Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Steven Gatlin

Full legal name, if different: Steven Roland Gatlin

Date of Birth: 09-21-1978

Campaign Web Site:

Occupation & Employer: Business Analyst, Silver Eagle LLC

Home phone: 919-428-5548
Work Phone: 919-433-3301


Twitter handle, if applicable: @Gatlin4Board3

1. If elected, what are your top priorities?

Teacher empowerment. Teachers are not valued or treated as the professionals that they are. My top priority would be to bring teachers to the table in all aspects of the decision making process. The current DPS system is a top down bureaucratic machine that stifles teacher creativity and innovation in the classroom. I would like to create teacher committees to research, enact, reflect, and improve the programs for how we handle the issues within DPS. The role of the School Board should become one of support of this bottom up leadership.

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.

I currently sit on Durham’s Public Art Committee. The PAC advises Durham’s Cultural Advisory Board and is charged with assisting the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development and advising on the implementation of the Public Art Policy. I am also a faithful husband to a wife in the Junior League of Durham/Orange Counties. The Junior League is a charitable organization committed to building a better community through volunteerism. Most importantly I am a public school teacher and have been since I moved to the triangle in the 2005. My entire professional career has been in service to the students of North Carolina.

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

I am registered “unaffiliated” and consider myself an Independent positioned on the left of the spectrum pertaining to political philosophy. This is evident in my commitment to social equality, and opposition to our current General Assembly’s assault on education, the poor, and democracy. However, students do not benefit from the political polarization that results in a liberal vs. conservative fight. My past achievements have all been as a teacher and served student, not political interest. My platform is grounded in teacher empowerment, because I believe identifying and treating teachers as the professionals in the classroom transcends political identity and association. Regardless of political definitions, teachers will always be the agents of change for student progress. The School Board must recognize this fact and bring teachers to the table in all aspects of the decision making process.

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

I would like to see a state-wide overhaul in the area of teacher evaluation because the current system is ineffective. Research has concluded that using test scores alone, or relying too heavily on low frequency observations are ineffective methods for evaluating teachers. I believe that evaluations should be based on multiple measures of data, many of which should be created by individual schools according to the local populations, needs, and goals. National standardized tests, if used, must be on even ground with the other measures. States and local districts do themselves a detriment when they create standardized tests for evaluation purposes alone. Teacher observations have to be consistent, multiple, and grounded in genuine feedback and growth potential. The ultimate goal of teacher evaluations cannot be to rank a school’s teachers from best to worst, but instead to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for professional growth and then asses that growth. Another research validated, but untapped resource concerning evaluations is student surveys. What students think and how they feel about schools, teachers, and instruction should be included in all systems of evaluation.

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

As a member of the School Board I would work to shift the focus from excellence to equity. Assuring that all schools and students have equal access to quality instruction, attention, and resources will garner the most gains in student achievement and benefit the Triangle community the most. Instead of judging our schools based on arbitrary test scores set by state level or other entities, we should gauge student effort and growth to validate school effectiveness. A struggling student may not pass a state test, but if their reading ability improves three grade levels in one school year, that is something to celebrate. An equitable approach to every student making academic growth will best build and serve a just community.

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?

This disparity can be attributed to stereotypes that are perpetuated within DPS about “good” and “bad” students. The issue of suspensions in general should be addressed by a district wide move to eliminate and reduce suspensions by turning to more student-lead restorative justice programs. DPS should stop suspending students for non-violent/non-endangering actions. Doing so only accelerates the school to prison pipeline. Restorative justice programs allow students to learn from their mistakes and give value back to the community they have wronged. The specifics of the disparity should be addressed on a school to school basis where teachers lead the research and action that will address the individual needs and populations of each school.

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.

The General Assembly’s law is a misguided conservative effort to balance the state budget on the backs of teachers’ salaries. As a teacher, I can state with confidence that the Republican desire to “get rid of bad teachers” is a myth driven by national conservative agendas, media, and union activity from other states. Teachers must feel protected from arbitrary firing, and career status/tenure along with the guarantee of due process serves this purpose. I support DPS’ joining of the Guilford School Board’s lawsuit, but would like to point out that the leadership for the lawsuit came not from the DPS Board but from hundreds of teachers that signed letters of protest and brought the issue to the forefront.

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?

The elimination of career status, elimination of master’s degree pay, and the across the board financial cuts will continue to have disastrous effects on NC education. Major impacts are: First, a continued loss of experienced and quality teachers to border states and other professions can directly be attributed to how our legislature is dealing with teacher salary. Second, an inability to recruit top college students into the education profession will only grow tougher as the legislature continues to view a higher degree as not worthy of extra compensation. Third, the achievement gap will continue to widen due to the loss of teacher aids, other professionals, and resources most needed by our struggling students. Fourth, removing the option to pre-register to vote at sixteen hampers the political and civic engagement of our future citizens. Unfortunately, to date I am not aware of any educational based action by the General Assembly that I “agree” with.

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?

I am seeking election to the School Board because I am a classroom teacher, and I want to bring the plight of the classroom teacher to the forefront of all Board initiatives, actions, and reflections. I strongly oppose vouchers and believe them to be unconstitutional. Educational tax dollars should never be moved from the public to private sector. I work for a public charter school, and support the progressive existence of public-charter schools, but I am extremely opposed to for-profit charter schools and would like to see legislation against them. I know of no one with an “agenda” concerning charter and traditional school relations. Every teacher or education professional I know works with me or for DPS. I do not know any employee of another charter school. My sole agenda is to improve the lives of DPS’ students by bringing teacher empowerment to the forefront of the school board’s conscious. One of my strengths is collaboration and if elected to the board I would work out any policy differences that I may have with other members focusing on the common interest of what is best for the students of DPS.

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?

The advice I would give administrators is to never cut employee positions that deal directly with students. All programs and services should be assessed in terms of student interaction, relationship, and impact. Non-student service employees should be the first positions laid off if staff cuts are unavoidable beginning with Central Office staff and assets.

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?

Proper oversight is not the issue if personal integrity and professionalism are the cause of the problem. In the case of Dr. Beacoats, I believe the board hired the wrong person for the job, as his previous professional record foreshadowed the type of allegations that eventually led to his resignation. This fact however, does not excuse the board for not requiring more transparency and communication in terms of how finances are being spent. The Board should publish regular reports documenting where and how DPS funds are being appropriated and allocated. There is no excuse for discovering $15 million in lost funds. The next superintendent should have classroom and administrative experience. His/Her main qualities should include: leadership, collaboration, communication, innovation, and vision. The next superintendent must convey a message to the community that although NC education is under state oppression and attack, DPS values and appreciates the work of its teachers and will continue to create and foster an environment where teachers are valued as the professionals they are. The current School Board has already proven they are not being thorough enough in terms of the Superintendent search by accepting the contract of a firm without making them answer to allegations of withholding information in other Superintendent searches. Going forward the board should seek input from teachers as to the next superintendent. Next they should consult parent and community groups before conducting, interviewing, or hiring.