NAME: Natalie Jones Beyer
OFFICE FOR WHICH YOU ARE RUNNING: Durham School Board District 4B
HOME PHONE: (919) 382-2823
OCCUPATION & EMPLOYER: Mother and Volunteer, Assistant for Smith & Associates
HOME ADDRESS: 2206 Hayfield Drive, Durham, NC 27705
PARTY AFFILIATION: Independent/Unaffiliated
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE ADDRESS: www.nataliebeyer.webs.com
E-MAIL ADDRESS: Natalie.Beyer@gmail.com
1) If elected, what are your top priorities?
a) Challenge and graduate every student,
b) Retain and recruit excellent teachers,
c) Support arts and music education ,
d) Create Community Task Forces of teacher and parent experts,
a) Use of Standardized Testing
b) Technology Improvement
c) Teacher Support
e) Balance the budget with minimal impact of the classroom.
2) What is there in your public record or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be an effective leader? Please be specific about your public and community service background.
I am a Durham native who attended Durham Public Schools, including Little River, Bragtown, Carrington, Northern and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. I graduated from Rice University (Houston, Texas) and earned my Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration from the School of Public Health at UNC-CH. I am the mother of three students in Durham Public Schools. This fall my children will be students in high school, middle school and elementary school. I am blessed to be an active community and school volunteer and advocate. I have served three years as PTA President and an additional year as a parent representative on the school Site-Based Decision Making (SBDM) Team. I serve on the DPS AIG Parent Advocacy Board.Several years ago, I worked as a contract employee for DPS to developnewoutreach programsforKindergarten families and students. I am glad these programs have continued to be supported by the district and have been expanded to address transitions for middle and high school students.I serve on the Advisory Board for the Durham Children’s Choir. For the last seven years I have served on the Board of ERLTC, a Christian Youth Leadership program and I currently serve as the Ministry Leader for Youth and Family at our church. This year, I worked with parents and teachers to found the Durham Allies for Responsive Education(DARE). Through the years, I have advocated to the Durham School Board about important issues in Durham Public Schools. As an elected Board Member, I would actively be in our schools and be accessible to students, teachers and families. Thisaccessibility would help me hear, reflect and act on community concerns.
3) How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I have always been an independent voter, without affiliation to any political party. I evaluate issues with thoughtful research, pragmatism and common sense. A Durham School Board member should be an unbiased representative, always considering the best interests of all children in our community.
4) Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
We are currently facing historically large budget cuts from the state and potential cuts from Durham County. As a result, many difficult decisions will need to be made. Further cuts to central office personnel may be necessary. Athletic funding may have to be cut in order to support classroom teaching positions. We need to evaluate all DPS programs to determine if our efforts are effective and efficient. Ineffective programs should be phased out.
5) The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
In Durham we are challenged by vast socioeconomic differences between families. Most children have plenty though many do not. Through no fault of their own, many students face barriers of poverty, disability, race, poor nutrition, transportation and lack of support. A growing percentage of our students face language and cultural barriers as well. Over 53% of DPS students are served by the federal free and reduced lunch program. In Durham Public Schools we must fully engage our community to make every decision thoughtfully and in the best interest of all of our children. In Durham we are blessed to have an active and engaged community. We need to make sure that Durham Public Schools policies, welcome the talents, ideas and solutions of community members to solve our educational challenges. I would advocate for the creation of Task Forces comprised of teacher and parent experts to recommend best practices to DPS (ie. Technology, Standardized Testing, Teacher Support). I would keep justice and equity as values in every decision as a School Board Member.
6) What is your stance on sex education in Durham Public Schools? Should it be taught, and at what grade level?
North Carolina recently passed the Healthy Youth Act which will expand comprehensive sexual education to all 7-9th graders. Sex education should be one part of a comprehensive health curriculum in keeping with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study. Research shows that comprehensive sex education does not increase the rate of teen sexual activity. Parents should always have the right to opt students out of school programs for religious or personal concerns.
7) Teacher quality continues to be an issue in many school districts, including Durham Public Schools. How would you work to reduce teacher turnover, increase job satisfaction and attract more qualified teachers to Durham? What additional professional development or support should teachers receive that they are not already getting, and how would the district pay for this?
Teacher turnover is a problem in Durham Public Schools. Over the past five years, teacher turnover rates in Durham have been significantly higher than both the state averages and other school systems in the Triangle area. Turnover disrupts and disappoints students and costs the district significant retraining expense. At its heart, education is based on the relationship between a student and a teacher. Teachers need to be respected as professionals and empowered to practice their profession. This is the culture we need to nurture in our schools. It is critical to build job satisfaction for our teachers; therefore, teacher concerns need to be heard. I suggest that two School Board Members attend each meeting of the Teacher Council and the Durham Association of Educators. School Board members should also hold regular office hours to hear teacher and community concerns. We also need to strengthen our relationships with area University Schools of Education and make sure DPS is the district of choice for new student teachers. Innovative education experience will make Durham Public Schools the district of choice for great teachers in North Carolina. Finally, we need to minimize teacher responsibilities outside of the classroom (committee work, etc.) and continuously ask “How can central office help you?”. After all, Durham Public Schools is not defined by our administration, but by our teachers and students.
8) Test scores continue to show an achievement gap between students in an ethnic or racial minority in Durham and their white counterparts. How can Durham’s school board shape new policy or initiatives to improve the performance of minority students?
Durham Public Schools has prioritized closing the achievement gap as one of its major goals, but this is not (nor should it be) the ultimate goal of our school district. That goal must be the complete education of every child in Durham. This must recognize that there are different potentials, talents, interests and limitations for every child. Many factors may contribute to a child’s advancement or constraints in their education performance. It is true that good teaching is a major leveling agent for social equality. The Board must support best teaching practices which meet students where they start their education process. Our Board should lead and encourage the development of a flexible, innovative, research-based education system in order to fully educate our children. However, the achievement gap itself will not be closed by the school system alone, but only over time with full engagement of our community resources. Parents, businesses, local universities, government agencies, community groups and students must all take ownership of this goal. Working together over time, our community will close the gap
9) Despite population growth, enrollment in Durham’s schools dropped 9 percent this year. (I think this data is inaccurate) How will you work to make DPS more attractive to parents and families?
Families typically make decisions about choosing schools when their children are entering Kindergarten or when new families move to the area. At both of these transitions it is important to get solid comprehensive information to families. All too often, school decisions are made based on rumors, fear, misinformation, and stereotypes. I am a founding member of DARE (Durham Allies for Responsive Education). One of our ongoing projects is a website called “Strong Durham Schools” that will showcase parent and teacher testimonials about great experiences in Durham Public Schools. The site will also connect prospective parents to current parents so that accurate information can be shared. The best information for decision-making comes from a school visit. DPS needs to make sure that our schools are welcoming to new families. DPS should collect exit data from families that leave DPS for private and charter schools. We can use this data to strengthen and improve schools.
10) Should the state provide vouchers to parents who choose private (K-12) schools for their children? If so, for what amount?
The goal of public education is to provide the highest quality, comprehensive education to all school-age children. In decisions of school choice, parents decide what is best for their individual child while also considering what is best for all children in the community. In Durham the overwhelming majority of families choose Durham Public Schools. About 6% of students are enrolled in publicly funded charter schools. About 3% of families in Durham choose to home school their children. DPS is facing huge projected budget cutbacks. Durham cannot afford to subsidize the private tuition for the 12% of students whose families choose private schools. Vouchers for private schools would not be in the best interest of the vast majority of Durham’s children and our community.
11) Durham’s school system is facing perhaps one of the most challenging budget years in recent history. What direction will you give to school administration to balance the budget? In what areas would you recommend cutbacks and which services should remain untouched?
Ideally, the administration and Board would be able to make cuts that would not be noticed by the students. We are facing historic economic challenges. After last year’s budget cuts, the challenge will be even more difficult. Because 80% of DPS expenditures are for salaries and benefits and the proposed cuts are so large, cuts will probably need to include salary cuts, hiring freezes and position eliminations and similar measures. I would examine the budget of DPS central offices to look for cost savings. The public needs to review the district’s administrative expenses closely and with transparency. Doing this would help improve the working relationship between the School Board and the Durham County Commissioners. Teachers and principals have already suggested budget cuts. These ideas should be given full consideration. First, we should consider a hiring freeze and salary cuts in our central office personnel. Above all else, the district should work to preserve classroom teaching positions.