather than through punishment andisolation. I believe creating a just community requires that we embrace such programs to address studentbehavior, reduce truancy and the use of suspensions.

Reducing the achievement gap is also a critical component to building a just community. Throughmy board experience at Maureen Joy, I have seen first hand how a united and strong community ofeducators can help children succeed academically and close the achievement gap. Maureen Joy’s populationis all minority, with 92% of students receiving free or reduced meals. Over one third of Maureen Joy’sstudents receive special education services such as ESL and EC. Like traditional public schools, MaureenJoy provides bus transportation and free/reduced breakfast and lunch. But most importantly, Maureen Joystudents achieve academically, consistently outperforming their peers across the State and in Durham.Maureen Joy has been classified as “high-growth” for four years in a row and the North CarolinaDepartment of Public Instruction selected Maureen Joy as one of only six charter schools in the state thatshowed the ability to close the achievement gap for students of minorities and low-income backgrounds. Ibelieve we can close the achievement gap through hard work and collaboration. A just and equitable publicschool system requires that we prioritize and focus resources strategically to address the ongoing disparitiesend of grade achievement and graduation rates demonstrates.

Given my demonstrated commitment in words and action to a just community, my election to theschool board would absolutely further the INDY’s mission.

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?

That minority children and children with disabilities are suspended at higher rates than their whitecounterparts is attributable to many things: lack of cultural competence, lack of training, misguidedschool/district policies with a “zero tolerance” approach, a punitive school discipline culture and the failureto implement comprehensive, strategic and effective programs for addressing behavior. To resolve thisdisparity, DPS must change its policies and practices and create a positive rather than punitive schooldiscipline culture.

In December, I served as a facilitator at three of the four community conversations DPS held on thediscipline and suspension issue. This gave me the opportunity to listen directly to parents and concernedcitizens. What I learned is that parents are frustrated with “zero tolerance” policies and often find schools donot communicate with them regarding behavior issues when they first arise. Instead, communication occursafter behavior has escalated to the point that their child is being suspended. Many parents were alsounaware of DPS’s signature program to address behavior, PBIS Program (Positive Behavior InterventionSystem), and most doubted that it was being implemented in their child’s school given what they hadobserved. I also attended a screening of the School to Prison Pipeline, a documentary on North CarolinaSchools, which highlights the criminalizing of student behavior and the devastating impact it has on our children and community. It is clear that many of our students and families feel alienated from our educationsystem because of the current discipline policies. All too often, typical student behavior is criminalizedcausing students to be pushed out of our education system and into the criminal justice system unfairlytargeting minority students or students with disabilities. This is hurting our students and our community.

As the Director of the Truancy Court Program, I have seen how many of our youth are facing seriouspersonal and family challenges daily, including homelessness, domestic violence, gang violence, neglect,disabilities, mental illness, and hunger. When these students come to school these challenges impair theirability to learn and are associated with disruptive behaviors, contributing to increased suspension rates orcourt involvement. My specific proposals on how DPS must rethink and address student discipline and stopthe pipeline to prison, includes the following:

1. Promote strong Support Services. This begins with excellent, motivated leadership and a clear
understanding of the problems with a clear strategy for addressing the issues.

2. Emphasize and fund restorative justice programs. Programs like truancy court, peer mediation, and
peaceful schools, and mediation can reduce and prevent suspensions. These programs only
work if they are properly staffed, funded, executed and evaluated. Currently, DPS spends less
than $80,000 per year on restorative justice programs out of a $407,000,000 budget.

3. Create district-wide policies that mandate no arrests or out of school suspension for minor offenses.

4. Find additional resources or divert existing resources to school-based mental health services or
collaborate with mental health providers. This is critical to the success of many of our most atrisk

5. Staff our schools with a dedicated qualified social worker. This is particularly important in
elementary school where students need more support with family issues to be successful in
school. Nearly all schools in Durham need a social worker dedicated to that school yet currently
most school social workers split there time between two schools.

6. Provide regular training and support to all school personnel on how to engage and support positive
student behavior. This includes supporting our teachers by having effective evidence-based
programs in place for students engaged in disruptive behavior.

7. Train all school personnel on how to apply school discipline policies and practices in a fair and
equitable manner.

8. Re-examine Lakeview to see if it is serving its purpose. Provide these students with true wraparound
services while still educating them. Don’t let it continue as little more than a holding
cell for many students.

9. Mandate proper training for Student Resource Officers on de-escalation techniques as a primary
invention. Ensure that SROs are familiar with developmentally appropriate ways to approach
children. Children are not just smaller adults; they are organically different.

10. Ensure that the SRO officers and principals communicate. Students should not be arrested for
something at school without principal involvement.

11. Cultivate creativity in finding ways to hold students accountable for their mistakes while not
suspending them from school. Ensure that clear, developmentally appropriate, and proportional
consequences apply for misbehavior. Remove the student from class only if necessary and
return students to their regular class as soon as possible. If a child needs to leave the class, we
need to keep the child in the school.

12. Promote social and emotional learning in addition to academic skills.

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.

I believe that the legislation, which actually includes other provisions besides the elimination ofcareer status, has and will continue to have a devastating impact on our education system and our State and Isupport the Durham Public School Board’s decision to join the lawsuit. The elimination of “tenure” isactually the elimination of teacher career status, which includes a provision that allows for the top 25% ofteachers in each district to be offered a one-time $500 bonus in exchange for relinquishing their careerstatus. The teacher tenure law that the legislature attacked was passed in 1971, and consists of acomprehensive set of legal employment protections for public school teachers and is not the tenure mostassociate with college professors. Instead, it requires teachers to teach for four years before being eligiblefor career status. Once they have obtained career status, teachers could still be terminated for one of 15specific grounds, including “inadequate performance.” Legislation was passed in 2011 that streamlined thetimeframes involved with career status teacher dismissal proceedings and established a specific, statutorydefinition of “inadequate performance” linked to the state teacher evaluation system. The lawsuitchallenging the elimination of career status will likely turn on whether the legislature intended to createcontractual rights when it initially established career status. Based on my reading of case law analysis onthis issue, it is unclear whether the North Carolina Supreme Court will find the legislation eliminatingteachers’ career status unconstitutional.

Regardless of what the Court determines, I believe that what the legislature has done to educationover the past two years is counter-productive to our education system and I support the Durham SchoolBoard decision to challenge it. The elimination of career status, the legislators’ disdain and distrust ofteachers and our education system, and the abysmal pay our teachers endure (North Carolina now ranking46th in teacher pay), is undermining our education system and demoralizing to our teachers. Teachers areleaving the profession or moving to where they can find a living wage and our education system will have adifficult time recruiting excellent educators. Instead of bolstering our teachers through its legislation, whatthe legislators have done has had the opposite impact: Why would an excellent teacher want to come to astate that treats them to such indignities? To the extent the legislature believed bad teachers must be edgedout of teaching, it should have urged school districts to utilize the dismissal proceedings under the careerstatus law instead of dismantling it. Ultimately, those most injured are our students, our schools, and ourcommunities.

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?

Taken together, I believe the legislation aimed at North Carolina’s education system have and willcontinue to have a tremendously negative impact on our State, our economy and our quality of life.

The education budget contains numerous provisions that compromises North Carolina’s educationsystems. The spending amount set forth in the education budget actually reduces the amount we spend oneducation. The 2014 fiscal year budget spends $500 million less than the 2008 inflation-adjusted budget.Indeed, the Legislature did not actually provide enough funding to maintain the current level of educationservices for our students. In addition, teacher assistants are effectively eliminated from the state budget (thelocal school districts can fill in the gap to have teacher assistants) and student class size is increased. Thismeans that teachers will have to teach more students while having less support from teacher assistants. Farfrom bolstering our education system, the budget serves to make it more difficult for teachers to effectivelyteach and for our students to learn.

Add to this, the fact that teacher pay now ranks 46th in the nation. This is unacceptable. Teachers areprofessionals and are integral to helping shape our future generations. They must be paid and treated assuch. While teacher pay is one way we value our teachers, we must also support them in other meaningfulways and have the funds to do so. We must provide teachers with mentors, regular meaningful evaluationsand relevant individualized professional development so that they can succeed and improve. An evaluatorwith a teaching background should regularly observe teachers. The evaluator should meet with the teacherand provide feedback from the observation. In addition, evaluators should provide teachers with feedbackon lesson plans, and help develop tailored professional development for the teacher. Teacher evaluationsshould also include input from parents, students, other teachers, administrators, and staff. The evaluation’spurpose should be to provide the teacher with clear information and direction for growth. At Maureen JoyCharter School where I serve as Vice-President of the Board, we have created teacher-leader positions calledAcademic Deans. Leaders in this position teach a class, and then spend the rest of their day observing otherteachers, reading and giving feedback on lesson plans, developing internal benchmarks, and creating tailoredprofessional development. Because of this new role, all teachers are now observed weekly and get actionablefeedback that promotes their development. We need to fund such programs to support teachers throughoutDPS.

As for charter school growth, I believe that unlimited unchecked proliferation of charters will not serveto help our education system but will undermine it. I voiced my views on charter growth in opinionspublished in the News & Observer on September 17, 2013 and January 22, 2014 and in the Herald Sun onJanuary 12, 2014. Charter schools present an opportunity to prove what’s possible in public education: toachieve extraordinary success with students whose needs are too often not met in traditional public schools.But to realize that opportunity, we must set a high bar for entry to the sector, prioritize charter schoolsdedicated to serving high-need students, ensure equal access to charter schools and commit to closing thoseschools that don’t measure up. North Carolina does not simply need more charter schools; it needs excellentcharter schools. The only applicants to receive charter approvals should be those that can demonstrate strongpromise for breakthrough success. We need charters with clear missions keenly focused on leveraging thetalent and experience necessary to create great schools. Our state also needs schools that are dedicated toserving students who too often struggle in traditional schools, especially students from low-incomebackgrounds and those with disabilities or limited English proficiency. But to serve these students, we haveto prioritize applicants with this mission, ensure truly equal access by requiring (and funding) food andtransportation services in public charter schools, providing charters with access to facilities funding andenable weighted lotteries to let schools responsibly enroll students they are mission-driven to serve. Finally,state leaders must commit to closing public charter schools that do not meet standards for studentachievement and growth. The fundamental bargain of charter schools is increased flexibility in exchange forincreased accountability. While it is never easy to shut down a school, those that fail to meet student needsyear after year harm students’ future chances for success and undermine the charter movement as a whole.We should not forget, charters were intended to be one part of a diverse public school system, not itsreplacement.

I am against vouchers and believe they have no place in our public education system. Based on myreading of the law and review of legal analysis of the voucher system created by our legislators in NorthCarolina, I also believe vouchers are unconstitutional. Beyond that, vouchers are a poor policy choice thatwill lead to a less robust education system. The school voucher program will siphon $10 million from thepublic school budget and set it aside for vouchers further reducing the amount of money going to our publiceducation system. Vouchers will also encourage the creation of private schools that have virtually nooversight and whose motivations may be less about educating students and more about profits. Lawmakersfrustrated with aspects of our public education system should work with the system finding ways to improve it rather than abandoning the system through vouchers. Far from creating accountability and improving theeducation of our students, vouchers will shift monies away from our existing education system, furtherexacerbating budget challenges.

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 vouchers to 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 on public schools? And if you were to share the board with members who are affiliated with charters, how would you address your policy differences?

I am running for Durham Public School board because I believe that each and every student in Durhamdeserves the very best educational opportunities available. My experience working as the Truancy CourtProgram Director and my service on the Maureen Joy Charter School Board underscores and strengthenedthat commitment. Moreover, my background, experience and relationships, makes me the ideal candidate tobridge the differing viewpoints on many issues facing the school board, including charter schools.

For over eight years I have served on a public school board—The Maureen Joy Charter School Boardwhere I am currently Vice President. Under North Carolina law, charter schools are public schools fundedby taxpayer dollars. Like traditional public schools, charter schools are free and open to all students througha lottery system much like the Durham Public School’s magnet lottery. At Maureen Joy, our board,consisting of all volunteers, is singularly focused on providing our students with an excellent education thatwill prepare them for college, career, family and citizenship. As one of the first charter schools in Durham,Maureen Joy opened its doors in 1997 and it has become invaluable to our community. It strives to serve asa model of how urban public schools can provide a comprehensive educational program that puts studentson a path to college. The school serves students that all too often are marginalized in the public educationsystem. Maureen Joy has an all minority student population, with 92% of students receiving free or reducedmeals. Over one third of Maureen Joy’s students receive special education services such as ESL and EC.Like traditional public schools, Maureen Joy provides bus transportation and free/reduced meals. But mostimportantly, Maureen Joy students achieve academically, consistently outperforming their peers across thestate and in Durham. Maureen Joy has been classified as “high-growth” for four years in a row and theNorth Carolina Department of Public Instruction selected Maureen Joy as one of only six charter schools inthe state that showed the ability to close the achievement gap for students of minorities and low-incomebackgrounds. Importantly, Maureen Joy has outperformed every school in Durham that has 65% or morestudents who qualify for free or reduced price lunch.

Maureen Joy achieves these results without a private endowment or extra funding. Instead, as acharter school, Maureen Joy receives less funding than traditional public schools. What Maureen Joy isdoing should serve to inspire Durham’s public schools. It shows that it is possible to close the achievementgap using already existing funding. What’s more is that Maureen Joy is doing exactly what charters wereintended to do—be innovators of education that result in improving student education. While replicationmight not be practicable, I believe that Durham Public Schools must look at schools like Maureen Joy andlearn from them; see what they are doing and how that might be incorporated into DPS schools. We mustcollaborate and work together to strengthen our education system. We must not ignore what’s working ineducation because of ideological differences; instead, we must put our children first. Workingcollaboratively rather than competitively we will better serve our students and our community.

Indeed, as part of my board service to Maureen Joy, I have spent the better part of the past yearworking on collaboration, between Durham Public Schools and the Durham charter schools as well ascollaboration among charter schools in Durham. This work has resulted in bringing all the charters in Durham together in what is now called The Durham Charter Collaborative. The purpose of thiscollaboration is to identify ways charters in Durham can work collaboratively to reduce costs, increasestudent achievement, and better serve students and the community. On March 17, 2014, I went before theDurham County Commissioners with a two-hour presentation and Q/A on charter school achievement,funding, spending and accountability. The key recommendation I made to the County Commissioners wasthat a task force be formed to study district-charter collaborations, which I believe they have endorsed.

As for vouchers, as stated in my answer to question 8, I am against vouchers and believe they haveno place in our public education system. Based on my reading of the law and review of legal analysis of thevoucher system created by our legislators in North Carolina, I also believe vouchers are unconstitutional.Beyond that, vouchers are a poor policy choice that will lead to a less robust education system. It willencourage the creation of private schools that have virtually no oversight and whose motivations may be lessabout educating student and more about profits. Lawmakers frustrated with aspects of our public educationsystem should work with the system finding ways to improve it rather than abandoned the system throughvouchers. Far from creating accountability and improving the education of our students, vouchers will shiftmonies away from our existing education system further exacerbating budget challenges.

My motivation to seek a position on Durham’s Public School Board is grounded in my commitment toeducating all students in Durham, and my experience as the Director of the Truancy Court Program. TheTruancy Court Program is a restorative justice program. It is a program designed to identify the root causeof truancy, and work cooperatively with the student’s community—student, parent, and school, to remedythe problem. In addition to serving as a judge, I recruit, train, assign, and supervise truancy court judges thatserve all Durham Public Schools. I personally work with school social workers, counselors, principals,assistant principals, school resource officers, and data managers at dozens of Durham Public Schools.Together, we meet with students and parents to help identify what is causing the student not to come toschool or to skip classes and help create and put a plan in place that will get the student to regularly attendschool and improve their grades. We also address academic and behavioral issues that arise andimportantly, we work with students, families and schools to identify potential services that the student orfamily needs that can help the student achieve, such as tutoring, mental health services, and access to furtherintervention programs.

Through my work as the Truancy Court Program Director I have had the honor of working withamazing individuals through Durham Public Schools—people truly committed to what is best for childrenand who tirelessly work to improve their lives. I want to support these people and be on the board thatselects our next superintendent, and creates the policies and a strategic plan to empower them so ourstudents receive the excellent education they deserve. Moreover, as the Program Director for TruancyCourt, I regularly see students in middle and high school that are academically performing well below gradeschool level and do not have the skills needed to be successful in a career, technical college or university.Many of our children get passed from grade to grade without being able to read or understand basic conceptsin math and science and we lack the necessary interventions to help them academically. This cannotcontinue to happen, we must ensure that all students receive an education that prepares them for a job,career, family, and to be thoughtful members of our community. My goal in running for school board issingular: to help every student, from the brightest to the most challenged, achieve these goals.

My skills and experience coupled with my absolute dedication to the students in Durham, will allow meto work and communicate with school board members with differing viewpoints. In my professional life asan attorney and general counsel to a corporation, I regularly negotiated with people of strong viewpoints anddiffering opinion, while maintaining a discussion that was respectful and productive. As a mediator, mywork focuses exclusively on working with people who have differing viewpoints, listening to them, findingcommon ground, and helping them reach a solution collaboratively. This often requires me to use my skillsto facilitate difficult conversations on sensitive topics and help individuals expand their ways of thinking on such issues. Through my board service I have also successfully worked with and helped bring togetherpeople with distinct and diverse perspective. In my experience, having board members with differing anddiverse viewpoints is critical to a healthy organization. Boards need a variety of perspectives, skills andopinions in order to create strong, well-reasoned policy and engage in informed decision-making. Whileboard members should be united in their goal and purpose, it’s the diversity of perspective and backgroundrather than homogeneity that allows a board to best fulfills its mission and serve our community. Havingboard members in lock step on issues only ensures a myopic approach to problem solving. As a boardmember both at Maureen Joy and the Conflict Resolution Center, I work with people from a myriad ofbackgrounds and strive to be respectful, listen, and contribute with a mind towards a common goal. This hasproven effective in reaching consensus and has resulted in me being voted into leadership positions on thoseboards, Vice President and President, respectively.

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?

Through my service on both the Maureen Joy and the Elna B. Spaulding Conflict Resolution Centerboard, I am familiar with and understand budgets. Importantly, as part of my board service and in my dutiesas general counsel, I have personal experience managing budget cuts and balancing budgets in difficultfinancial climates. To balance the budget, DPS must start by understanding and critically reviewing everyaspect of the budget, conducting a cost analysis of every line item in the budget, performing programevaluations on every program offered to our students, and prioritizing and funding programming within thebudget constraints. While this will certainly be difficult, it must be done so that we ensure our studentsreceive the education they deserve and we fulfill our fiscal duty to our community.

I have personally spent countless hours going though the DPS budget line by line, met with Countyofficials to ask about the budget, and even compared DPS’s budget to budgets in other counties. I have alsomet with individuals on the citizen’s budget advisory council. My conclusion, echoed by many officials andother interested parties I met with, is that the DPS budget is cumbersome and unnecessarily difficult tounderstand. It is not transparent or easily accessible to the public—indeed on the DPS website some of thelinks to parts of the budget are dead links. And, not all aspects of the budget are available to the publicevery year. I believe that DPS should create a budget that School Board members and the public canunderstand—not just at the surface but program-by-program budget numbers, line by line. DPS financesmust be transparent and accessible so the public can be confident that public funds are being efficiently andeffectively.

The process of balancing the budget and paying for needed programming requires that DPS conducta cost analysis for each line item in the budget. In my review, I found room for improvement in this area.For example, in the 2013-2014 DPS budget under the line item “Other Insurance and Judgments” DPS spent$314,008.00 while the same line item for Wake County showed $34,222.00 spent. Similarly, under theTelecommunications Services line item in the 2013-2014 budget DPS spent $2,067,167.00 whereas WakeCounty spent $1,700,717.00. Wake County’s student population is over 149,000 while Durham is about36,000. Given that Durham’s student population is less than one quarter the size of Wake County, we mustunderstand why DPS is paying more for these items. Another example is legal fees. In the Appendix to theDPS budget it shows DPS spending over $430,000 for legal services whereas Chapel Hill/Carrboro Schoolsspent about $100,000. Both school districts use the same law firm, and while Durham is twice the size ofChapel Hill/Carrboro District that alone does not explain the differential. While DPS’s cost on these threeitems may be appropriate, it must be evaluated to be sure we are being as cost-effective as possible. Wecould redirect the savings from such line items toward our students in the form of additional teachers,teacher mentoring, social workers and support programs.

Finally, consistent program evaluation is critical to allocating funds effectively. DPS must examineeach and every program—conduct a program evaluation to determine what is working, what is not working,what our students need and what they do not. Currently, this is not done for most programming. For anyprogram that is not working, DPS must understand why: Has it been implemented properly? Is it a goodprogram that needs improvement? Or, is it a program that just does not fit the needs of our students? DPSmust also look for program duplication—are there programs that are doing the same thing? Could weconsolidate programs to better serve students? Once DPS understands exactly where its money is going andwhat programs should continue, then DPS must have a strategic plan for budget spending. We mustprioritize our students’ needs and fund those programs that effectively serve those needs.

For example, in the area of Support Services, DPS must address the suspension issue as well asstudent behavior. In December DPS conducted a number of Community Conversations where I served as afacilitator and listened to parents and community members express their concern about student discipline atour schools. DPS currently offers a student behavior and suspension prevention program known as PBIS(Positive Behavior Intervention System). Parent feedback on PBIS provided during the CommunityConversations made it clear that the program is not being fully implemented at all schools and the evidence,based on the complaints filed, suggests that the program is not working. Moreover, in my work at schoolsaround the districts, I see first hand that it is not being used consistently or completely. Some schools usepart of the program while others are still phasing the program into the school. PBIS is designed to be acomprehensive program to address student behavior through teacher training and other tools. The programonly works if it is fully implemented in its entirety. DPS should conduct a thorough review of the programto find out how effectively it is being implemented.

DPS should also undertake a critical examination of the Lakeview Alternative School. Currentlymiddle and high school students with serious behavioral problems are sent to Lakeview. According to ananalysis from the County Commissioner’s office, during the 2012-2013 school year, DPS spent $27,000 perstudent at Lakeview. The end of grade test results for Lakeview’s students showed that only 5% of thestudent passed. Such a disparity between cost and educational outcome should be a cause of concern andDPS should conduct a thorough evaluation. We need to be sure these students are truly being served and thatfunds are being spent effectively and appropriately.

I believe that DPS must be aggressive in its review of the budget so that we can trim certain costswhile shifting resources to bolster other areas like teacher pay, support and increased placement of socialworkers in schools.

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?

The School Board absolutely needs to have clear policies governing spending and a solidunderstanding of the DPS budget so that the financial issues that arose last year do not recur. In October,records revealed Becoats spent $20,157.86 on his district-issued credit card from July 2012 to June 2013 forout-of-state conferences, dinners and lunches with colleagues, economy-class air travel, hotels, roomservice, limousines from the airport, meetings, workshop supplies, flowers for recognition of employeeachievements and gifts to a host family in Mexico. To the extent such charges were not permitted, theSchool Board should have had a policy on credit card usage and monitoring, which it did not. Goingforward, there must be such a policy put in place (if it has not already happened). The School Board shouldalso pay careful attention to the Superintendent’s Office Budget. For the 2013-2014 school year, theSuperintendent’s Office budget allocated $72,000 of which $33,288.00 is for professional development and travel. To the extent the School Board wants to limit travel it should ensure that the budget reflects that.The other financial problem that arose was the identifying of the $15million fund balance. As a member oftwo boards, I found this particularly troubling and difficult to understand. I believe that if Board Membershave a fuller understanding of the budget and the budget is easier to understand (as I advocated in myresponse to question 10) such financial problems should not arise.

The selection of Durham’s next superintendent presents the opportunity to transform Durham PublicSchools. Durham’s public schools are facing numerous challenges as a result of changing demographics aswell as new state laws. With the selection of a strong, bright superintendent willing to take bold steps,Durham Public Schools has the potential to become an education leader in North Carolina. I understand thatDPS has or will engage a search firm to assist with the process of selecting Durham’s next superintendent. Ibelieve we should conduct a national, or, at least, a regional search to ensure we have the most qualifiedpool of applicants. We should also reach out to education and community leaders for their input andguidance. Our new superintendent should have the following characteristics and values:

1. Strong, intelligent, entrepreneurial leader willing to make difficult decisions targeted at improving
and reviving education in Durham. Someone that sees what is possible in our education system
and prepared to take on the challenges presented.

2. Understands the Durham community, its challenges, and its history and believes in true community

3. Committed to creating a unified school system where traditional public schools and charters work
collaboratively to improve public education for all students in Durham.

4. Committed to identifying and implementing solutions to address schools that are not meeting
student needs, including partnering with successful charters.

5. Committed to creating a child and school centered school system rather than a focus on Central
Office. This individual must recognize that great teachers and principals are the heart of a
strong education system and the school system must focus on supporting them and value their
expertise and understanding of how best to educate our students.

6. Committed to ensuring we have strong principals in every school and empowering them to make
decisions for their school.

7. Committed to supporting teachers with higher wages, mentoring, and professional development.

8. Committed to creating a culture that values community service to parents and students as well as
from our Central Office/administration to our schools.

9. Committed to ensuring that suspensions are a last resort and that all school personnel receive regular
training and support on how to engage and support positive student behavior.

10. Committed to creating a strong leadership team and regular 360-degree reviews of administrative
staff and leadership team. Will not allow promoting and shifting individuals who do not
perform, and instead, will utilize procedures to increase performance or separate poorly
performing staff.

11. Committed to having a strong Support Services with excellent, motivated leadership and a clear
understanding of the problems with a clear strategy for addressing the issues.

12. Committed to fiscal responsibility and transparency. Will openly share information with the school
board and any budget advisory committee.

13. Committed to creating and fostering a culture at DPS that values honest feedback, thoughtful yet
timely decision-making, best practices and creativity in approaching challenges. Inaction and
static thinking cannot continue. Mistakes and undesired outcomes must be openly recognized,
critically examined, and understood.

14. Committed to regular evaluation of all existing programing to best identify what works and what
does not. New programming should not be added before eliminating those programs that are not
serving their purpose.