1. Why do you want to serve on the Durham Public School Board of Education?
What is the role of a board member?
Durham is my home. My church home, The Summit Church, and family are here.
The economy matters to me.
Schools often weigh heavily in a family’s decision where to live. Durham
Public Schools should be a reason why people associated with the
Triangle’s universities and businesses choose to live here, and why more
companies should want to locate here in Durham. Right now this is not
often the case. As a School Board member, I will offer to partner with our
business community, other educational institutions, and state and local
governments in an effort to make improvements in our performance and
The “achievement gap” matters to me.
A top priority is dramatically improving the educational achievements of
our students, specifically economically challenged students. While many
social factors contribute to this achievement gap, the Board can play a
vital role—in our decisions and our tone. “Pushing kids through” is not
helpful to students, their future, and our community. An unshakeable
commitment to student achievement is needed. This commitment must
begin at the Board and cascade through the administration, teachers,
parents, students, and community. We can and should do better in this
High-achievers in academics, athletics, and the arts matter to me.
A Durham Public School teacher told me of his concern that some high-
achievers plateau after being conditioned to think that exchanging their
potential for mediocrity is okay. This leads to attitudes of “just passing” or
“doing as little as possible to get an A”, which is not in the best interest of
the student, their future, and our community. Teachers and parents should
identify high-achieving students; encourage and build them up, while
helping others become high-achievers, too.
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
Collaborative, with emphasis on similar experience
Through collaboration with the search firm, the Board needs to assess the
skills and experience the candidates have. Given the achievement gaps
so widely discussed, I believe that the best candidates will have
experience in a school system with the socioeconomic characteristics
similar to those found here in Durham.
Financial management, literacy, community outreach
While financial management competency is necessary in the
superintendent’s position, it is equally important that our new
superintendent have significant experience in dealing with low
achievement scores, especially in reading, and in building community
support for the schools and their effort to bring all our children to the
proper level of education they need for their future.
Deliberative process including all stakeholders
The superintendent selection process needs to allow adequate time for
deliberation that includes all relevant stakeholders: administrators,
parents, teachers, community representatives, and new school board
members. The superintendent has a significant impact on the success of
our schools and school children. Working through the process and
listening to the needs of the group will result in a timely execution of this
3. How should teachers and administrators be evaluated? Are the current state
Teachers must be respected as educators and professionals.
Like other professionals, teachers will progress through appropriate
evaluation throughout their careers and be expected to continue their
professional development. At the same time it is the responsibility of the
school system to provide them with appropriate feedback, mentoring and
coaching. The system must provide significant professional development
opportunities for our teachers.
Implementation matters. Let teachers teach—no busy work.
My experience in the professional world has been that most standards,
whether they be for evaluation or otherwise, will work if properly
implemented with meaningful involvement by all levels of management.
Process is key. Our School Board members should attend meetings of the
Durham Association of Educators. Are we holding regular office hours?
Are we looking for every opportunity to lift non-teaching tasks from the
teachers to the Central Office? We should.
4. How should students be assessed? What role should standardized tests
play in evaluating students?
Tests are not everything. Tests are a tool.
Standardized tests, properly used should be a tool for helping insure each
student receives high standards of education. We should use them to
assess needs so that we may better serve them. Take for instance the
new requirement regarding third grade End-of-Grade tests. By accepting
that reading becomes the essential skill to continue learning, we need to
put in place programs that insure our kids can read. Empowering schools
to provide this skill is necessary since there are too many students who do
not pass these tests the first time around. Again, “Pushing kids through” is
Balanced and better evaluations
Focus on standardized tests should not result in squashing the creativity
and ingenuity of a child. Of course, standardized tests must be balanced
with other types of evaluations. For instance, a child may not pass the
reading test, but that does not tell us what method will work best to get
him or her to read. That is the craft of teaching, which we all acknowledge.
Just as in every other profession, practice in your field is required beyond
formal or book learning. This is why retention of experienced and
successful teachers is a key ingredient to improving our schools.
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?
As I alluded to above, this is a key priority. As our schools increase student
achievement and the Board and Superintendent lead the campaign to make the
community aware of our success, then more parents from diverse socioeconomic
statuses will choose to enroll their kids in our schools.
As together we work on those improvements, I will not advocate mandating
where parents send their kids. I believe in maximizing parental choice. We must
understand why many parents believe that the best choice for their child is an
alternative to Durham Public Schools. At the same time we must develop
educational solutions that address the school population we have now while
working towards a better future.
6. Does DPS need to make changes to its school suspension policy? If so,
what changes would you work for as a Board Member?
Yes, and first we need to understand the data.
Durham Public Schools is working on changing its school suspension
policy. Four community meetings were held late last year, but I have not
yet seen a report. Also, we have not seen DPS data on what the reasons
are for suspension, such as fighting, late for school, absences etc. To
develop a new policy, analyzing and understanding this data is essential.
High and consistent standards for student behavior
Disciplinary methods and standards should be applied consistently to all
students. I believe we should remediate student behavior at the school
level, not by sending students home (unless there is a known safety
issue). For those that must be sent home for out-of-school suspensions,
soon, it will be feasible to use alternative methods of learning such as E-
Learning so the suspended student can use time at home or at a public
library to “virtually” attend school. Upon returning to school, he/she will not
be behind in their work.
In all cases, learning from community best practices is important, for
example, observing successes at institutions such as the YMCA could
lead to alternatives in out-of-school suspensions. Ultimately, more rules
and policies won’t solve the central issue, which is the character of the
individual. As leaders, we need to lead by example. As a community we
need to be supportive.
7. What is your opinion about the Charter School movement?
I respect the concerns raised regarding charter schools. With that said…
Maximize choices for parents. Learning best practices through competitive
benchmarking is a principle that I support.
Choice provides an incentive for parents to learn about different school
options and get involved in their child’s education. Our School Board can
learn from the Charter School system, and vice versa. We need to trust
teachers and what they think is best for their classroom; therefore I
advocate for less regulation from the state government, leading to more
opportunity for alternative methods of instructions, classroom organization,
and restructuring course sequence.
Trust teachers. Give parents choices. Give all students a chance for school
8. What is your opinion about school vouchers?
Since there has been an injunction on the Opportunity Scholarship Program, I will
review the voucher program when it is appropriate. At this time the courts have
their foot on the brakes.
Public money is currently given for preschool programs. Public money is given
for private higher education in the form of grants. Therefore, it is philosophically
inconsistent to be for preschool and higher education but against K-12 by saying
it “takes money away from public schools”. However…
Help people reach across aisle
…Being a unifier and not a divider, as a School Board member I will stand with
those who want to meet in the middle and support means-tested, targeted
vouchers for low income families that cannot afford the best school option the
parents determined for their child. My vision is that parents will choose Durham
Public Schools as the best school option for their children. Let’s rally around this
vision. By working together, we can make our local schools the best choice for
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?
Early childhood education is foundational—preschool and kindergarten teachers
are often unsung heroes. At this time I will thank my Pre-K teacher Mrs. Evilsizer
First, this must start with parents either teaching their 3-5 year olds themselves
or giving excellent pre-kindergarten teachers the privilege of doing so. The
learning gap that exists in 1st
grade must change. Ignoring it won’t make it go
Second, we must find ways to train and retain our teachers with the best track
records for achievement with at-risk youth, including incentives.
Third, we must consider the effect that homework to be completed outside of
school can increase the low-achievement risk for some children, as they are
being asked to teach themselves often in challenging situations. Gracious
teachers who sacrifice hours after school tutoring students is a partial remedy. In
addition, a DPS mother of two told me, “After-school daycare programs should
be less about play (video games, etc), and more about helping students practice
what they learned during the day.”
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
Parents want the best for their kids and some have decided that, for their kids,
DPS is not the best choice. It goes a step further—some people decide to leave
Durham County, or choose to never move to Durham in the first place. Hence,
our economy suffers. Durham is the home of two great universities, a vibrant
downtown, and sits adjacent to the nationally famous Research Triangle Park.
My vision is for everyone working in or near Durham will choose to live in
Durham and send their kids to DPS. I have staked my home here and plan to
raise my kids here. DPS will be great for them, and right now I want DPS to be
great for you—that’s my vision.
11. If you could do three things to improve Durham Public Schools, what would
1) Work with the Board to ensure that DPS is defined by all the successful and
innovative programs and results achieved by our hardworking administrators,
teachers, parents, and students. We must have a louder voice than the
2) Increase the number of children in high-quality, pre-kindergarten classes.
3) Retain and recruit excellent teachers, with great emphasis on professional
The future can be bright. I am optimistic and excited about what Durham Public
Schools can become. I look forward to being a part of it.
Vote Jimmy D. “D” is for Durham.
12. Please describe your educational background, noting any degrees and
honors you have earned. (skip if resume included)
• Distinguished college graduate from The Ohio State University, BS
Business Admin, Marketing specialization. 3.9/4.0 major GPA.
• From start to finish, I graduated in less than 3 years.
• Worked in marketing and financial business roles both in international and
• Studied abroad in an Hispanic culture.
• Top-performing Senior Project Case Competition winner.
13. Do you have children? Where do they or did they attend school?
Durham is my home. My church is here. I plan to marry here. I plan to raise our
children here and send them to DPS.
14. Please describe your adult employment history (skip if resume included)
Since college graduation, I work for a hybrid advisory firm as a Business Analyst.
I’ve happily served my community by co-leading a 6:15am high school Bible
Study for high school students in Durham and working in The Summit Church