PA-PAC Questionnaire for Durham Public School
Board of Education 2014
Candidate Name: __________Sendolo Diaminah______________________________
Address: _______512 Dunbar, Durham, NC 27701____________________________
Phone: _______(919) 464-4855______________________________________
1. Why do you want to serve on the Durham Public School Board of Education?
What is the role of a board member?
I want to serve on the DPS Board of Education because I believe that our community needs
leadership that protects and strengthens public schools at a time when there are so many
attacks on public schools. Vouchers, budget cuts, removing the cap on classroom sizes—these
are some major examples. I believe that the role of a board member, while including oversight
duties, is principally to lead DPS and the Durham community in identifying solutions to the
problems that our schools face. As a community organizer my orientation is not to solve
people’s problems for them, but to engage people collectively in facing and solving our
2. The board will be involved in the hiring of a new superintendent. What should the search
process look like? What qualities should the successful candidate possess?
The search process for the superintendent needs to involve all stakeholders in DPS. For a
superintendent to lead our school system effectively they must have the confidence and support
of parents, educators, administrators, and students. In addition to strong competence in
personnel and financial management skills, a successful candidate should be interested in
investing in DPS for the long-term and not simply looking to build a resume to move on to a
bigger school system. They should also share a commitment to transparency and decision-
making that involves all stakeholders.
3. How should teachers and administrators be evaluated? Are the current state standards
North Carolina’s six standards are a strong foundation for teacher evaluation. Only one of these
standards is based on testing, however in North Carolina and around the country high stakes
tests have been increasingly emphasized as the only meaningful standard. The adoption of
Read to Achieve and the expansion of end-of-course testing at the high school level to include
more subjects are examples of this in our state.
Teachers and administrators should be evaluated primarily by using peer assessment and
review. Currently these reviews involve mostly administrators. The school system should
establish panels of teachers, administrators, teaching coaches, parents, students, and
education specialists to evaluate the performance of their staff.
4. How should students be assessed? What role should standardized tests play in
Rather than asking students to choose among multiple-choice answers, assessments should
challenge students to perform specific tasks relevant to what they have learned, for example, by
writing an essay, making a speech or presentation, performing a piece of music, etc. There are
many performance-based assessment tools being used around the country and performance is
the assessment tool most often used in the work environment. We already have this kind of
assessment approach being used in the International Baccalaureate program. Student portfolios
that track progress are another key way this has been applied in the school environment.
Standardized tests can be effective when they measure growth rather than knowledge. We
need to be assessing how much students have learned from year to year, not how much they
know compared to other students, otherwise we end up measuring the resources that students
bring into the classroom not the classroom itself.
5. In spite of the introduction of magnet schools, it appears that Durham Public Schools
have become increasingly segregated by socioeconomic status and race. What are your
thoughts on this situation?
When all of our schools are high quality I think we’ll see less segregation. Right now
segregation happens because resources are not fairly allocated. Parents are going to do what’s
best for their children and send them to the schools where they believe their children will have
the best chance to succeed in. Every Durham public school can be one of those schools, given
6. Does DPS need to make changes to its school suspension policy? If so, what changes
would you work for as a Board Member?
The current policy and its implementation is neither fair nor consistent. Can it be improved? Yes.
We need to do as much as possible to keep students in schools. Out of school suspensions
have not been proven to actually address or change student behavior and the range of
infractions that students can be suspended for is too wise. Right now, students can get
suspended for skipping school, which of course does not help solve the problem. As a BOE
member I would look into restorative practices and suspension alternatives, as well as
advocating for more support services, like counselors and social workers, so that every student
gets the attention they deserve.
7. What is your opinion about the Charter School movement?
If charter schools were used as they were originally envisioned—as places of innovative
teaching and learning—they could be an effective part of the public school system. Many low-
income and families of color are attracted to charter schools because our public schools have
been defunded and are struggling. The reality, however, is that charter schools have increased
income and racial segregation in schools. Rather than offering more choice to those who need it
most, they tend to siphon public resources into schools that serve the more privileged. When
charter schools don’t offer transportation, free and reduced lunch, special education and ELL
services, they are not functioning in the way they were originally envisioned.
8. What is your opinion about school vouchers?
Our state constitution says that public money must be used exclusively for public schools.
Vouchers are clear violation of that law and an attack on public education. School vouchers are
part of a privatization agenda that furthers inequality and tries to take advantage of the
legitimate concerns of low-income communities and communities of color. Rather than taking
more resources out we need to re-invest in the public school system.
9. As a board member how would you lead the decisions addressing the needs of the
students who are at risk for low achievement and dropping out?
First, low achievement and student self-confidence is directly related to how we value and
measure learning. Low test scores aren’t necessarily an indication of how much or how well
students are learning. When high stakes tests are the key measure of our student’s ability, we
create an environment that pushes kids towards dropping out.
Drop out rates are also very connected to suspensions. Addressing the problems in our
suspension policy is one major step towards tackling these issues.
10. Why do you think that parents choose to take their children out of the public schools in
Durham or don’t choose them at all? How would you address this issue?
The issue of parents taking their children out of public schools relates back to the question
about segregation and resourcing all of our schools fairly.
To investigate what resources our schools need I would ask the stakeholders. This would allow
the board of education to fully understand the unique needs of each school and allocate
11. If you could do three things to improve Durham Public Schools, what would they be?
The first thing I would do to improve Durham Public schools be to make parent, teacher, and
youth engagement a regular part of school and school system decision-making. Truly
strengthening school-based management through effective School Improvement Teams made
up of students, parents, administrators, and community representative. Unfortunately, not all
schools use School Improvement Teams as they should. These councils need to have real
decision-making power; they should do more that just “advise.” We have the mechanism in
place. Now we just need to improve it.
Second, I would bring back the teacher mentorship program that was phased out in the last few
years of budget cuts. Good teachers are the lifeblood of strong schools and again and again I
have heard from high-performing educators that the teaching mentor program was key to their
success and their decision to stay in Durham Public Schools.
Third, I would deepen the partnership between DPS and pre-k early literacy programs. Too
often children are already behind when they arrive in our kindergarten classrooms. By the time
our students reach high school, the problem has often deepened leading to increased
suspension and drop out rates. We can avoid problems that are a decade away by ensuring all
our students have a strong educational foundation.
12. Please describe your educational background, noting any degrees and honors you have
earned. (skip if resume included)
13. Do you have children? Where do they or did they attend school?
I do not have any children, however the children I work with in the McDougald Terrace
neighborhood attend DPS schools including Bethesda and Hillside.
14. Please describe your adult employment history (skip if resume included)
Sendolo W. Diaminah
ORGANIZING & LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE
2014-Present Community Organizing Trainer, Black Organizing for Leadership & Dignity
• Preparing curriculum for three community organizing training retreats
• Coaching participants
• Coordinating the training team (DP, Somatic practitioners,
• Managing logistics of training with assistance (transportation, housing,
food, payments, materials, etc)
• Evaluations and assessments of participants regularly
• Coordinating with participating organizations and supervisors
• Provide training (Political Ed) for the Directors track as well. This can be
done as a full time training team member of Directors track or as a
consultant for a specific period.
2011-2014 Community Organizer, People’s Durham Neighborhood Project Durham, NC
Since January of 2011 I have been the organizer for PD’s base-building work
in McDougald Terrace, the largest public housing community in the city and
Lincoln Apartments. This work included:
• Developing and implementing outreach plans
• Leading residents of Lincoln Apartments in campaign to delay unfair
evictions and get city resources for relocation
• Leading delegations to prevent unfair evictions
• Research on public housing history & organizing, resident rights
• Supporting and supervising organizers-in-training
• Resident leadership development & political education
• Working with other PD organizers to develop annual “Freedom Summer
School” political education and organizing skill trainings for member
2008-2011 Community Organizer, People’s Durham Education Organizing Durham, NC
February—June 2010 the Umbrella Coalition waged a successful campaign in
Durham County to protect 185 teaching jobs from budget cuts. My work
• Identifying coalition partners and their specific roles in building towards a
April 30th rally at the county building
• Developing state, county and school budget research and trainings with
Together NC Coalition
• Facilitating coalition meetings around campaign strategy and demands
• Preparing members for negotiations with elected officials
• Preparing members for public speaking and media work
• Helping plan and facilitate town halls and community forums on the
budget that included public officials and community members
2008-Present Admin. & Leadership Coordinator, People’s Durham Durham, NC
In addition to my organizer role, I have been responsible for leading People’s
Durham’s organizational development work including:
• Facilitating the organization’s planning processes & developing
organizational structure proposals
• Facilitating lead organizer meetings
Sendolo W. Diaminah
• Coordinating evaluation of organizers
• Working with fiscal sponsor and bookkeepers to oversee organizational
finances and budget
2008-2011 NC State Advisor, Southerners On New Ground Durham, NC
SONG is a regional organization that builds the leadership of Southern LGBTQ
people and connecting issues work across lines of race, class, gender, culture
and immigration. My work includes:
• Supporting the development of the NC state membership infrastructure
• Working with E.D. to develop chapter organization model
• Guiding chapter visioning processes
• Supporting local leaders in event planning
• Providing trainings on campaign development
2007-2008 Rank-and-File Labor Organizer Raleigh, NC
In the absence of official union representation I successfully organized my co-
workers at the Microtel Inn & Suites around unfair firings, stolen wages, and
establishing a standardized wage structure. My work included:
• Building unity between co-workers over issues of race and immigration
• Negotiating demands with management
• Researching NC labor laws
2004-2007 Campus Organizer, ALL CITY New York, NY
ALL CITY focused on the political education and organizing of college students
and workers at the City University of New York (CUNY). My work required:
• Planning and facilitating weekly popular education sessions
• Organizing student and youth conference attended by 100 people
• Organizing outreach and planning meetings for CUNITY, a coalition of
groups organizing against tuition hikes
• Facilitating workshops on the NY state Campaign for Fiscal Equity case
about public school funding to New York City.
1998-2004 Leader, Ujima Project Kalamazoo, MI
Focusing on cultural work, the Ujima Project worked with Black youth and low-
income families to navigate and challenge the public school system. My roles
ranged from mentoring to dance instruction to door-to-door canvassing.
SKILLS & KNOWLEDGE
Team Leadership & Group Facilitation
• One-on-one leadership development and support
• Moving groups through visioning, analysis, and campaign development processes
• Developing and supporting leaders in developing and carrying out work plans,
including sustainability elements
• Identifying the skills and developing work niches for team members
• Conflict resolution
Base-Building & Leadership Development
• Outreach and leadership identification
• Leadership training for new members and experienced organizers
Strategy & Campaign Development
• Campaign development, Umbrella Coalition (2010), Lincoln Campaign (2012)
Sendolo W. Diaminah
• Strategic planning participant & consultant, Southerners On New Ground (2009)
Popular & Political Education
• Curriculum development for Grassroots Global Justice “Left Strategy School” (2011)
• Curriculum development for People’s Durham six-month study group process (2008-09)
• Program planning for Revolutionary Work In Our Times Conference (2009), a multi-
organization collaborative project that attracted 200 participants
• Curriculum Development with the Brooklyn chapter of Malcolm X Grassroots
• Education policy
• NC School Board, City, County, and State Budget policy
• City & State power structure
• Political Economy & Social Theory
• Social Movement History
• African Diaspora in the Americas
EDUCATION & TRAINING
2013-2014 Somatics & Trauma Six-Month Course on healing impacts of trauma
2012 BOLD Executive Director’s Year-long Training & Mentorship Program
2010 Movement Generation’s Ecology & Social Justice Course
2004-2006 City University of New York, Hunter Honors College
H.S. Diploma Kalamazoo Central High School
ADDITIONAL WORK EXPERIENCE
• Server, Elmo’s Diner (2008-2009)
• Night Auditor, Microtel Inn & Suites (2007-2008)
• Front Desk & Custodial Staff, International Student Center (2006-2007)
• 2012 Indy Citizen Award as organizer for People’s Durham’s campaign against
evictions at Lincoln Apartments
• 2012 Louis Burnham Award for racial justice work in the South
• 2013 BWFJ Self-Determination Award for work at Lincoln Apartments and McDougald