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Lisa Gordon Stella 2014 PA-PAC Questionnaire


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Lisa Gordon Stella, candidate for Durham School Board of Education District 3, 2014 People's Alliance PAC Questionnaire

Lisa Gordon Stella, candidate for Durham School Board of Education District 3, 2014 People's Alliance PAC Questionnaire

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  • 1. Lisa Gordon Stella PA-PAC Questionnaire for Durham Public School Board of Education 2014  
  • 2. 1 1. Why do you want to serve on the Durham Public School Board of Education? What is the role of a board member? My  first  reason  for  wanting  to  serve  on  the  Durham  Board  of  Education  is   that  I  believe  very  strongly  that  every  child  in  our  community  should  have   access  to  an  excellent  education;  and  second,  I  want  to  help  shape  the  policies   that  further  this  goal  by  being  a  member  of  the  Board  that  selects  our  next   Superintendent,  perhaps  the  most  important  hiring  decision  facing  our  school   community  today.   Board  members’  roles  are  outlined  in  the  District  Policies,  Series  1000.     Among  their  responsibilities,  board  members  are  charged  with  electing  a   superintendent  and  school  personnel,  evaluating  the  superintendent,   supporting  employment  of  those  best  qualified  to  serve  the  schools,  and   exercising  leadership  and  direction  in  reaching  the  highest  educational  goals.     Importantly,  board  members  must  also  consider  and  act  on  the  budget,  and  be   able  to  devote  sufficient  time  to  the  requirements  for  school  board  service.   My  leadership  experience  as  the  President  and  Vice-­‐President  of  non-­‐profits   and  school  boards  has  prepared  me  for  the  role  and  responsibilities  required  for   serving  on  the  Durham  School  Board.      I  have  experience  hiring  and  evaluating   school  leadership  and  putting  the  needs  of  students  first.    In  addition,  I’ve  run  a   business,  served  as  General  Counsel  to  a  corporation.    At  Maureen  Joy  Charter   School  and  the  non-­‐profit  board  on  which  I  serve,  I  am  charged  with  evaluating   and  approving  the  budget.    When  I  vote  to  approve  a  DPS  budget,  you  can  be   confident  that  it's  because  I’ve  pored  over  it  line  by  line  and  that  I  am  fulfilling   my  fiduciary  duty  of  ensuring  that  taxpayer  dollars  are  being  spent  responsibly.      If  elected  I  plan  to  make  service  to  the  board  a  full  time  endeavor.      Given   the  many  challenges  and  changes  facing  our  schools  district,  coupled  with  the   search  for  a  Superintendent,  I  believe  it  is  critical  for  board  members  to  be   prepared  and  able  to  devote  significant  time  to  school  board  service.           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? We  have  the  opportunity  to  transform  Durham  Public  Schools  with  the   selection  of  the  new  superintendent.    Durham’s  public  schools  are  facing   numerous  challenges  as  a  result  of  changing  demographics  and  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.    This  is  how  I  envision  the  selection  process:  
  • 3. 2   1. Conduct  a  National  or  Regional  Search  to  have  the  most  qualified  pool  of   applicants.     2. Hold  Community  Input  Forums  around  Durham  so  that  the  community  can   voice  its  vision  and  needs.    The  locations  and  format  of  such  meetings   should  be  designed  to  get  the  maximum  true  feedback  from  all  members  of   the  community.     3. Reach  Out  to  Education  and  Community  Leaders  for  their  input  and   guidance.     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.     2. Understands  the  Durham  community,  its  challenges,  and  its  history  and   believes  in  true  community  engagement.     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.    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  valuing  their  expertise  and   understanding  of  how  best  to  educate  our  students.     6. Committed  to  creating  a  culture  that  values  service  to  parents  and  students   as  well  as  from  our  Central  Office/administration  to  our  schools.       7. 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,   utilizes  procedures  to  increase  performance  or  separates  poorly   performing  staff.     8. Committed  to  fiscal  responsibility  and  transparency.    Will  openly  share   information  with  the  school  board  and  any  budget  advisory  committee.    
  • 4. 3 9. Committed  to  creating  and  fostering  a  culture  throughout  DPS  that  values   honest  feedback,  thoughtful  yet  timely  decision-­‐making,  best  practices  and   creativity  in  approaching  challenges.    Mistakes  and  undesired  outcomes   must  be  openly  recognized,  critically  examined,  understood  and  addressed.     10. Committed  to  regular  evaluation  of  all  existing  programing  to  best  identify   what  works  and  what  does  not.    Will  not  allow  new  programming  to  be   added  before  eliminating  those  programs  that  are  not  serving  their   purpose.       3. How should teachers and administrators be evaluated? Are the current state standards effective? The  current  state  standards  are  not  an  effective  tool  for  evaluating  teachers   and  administrators.      We  need  to  have  meaningful  evaluations  designed  to  help   our  teachers  and  administrators  grow  and  succeed.    The  goal  of  evaluating   teachers  and  administrators  should  be  to  support  their  professional  growth.     Teachers  should  be  regularly  observed  by  an  individual  with  a  teaching   background.    The  evaluator  should  meet  with  the  teacher  and  provide  feedback   from  the  observation.    In  addition,  evaluators  should  provide  teachers  with   feedback  on  lesson  plans,  and  help  develop  tailored  professional  development   for  the  teacher.    Teacher  evaluations  should  also  include  input  from  parents,   students,  other  teachers,  administrators,  and  staff.    The  evaluation’s  purpose  is   to  provide  the  teacher  with  clear  information  and  direction  for  growth.    At   Maureen  Joy  Charter  School  where  I  serve  as  Vice-­‐President  of  the  Board,  we   have  created  teacher-­‐leader  positions  called  Academic  Deans.  Leaders  in  this   position  teach  a  class,  and  then  spend  the  rest  of  their  day  observing  with  other   teachers  in  the  building,  reading  and  giving  feedback  on  lesson  plans,   developing  internal  benchmarks,  and  developing  tailored  professional   development.  Because  of  this  new  role,  all  teachers  are  now  observed  weekly   and  get  actionable  feedback  that  promotes  their  development.         Teachers  should  also  be  required  to  complete  professional  development   activities  each  year  that  center  on  their  discipline  so  that  they  are  not  using   dated  teaching  techniques  or  out  of  date  information.      Teachers  should  be   directed  towards  professional  development  that  meets  their  specific  needs  and   growth  objectives.    Teachers  should  submit  a  plan  as  to  how  they  will  apply  in   the  classroom  what  they  have  learned  from  their  professional  development.       This  too  should  be  part  of  the  teacher’s  evaluation.       Administrators  should  primarily  be  evaluated  on  how  effectively  they   support  faculty  and  are  able  to  maintain  a  positive  learning  environment  for   students  and  a  supportive  environment  for  teachers.      As  part  of  their  
  • 5. 4 responsibilities,  administrators  should  stay  up  with  best  practices  in  other   schools,  especially  in  schools  that  have  proven  records  of  student  achievement.   As  the  head  of  the  Personnel  Committee  at  Maureen  Joy,  I  have  been  part  of  the   team  that  evaluates  the  Principal.    In  addition  to  using  the  State  evaluation,  we   supplement  those  tools  with  a  staff  survey  as  well  as  feedback  from  our  board.       When  we  conduct  our  evaluation,  our  goal  is  to  provide  meaningful  feedback   and  set  goals  for  improvement.       4. How should students be assessed? What role should standardized tests play in evaluating students?     As  a  parent  I  watch  my  children  learn  and  grow  but  want  to  be  sure  they  are   on  the  right  track  to  succeed  and  be  prepared  academically.      Students  need  to   be  assessed  to  ensure  that  they  are  learning  and  are  on  the  path  to  becoming   critical  thinkers.    Many  students  struggle  to  read  for  a  variety  of  reasons  and  we   must  be  able  to  catch  learning  problems  early  so  that  a  child  does  not  fall   significantly  behind  or  suffer  emotionally  from  their  learning  struggles.    Other   students  become  bored  in  classrooms  that  are  not  engaging  or  challenging   enough  to  help  them  grow  academically.    At  the  same  time,  standardized  testing   is  often  ineffectual  and  counterproductive,  creating  anxiety  for  parents  and   students  while  not  actually  measuring  what’s  important.    Standardized  tests  do   play  a  role  in  identifying  some  measurements  of  academic  ability  such  as  basic   levels  of  reading  comprehension  and  knowledge  of  core  mathematical  and   science  concepts.      At  the  same  time,  the  limitations  of  standardized  testing  must  be   considered.    A  classroom  or  school  that  is  hyper-­‐focused  on  the  results  of  these   tests  can  be  ineffectual  and  counterproductive  and  can  create  anxiety  for   parents  and  students,  yet  still  fail  to  measure  critical  student  strengths  and   weaknesses.    Additionally,  these  tests  can  negatively  impact  the  pedagogy  in  the   classroom,  promoting  memorization  and  rote  learning  over  creativity  and   critical  thinking.         For  these  reasons,  it  is  important  that  we  reduce  our  dependence  on   standardized  tests  for  students  and  instead  cede  more  evaluative  authority  to   teachers.    There  are  many  ways  to  evaluate  students-­‐-­‐written  exams,  oral   presentations,  project  design  and  completion,  service  learning  in  the   community,  etc.    If  we  are  to  move  to  a  model  that  puts  assessments  in  the  hands   of  our  teaching  professionals,  we  must  make  certain  that  teachers  are  equipped   with  the  most  current  evaluative  tools  and  methods.  Each  school  should  also   employ  a  strong  testing  specialist,  someone  who  is  on  top  of  best  practices  in   student  testing.    A  student  assessment  model  that  relies  more  on  teachers  and   less  on  standardized  exams  could  go  a  long  way  to  understanding  our  students  
  • 6. 5 and  helping  them  achieve,  but  at  its  core,  our  teachers  will  need  more  support   and  expertise  on  effective  student  assessment.     We  also  need  to  be  sure  that  changes  to  testing  do  not  result  in  more   students  moving  from  grade  to  grade  without  real  learning.    As  the  Program   Director  for  Truancy  Court,  I  regularly  see  students  in  middle  and  high  school   that  are  academically  performing  well  below  grade  school  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  concepts  in  math  and  science  and  without  the  necessary   interventions  in  place  to  help  them  academically.    It  is  important  that  in  our   efforts  to  reduce  the  reliance  on  standardized  testing  and  testing  generally  that   we  are  ever  more  mindful  of  the  need  to  help  and  support  our  struggling   students.       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? The  segregation  of  Durham  schools  by  race  and/or  socioeconomic  status  is   troubling  and  hurts  students  of  all  backgrounds.    While  school  policy  and   strategic  planning  can  play  a  role  in  de-­‐segregating  our  schools,  there  are  many   other  factors  that  impact  segregation  that  are  beyond  the  control  of  our  school   board  such  as  housing  patterns.    Nevertheless,  Board  members  should  be   conscious  of  this  evolution  and  whenever  possible  explore  and  adopt  policies   that  further  desegregation.     Not  only  should  we  take  steps  to  change  laws,  regulations,  and  funding  to   promote  de-­‐segregation,  we  must  also  counteract  the  negative  effects  of   segregation.    Segregation  is  not  merely  physical  separateness.    Segregation  cuts   students  off  from  parts  of  society  they  must  learn  to  navigate  in  order  to  attend   college,  obtain  meaningful  employment,  and  be  engaged  citizens.    Therefore,  we   must  deliberately  connect  students  to  the  society  beyond  segregated  schools  and   communities.    Children  in  high-­‐poverty  segregated  schools  need  opportunities   middle-­‐class  children  take  for  granted.    It  is  vital  that  our  school  culture  is   caring  while  maintaining  high  expectations,  with  access  to  healthy  food,  music   lessons,  art  programs,  safe  recreational  space,  and  travel  opportunities.       We  should  consider  adopting  policies  that  connect  less  integrated  schools   with  those  that  are  more  diverse.    Above  all,  school  board  members  must   institute  policies  that  focus  on  ensuring  that  every  child  regardless  of  race  or   socioeconomic  status  has  available  to  them  an  excellent  public  education  that   includes  an  understanding  of  the  opportunities  that  exist  in  our  diverse  world.  
  • 7. 6 6. Does DPS need to make changes to its school suspension policy? If so, what changes would you work for as a Board Member? I  strongly  believe  that  DPS  desperately  needs  to  change  its  policies  and   practices  in  addressing  school  discipline  and  suspension.    In  December,  I  served   as  a  facilitator  at  the  series  of  community  conversations  on  the  discipline  and   suspension  issue  DPS  held,  which  gave  me  the  opportunity  to  listen  directly  to   parents  and  concerned  citizens.    I  also  attended  a  showing  of  the  School  to   Prison  Pipeline,  a  documentary  on  North  Carolina  Schools,  which  highlighted   the  criminalizing  of  student  behavior  and  the  devastating  impacts  it  has  on  our   students  and  community.    Many  of  our  students  and  families  feel  alienated  from   our  education  system.    And,  all  too  often  typical  student  behavior  is  criminalized   causing  students  to  be  pushed  out  of  our  education  system  and  into  the  criminal   justice  system.    This  has  to  stop.    It  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  serious  personal  and  family  challenges  daily,  including   homelessness,  domestic  violence,  gang  violence,  neglect,  disabilities,  mental   health  issues  and  hunger.    When  these  students  come  to  school,  often  they  are   not  ready  to  learn  and  are  more  likely  to  act  out  and  be  suspended  or  become   court  involved.    I  have  set  forth  my  specific  proposals  on  this  how  we  must   rethink  student  discipline  on  my  website,  which  includes  the  following:       1. Promote  strong  support  services.    This  begins  with  excellent   leadership  and  a  clear  understanding  of  the  problems  and  a  clear   strategy  for  addressing  the  issues.    Only  by  engaging  directly  with   community  and  family  members  will  we  find  out  the  true  needs  of  the   students.       2. Emphasize  and  fund  restorative  Justice  programs.    Programs  like   Truancy  Court,  Peer  Mediation,  and  Peaceful  Schools  can  reduce  and   prevent  suspensions.    These  programs  only  work  if  they  are  properly   staffed,  funded,  executed  and  evaluated.         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.    This  is  critical  to  the  success  of  many  of  our   most  at-­‐risk  students.     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  in  order  to  be  successful  in  school.  
  • 8. 7   6. Support  our  teachers  by  having  effective  evidence-­‐based  programs  in   place  for  students  engaged  in  disruptive  behavior.    While  the  student   may  leave  the  class,  we  need  to  keep  the  child  in  the  school.     7. Re-­‐examine  Lakeview  to  see  if  it  is  serving  its  purpose.    Provide  these   students  with  true  wrap-­‐around  services  while  still  educating  them.     Don’t  let  it  continue  as  little  more  than  a  holding  cell  for  many   students.     8. Mandate  proper  training  for  SRO  officers  on  how  to  treat  children.     Children  are  not  just  smaller  adults,  they  are  organically  different.     9. Ensure  that  the  SRO  officers  and  principals  communicate.      Students   should  not  be  arrested  for  something  at  school  without  principal   involvement.       10. Cultivate  creativity  in  finding  ways  to  hold  students  accountable  for   their  mistakes  while  not  suspending  them  from  school.     7. What is your opinion about the Charter School movement? I  currently  serve  as  the  Vice-­‐President  of  Maureen  Joy  Charter  School   located  in  East  Durham  and  in  my  eight  years  of  board  service,  I  have  learned  a   tremendous  amount  about  education.    As  a  board  member,  I  have  been   integrally  involved  in  the  selection  and  review  of  the  school’s  leadership,  its   mission  and  overseeing  its  finances.    I  have  used  my  position  to  hire  and  support   strong  school  leadership  singularly  focused  on  the  needs  of  its  students  and   dedicated  to  the  belief  that  every  child  can  succeed.    As  the  head  of  the  school’s   Personnel  Committee,  I  am  charged  with  ensuring  the  Principal  receives   meaningful,  comprehensive  annual  reviews  which  includes  input  from  all  those   who  work  at  the  school.    I  also  address  all  human  resource  matters.    I  review   and  advise  on  organizational,  policy,  and  instructional  changes.    Importantly,  I   regularly  review  and  approve  the  budget  to  ensure  funds  are  spent   appropriately.         Through  my  board  service  at  Maureen  Joy  as  well  as  my  work  with  Durham   Public  Schools  as  the  Truancy  Court  Program  Director,  I  have  come  to  believe   that  continuing  to  engage  in  an  ideological  discussion  regarding  the  propriety   of  charter  schools  in  North  Carolina  will  not  improve  student  education  in   Durham.    Charter  schools  are  now  firmly  rooted  in  the  fabric  of  North  Carolina’s   education  system.    Our  focus  must  shift  to  charter  growth  and  collaboration.    I   voiced  my  views  on  charter  growth  in  opinions  published  in  the  News  &   Observer  on  September  17,  2013  and  the  Herald  Sun  on  January  12,  2014.    I  
  • 9. 8 believe  we  need  excellent  schools  that  serve  all  of  our  children’s  needs  and  that   the  ideological  discourse  is  a  distraction  our  students  can  ill  afford.    Instead,  we   need  to  focus  on  improving  the  education  of  all  our  students  regardless  of  where   they  attend  school.     To  begin,  we  must  be  better  informed  about  the  charter  schools  in  Durham.     An  honest  conversation  requires  we  have  accurate  information  about  Durham’s   charters:         • Durham  charters  primarily  serve  economically  disadvantaged  minority   students.       • Durham  currently  has  10  charters  and  by  Fall  2014  there  will  likely  be  a   total  of  12-­‐13  charters.       • According  to  the  Durham  Public  School  budget,  during  the  2012-­‐2013   school  year,  Durham’s  charters  serve  about  ten-­‐percent  of  Durham’s   student  population  and  receive  four-­‐percent  of  Durham  Public  School’s   budget.       • Charters  do  not  receive  funding  for  facilities  or  for  transportation.       • Most  Durham  charters  provide  free  and  reduced  meals  and  the  majority   provides  students  with  free  bus  transportation.     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  as  a   model  of  how  urban  public  schools  can  provide  a  comprehensive  educational   program  that  put  students  on  a  path  to  college.    The  school  serves  students  that   all  too  often  are  marginalized  in  the  public  education  system.    Maureen  Joy’s   population  is  nearly  all  minority,  with  85%  of  students  receiving  free  or  reduced   meals.    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  breakfast  and  lunch.    But  most   importantly,  Maureen  Joy  students  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  Carolina   Department  of  Public  Instruction  selected  Maureen  Joy  as  one  of  only  six  charter   schools  in  the  state  that  showed  the  ability  to  close  the  achievement  gap  for   students  of  minorities  and  low-­‐income  backgrounds.    Importantly,  Maureen  Joy   has  outperformed  every  school  in  Durham  that  has  65%  or  more  students  who   qualify  for  free  or  reduced  price  lunch.         Maureen  Joy  achieves  these  results  without  a  private  endowment  or  extra   funding.    Instead,  as  a  charter  school,  Maureen  Joy  receives  less  funds  from  DPS   than  traditional  public  schools.    What  Maureen  Joy  is  doing  should  serve  to   inspire  Durham’s  public  schools.    It  shows  that  it  is  possible  to  close  the   achievement  gap  using  already  existing  funding.      What’s  more  is  that  Maureen   Joy  is  doing  exactly  what  charters  were  intended  to  do—be  innovators  of  
  • 10. 9 education  that  result  in  improving  student  education.    While  replication  might   not  be  practicable,  I  believe  that  Durham  Public  Schools  should  look  at  schools   like  Maureen  Joy  and  learn  from  them.    See  what  they  are  doing  and  how  that   might  be  incorporated  into  DPS  schools.    We  must  not  ignore  what’s  working  in   education  because  of  ideological  differences;  instead,  we  must  put  our  children   first.         The  idea  of  charters  and  traditional  school  districts  collaborating  is  gaining   traction.    As  part  of  my  board  service  at  Maureen  Joy,  I  have  spent  the  past  year   working  on  charter  school  collaboration.    This  was  intended  to  be  the  start  of   discussions  that  would  work  towards  DPS  and  the  Durham  charters  entering   into  a  compact.      School  districts  around  the  country  are  exploring  district-­‐ charter  collaboration  and  some  districts,  like  Denver  Public  Schools,  have   entered  into  a  District-­‐Charter  Compact.    Since  Denver,  a  district  with  a  student   population  78%  economically  disadvantaged  and  79%  minority,  entered  into  a   district-­‐compact,  it  has  resulted  in  consistent  student  improvement  year  over   year.    Further,  charters  serve  primarily  economically  disadvantaged  minority   students  and  are  consistently  outperforming  traditional  public  school  in   individual  student  growth.    What’s  more  is  that  Denver  is  actually  reversing   “white  flight”  and  bringing  students  and  families  back  to  the  public  school   system.    At  the  heart  of  the  Denver  system  is  a  commitment  to  three  equities:   equity  of  opportunity,  equity  of  responsibility  and  equity  of  accountability.     While  a  formal  compact  between  DPS  and  Durham  charter  schools  may  be  some   time  off,  there  are  ways  that  DPS  and  the  charters  can  and  should  collaborate  to   create  a  unified  inclusive  education  system.      We  must  make  this  a  priority  and   put  an  end  to  the  ideological  bickering.    Working  collaboratively  rather  than   competitively  we  will  better  serve  our  students  and  our  community.     8. What is your opinion about school vouchers? I  believe  that  vouchers  have  no  place  on  our  public  education  system.    Based   on  my  reading  of  the  law  and  review  of  legal  analysis  of  the  voucher  system   created  by  our  legislators  in  North  Carolina,  I  believe  that  vouchers  are   unconstitutional.    Beyond  that,  vouchers  are  a  terrible  policy  choice  that  will   lead  to  a  less  robust  education  system.    It  will  encourage  the  creation  of  private   schools  that  have  virtually  no  oversight  and  whose  motivations  may  be  less   about  educating  student  and  more  about  profits.    Lawmakers  frustrated  with   aspects  of  our  public  education  system  should  work  with  the  system  finding   ways  to  improve  it  rather  than  abandoned  the  system  through  vouchers.    Far   from  creating  accountability  and  improving  the  education  of  our  students,   vouchers  will  shift  monies  away  from  our  existing  education  system  further   exacerbating  budget  challenges.        
  • 11. 10 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? As  a  board  member,  I  would  act  to  adopt  policies  that  promote  a  strategic,   thoughtful  and  deliberate  approach  to  address  the  needs  of  our  students  at  risk   of  low  achievement  and  dropping  out  of  school.    As  the  Director  of  the  Truancy   Court  program,  my  work  is  dedicated  to  reaching  precisely  those  students.    I   have  hands-­‐on  experience  working  with  at  risk  students  and  their  families  in   dozens  of  schools  across  our  district,  as  well  as  with  administration  and  Central   Office  personnel.    This  broad  perspective  will  inform  my  work  on  the  board  and   will  prepare  me  to  take  a  leadership  role  with  respect  to  decisions  addressing  at   risk  students.     Based  on  my  experience,  to  truly  meet  the  needs  of  our  at  risk  students,  the   Board  needs  to  ensure  that  Student  Support  Services  has  strong  leadership  with   a  clear  strategic  vision.    The  Board  should  expect  the  leadership  to  review  every   program  DPS  currently  has  available  for  these  students.    While  DPS  has  a  slew   of  interventions,  including  SAP  and  CFST,  these  programs  are  currently  not   being  evaluated  in  any  meaningful  way.    Without  effective  program  evaluation,   it  is  impossible  to  know  what  is  and  is  not  working  well  for  our  students  and   why.    We  need  to  create  a  strategic  and  comprehensive  approach  to  understand   exactly  why  certain  programs  are  successful  so  that  we  might  continue  to  fund   these  efforts  and  emulate  their  methods  and  best  practices  where  possible.    For   any  program  that  is  not  working,  we  need  to  understand  the  problems  and   decide  whether  the  program  should  be  discontinued  or  modified.    After  program   evaluations  have  been  completed,  we  must  determine  what  gaps  exist  and   identify  evidence-­‐based  programs  that  can  best  meet  the  needs  of  our  students.     We  must  recognize  that  what  works  in  one  school,  may  not  work  in  another  and   what  works  for  one  student  may  not  work  for  another.    There  is  no  one  size  fits   all  approach.         We  also  need  to  be  sure  that  interventions  take  place  swiftly  and  that   students  not  continue  to  languish  in  the  face  of  information  that  the  child  is  at   risk  of  not  learning  or  that  the  child  is  at  risk  of  dropping  out  altogether.    An   integral  part  of  the  Truancy  Court  program  is  to  identify  and  connect  students   and  families  to  services  both  in  school  and  out  of  school.    In  many  instances  our   at  risk  students  need  interventions  and  referrals  to  outside  services  such  as   mental  health,  behavior  management  or  assistance  for  the  student’s  family.     These  considerations  squarely  fall  within  the  responsibility  of  Student  Support   Services  and  Board  members  must  be  committed  to  bolstering  this  critical  piece   of  the  DPS  system.  
  • 12. 11 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? As  someone  who  falls  in  this  category  (my  husband  and  I  chose  to  remove   our  daughter  from  Githens  Middle  School  after  her  sixth  grade  year)  and  who   has  many  friends  and  neighbors  that  have  made  the  same  difficult  decision  to   leave  Durham  Public  Schools  or  are  reluctant  to  send  their  children  to  Durham   Public  School,  I  have  unique  insight  on  this  issue.         I  received  and  have  always  been  deeply  committed  to  public  school   education.    In  fact,  I  believe  a  successful  public  school  system  is  critical  to  the   economic  success  of  this  region  and  to  the  country  at  large.  That  is  why  I  work   every  day  to  help  Durham  Public  School  students  succeed  as  Director  of  the   Truancy  Court  Program  and  that  is  why  I  am  running  for  School  Board.    That  is   also  why  my  decision  to  pull  my  daughter  out  of  DPS  was  not  made  lightly.    In   fact,  no  parent  I  have  spoken  with  who  has  left  DPS  was  happy  to  do  so.    Each   one  did  so  with  a  heavy  heart  and  is  substantially  sacrificing  by  not  sending   their  children  to  a  Durham  Public  School.       While  I  cannot  speak  for  everyone,  here  is  my  experience  and  what  I  have   learned.    Both  of  my  daughters  began  their  education  at  a  Jewish  day  school   because  I  wanted  them  to  understand  and  be  able  to  connect  to  their  heritage.     My  younger  daughter  is  in  second  grade  and  is  still  in  that  educational  setting.     My  older  daughter  went  on  to  attend  Creekside  Elementary  School,  where  I  was   class  parent  and  provided  support  to  the  school  whenever  possible,  and  then   spent  her  first  year  of  middle  school  at  Githens  Middle  School.     My  daughter’s  sixth  grade  year  proved  to  be  an  incredibly  trying  year  for   her  and  for  us.    My  husband  and  I  watched  as  our  daughter  went  from  a  happy   child  who  loved  school  and  enjoyed  learning,  to  one  who  was  sad,  frustrated  and   not  challenged  academically.    While  we  made  every  effort  to  engage  with  the   school,  administration  and  faculty,  and  make  the  situation  workable,  in  the  end,   we  determined  that  our  daughter’s  educational  needs  could  not  be  met  at   Githens.    I  detailed  our  family’s  experience  in  an  eight-­‐page  letter  to  the  school   board  and  the  superintendent.    My  husband  and  I  struggled  with  what  to  do   after  sixth  grade.    We  are  both  products  of  a  public  school  education  and  always   envisioned  that  was  how  our  children  would  be  educated.    When  our  daughter   did  not  get  into  a  magnet  school,  we  faced  a  difficult  but  inescapable  decision   and  enrolled  her  in  private  school  for  the  remainder  of  middle  school.         Other  parents  have  shared  similar  experiences  with  me.    Many  have  found   that  Durham  public  schools  are  not  responsive  to  parent  concerns  or  student   needs,  that  teachers  are  overworked,  underappreciated,  and  therefore  not  able  
  • 13. 12 to  provide  their  child  with  what  they  need.    (Some  of  my  neighbors  were  told  by   teachers  at  Durham  Public  Schools  that  they  should  put  their  child  in  a  private   school.)    Parents  are  also  concerned  about  safety,  student  discipline,  lack  of   educational  rigor,  poor  performing  schools,  and  the  large  size  of  many  schools   in  Durham.         Parent  concerns  were  also  the  subject  of  a  recent  survey  done  by  charter   schools  in  Durham.    The  charter  schools  survey  asked  their  parents  a  single   survey  question,  “Why  did  you  choose  a  charter  school?”    The  top  ten  answers  in   order  were:  (1)  Smaller  School,  (2)  Safer  Environment,  (3)  Strong  Teachers,  (4)   Innovative  and  Progressive  Curriculum,  (5)  Structure  and  Discipline,  (6)   Challenging  Academics,  (7)  Responsive  to  Parents/Students,  (8)  Less   Bureaucracy,  (9)  Unhappy  with  Prior  School,  and  (10)  Better  Cultural  Diversity.       I  strongly  believe  that  many  families  that  have  chosen  to  leave  DPS  would   love  to  send  their  children  to  our  public  schools.    We  must  do  what  it  takes  to   restore  the  confidence  of  these  families  and  convince  the  community  at  large   that  DPS  schools  are  the  best  place  to  send  their  child  to  be  educated.    I  believe   the  first  step  in  this  process  is  to  select  a  dynamic  superintendent  along  the  lines   I  have  set  out  above.    We  should  also  place  a  high  priority  on  recruiting,  hiring   and  retaining  strong  teachers—making  sure  we  provide  teachers  with   mentoring  programs,  higher  salaries,  meaningful  evaluation  and  professional   development.    Finally,  we  need  a  Support  Service  that  is  strategic  and  dedicated   to  helping  students  with  behavioral  problems  so  that  they  can  get  the  education   they  need  while  not  disrupting  other  students  from  learning.    Parents  want   what  is  best  for  their  children  and  if  they  see  a  school  system  dedicated  to   providing  children  with  a  safe  environment,  satisfied  teachers  and  a  rich   rigorous  curriculum,  parents  will  see  real  change  and  want  to  send  their   children  to  Durham  Public  Schools.       11. If you could do three things to improve Durham Public Schools, what would they be? 1.   Facilitate  system-­‐wide  culture  shift  at  DPS  that  will:     • Change  what  is  driving  the  perception  of  our  school  system  by  truly   improving  our  education  system  at  every  level.       • Create  a  child  and  school  centered  approach  rather  than  a  focus  on   Central  Office.    We  must  recognize  that  our  education  system’s  purpose  is   to  educate  its  students.    Great  teachers  and  principals  are  at  the  heart  of   this  endeavor.    The  school  system  must  focus  on  supporting  them  and   valuing  their  expertise  when  decision  are  made  about  how  to  best   educate  our  students.  
  • 14. 13 • Engage  in  clear,  focused,  and  authentic  communication  with  parents,   students  and  the  community.   • Create  a  unified  school  district  through  collaboration  between  our   traditional  public  schools  and  charter  schools.     2.   Provide  strong  Support  Services  that  will:     • Promote  dynamic  and  committed  leadership  that  understands  the   challenges  facing  our  most  at-­‐risk  students  and  is  dedicated  to  serving   students  swiftly  and  with  a  sense  of  urgency.   • Dedicate  competent  social  workers  in  nearly  every  school.   • Embrace  restorative  justice  models  to  address  behavioral  issues  such  as   peer  mediation,  preventative  mediation,  re-­‐entry  mediation  and  peaceful   schools.     3.   Promote  fiscal  responsibility,  transparency  and  clear  accountability  that   includes:     • The  School  Board  and  top  administrators  to  be  committed  to   understanding  how  public  education  money  is  spent  and  whether  money  is   being  spent  effectively  and  responsibly.    Community  budget  advisory   committee  must  have  complete  access  to  clear  budget  information  for  the   entire  budget.   • Determine  best  practices  and  eliminate  ineffective  procedures.  There   must  be  regular  evaluation  of  all  existing  programing  to  best  identify  what   works  and  what  does  not.    We  should  no  longer  add  new  programming   without  eliminating  those  programs  that  are  not  serving  their  purpose.   • Establish  clear  standards  of  performance  and  meaningful  reviews  of   Central  Office  and  administrative  staff.    We  should  stop  promoting  and   shifting  individuals  who  do  not  perform,  and  instead,  support  improved   performance  or  separate  poorly  performing  staff.   Personal Information 12. Please describe your educational background, noting any degrees and honors you have earned. (skip if resume included)   See  Resume   13. Do you have children? Where do they or did they attend school?
  • 15. 14 Please  see  answer  to  Number  10  above.    I  have  two  daughters.    One   attends  The  Lerner  Jewish  Day  School  and  the  other  now  attends  Carolina   Friends  School.   14. Please describe your adult employment history (skip if resume included)   See  Resume    
  • 16. Lisa Gordon Stella, CV LISA  GORDON  STELLA   4325  Swarthmore  Road   Durham,  N.C.  27707   (919)  274-­‐5719   Email:       EDUCATION     University  of  Minnesota  Law  School,  Minneapolis,  MN     J.D.  1998,  Magna  Cum  Laude,  Order  of  the  Coif     Note  &  Comment  Editor  Minnesota  Law  Review     University  of  California  at  Davis,  Davis,  CA     B.A.  1994,  Political  Science,  Summa  Cum  Laude,  Phi  Beta  Kappa       EDUCATION  AND  BOARD  EXPERIENCE     Program  Director,  In  School  Truancy  Court  (2012-­‐present),  experience  and   responsibilities  include:     1. Recruit  and  Train  25-­‐35  professionals  to  serve  as  truancy  court  judges  in   Durham  Public  Schools,  including  law  professors,  retired  law  enforcement,   attorneys,  mediators,  retired  educators,  and  law  students.   2. Coordinate  and  assign  judges  to  serve  every  Durham  public  school.   3. Supervised  25-­‐35  judges  to  ensure  truancy  court  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  Durham  public  schools  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.   10. Met  and  communicated  with  former  superintendent  Dr.  Becoats  to  improve   truancy  court,  discuss  challenges  at  DPS,  and  assist  with  community   engagement.   11. Present  truancy  court  outcomes  and  experiences  to  the  Durham  Public   School  Board  at  their  Support  Services  work  session.   12. Serve  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,  
  • 17. Lisa Gordon Stella, CV 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.     President,  Elna  B.  Spaulding  Conflict  Resolution  Center,  Durham  (2010-­‐ present),  experience  and  responsibilities  include:     1. Examine,  evaluate  and  approve  budgets.   2. Address  budget  challenges  including  funding  cuts.   3. Creatively  problem-­‐solve  budget  cutbacks,  and  aggressively  identify  and  seek   additional  areas  of  revenue.     4. Lead  productive,  focused  board  meetings.     5. Recruit  board  members.   6. Lead  Board  retreats  for  successful  strategic  planning.   7. Organize  and  coordinate  yearly  fundraisers  that  have  consistently  increased   organizational  visibility  and  donation  base  year  over  year.   8. Engage  with  local  non-­‐profits  to  undergo  Board  review  and  evaluation  to   improve  board  performance,  outreach  and  communication.   9. Co-­‐trainer  of  community  mediators.   10. Train  Peer  Mediators  at  Githens  Middle  School.   11. Meet  with  DPS  Executive  Team  members  to  discuss  implementation  of   additional  restorative  justice  programs  in  Durham  Public  Schools  to  reduce   suspensions  and  behavioral  problems.     Vice  President  and  Board  Member,  Maureen  Joy  Charter  School,  Durham,  NC   (2004-­‐present),  experience  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  time.   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  personnel   matters.   6. Conduct  meaningful  and  comprehensive  annual  reviews  of  the  Principal  that   include  staff  and  teacher  evaluations.   7. Evaluate  and  provide  direction  on  school  policies  and  procedures.   8. Engage  in  strategic  and  long  term  school  planning.   9. Negotiate  the  sale/lease  of  the  Maureen  Joy  Cornwallis  building     10. Review  and  approve  the  purchase  of  the  Maureen  Joy  S.  Driver  Street   campus.  
  • 18. Lisa Gordon Stella, CV 11. Represent  the  Board  in  meetings  with  Durham  Public  Schools  to  discuss   potential  collaborations,  including  meetings  with  DPS  Board  Members  Heidi   Carter  and  Minnie  Forte  Brown.   12. Receive  Board  training  from  the  N.C.  Department  of  Public  Instruction.   13. Designated  as  Board  representative  to  work  with  other  Durham  charters   schools  to  improve  education  and  collaborate  with  Durham  Public  Schools.   14. Initiated  the  Durham  Charter  Collaborative,  where  representatives  from  each   charter  school  in  Durham  meet  monthly  to  discuss  collaboration  among  the   charters  as  well  as  with  Durham  Public  Schools.   15. Organize  the  first  Durham  charter  school  fair  at  Northgate  Mall  to  increase   Latino  and  low-­‐income  student  access  to  charter  schools  in  Durham.   16. Communicate  with  County  Manager’s  office  regarding  charters  and  education   in  Durham,  including  budget,  student  performance  and  finances.     LEGAL  AND  BUSINESS  EXPERIENCE     Mediator  and  Investigator,  Triangle  Mediation  Services,  LLC,  Durham  NC   (2009-­‐present),  experience  and  responsibilities  include:     1. Certified  by  the  Dispute  Resolution  Commission  to  conduct  mediation  in   Superior  Court  matters.   2. Mediate  litigation  pending  in  Superior  Court.   3. Mediated  disputes  pending  in  Criminal  District  Court  in  Durham.   4. Employ  strong  listening  skills,  and  the  ability  to  navigate  differing   personalities  and  communication  styles  to  help  individuals  resolve  their   disputes  peacefully.   5. Train  employees  from  a  variety  of  government  entities  and  non-­‐profits   throughout  the  area  on  mediation  and  communication  skills,  with  a  focus  on   employee/supervisor  relations  and  relations  with  clients  from  low-­‐income   backgrounds.   6. Facilitate  DPS’  Community  Conversations  at  Hillandale  Staff  Development   Center,  Southern  High  School  and  White  Rock  Baptist  Church  in  December   2013.   7. Served  as  Co-­‐Editor  of  “The  Peacemaker,”  the  newsletter  of  the  Dispute   Resolution  Section  of  the  North  Carolina  Bar  Association.   8. Investigate  workplace  discrimination  claims  for  a  variety  of  employers,   including  schools.     Creator  and  Owner,  Kismet  Crackers  LLC,  (2011-­‐2012)   1. Founded  artisan  cracker  company  specializing  in  healthy,  delicious  crackers.   2. Marketed  and  sold  product  to  specialty  food  retailers  and  Whole  Foods   Stores  throughout  the  Triangle.   3. Created  website  and  company  logo.   4. Created  recipes.   5. Performed  all  financial  and  legal  duties.  
  • 19. Lisa Gordon Stella, CV 6. Company  achieved  profitability  in  less  than  one  year.   7. Sold  Company  to  successful  food  entrepreneur  in  the  Triangle     U.S.  Counsel/Corporate  Secretary,  Memscap,  Inc.,  RTP,  NC,  (2006-­‐2009)     1. Advise  company  on  all  legal  matters  in  the  United  States  market.   2. Contract  negotiation  and  drafting,  including  supply  agreements,  intellectual   property  agreements,  and  non-­‐disclosure  agreements.   3. Oversee  compliance  with  state  and  federal  laws.   4. Provide  employee  training  on  employments  laws  and  trade  secret  protection.   5. Provide  litigation  consulting,  support  and  oversight.   6. Draft  all  employee  relation  documents,  including  employee  handbook,   severance  agreements,  non-­‐compete  and  intellectual  property  agreements.       Associate/Of  Counsel,  Nelson,  Mullins,  Riley  &  Scarborough,  LLP,  Raleigh,  NC     (2003-­‐2006)       1. Represent  parties  in  litigation  in  health  care,  employment,  and  general   business  matters.   2. Represent  parents  living  in  Mexico,  Central  American  and  South  American  in   Federal  and  State  courts  throughout  North  Carolina  on  International  Child   Abduction  Matters  on  a  Pro  Bono  Basis.   3. Liaison  with  Legal  Aid  Advocates  for  Children.   4. Draft  Guardian  Ad  Litem  Appeals     Associate,  Kilpatrick  Stockton,  LLP,  Raleigh,  NC  (2001-­‐2003)       1. Represent  parties  in  litigation  matters  in  health  care,  employment,  and   general  business  litigation.   2. Represent  parents  living  in  Mexico,  Central  American  and  South  American  in   Federal  and  State  courts  throughout  North  Carolina  on  International  Child   Abduction  Matters  on  a  Pro  Bono  Basis.       Associate,  Caldwell,  Leslie  &  Proctor,  PLLC,  Los  Angeles,  CA  (1999-­‐2001)     1. Represent  parties  in  litigation  matters  and  international  arbitration.   2. Provide  pro  bono  services  on  a  variety  of  legal  matters.     Law  Clerk,  The  Honorable  Michael  Daly  Hawkins,  Ninth  Circuit  Court  of   Appeals,    Phoenix,  AZ  (1998-­‐1999)                              
  • 20. Lisa Gordon Stella, CV   MEDIATION  CERTIFICATIONS/AFFILIATIONS     DRC  Certified  Superior  Court  Mediator   Community  Mediator,  Conflict  Resolution  Center,  Durham       MEMBERSHIPS/COMMITTEES     Member,  Dispute  Resolution  Section,  NC  Bar  Association  (2009-­‐present)   Member  California  Bar  Association  (1999  to  present)   Member  North  Carolina  Bar  Association  (2002  to  present)   Member,  14th  Judicial  District  Bar  (2006  to  present)     PUBLICATIONS/AWARDS/BOARDS     Author:       In-­‐School  Truancy  Court:  Using  Mediation  to  Address  Truancy  in  Durham,  The   Peacemaker,  February  2013.     Colorado  Republican  Federal  Campaign  Committee  v.  Federal  Election   Commission.:  A  Court  Divided-­‐-­‐One  Opinion  Properly  Subjects  Campaign   Finance  Jurisprudence  to  a  Reality  Check,  81  MINN.  L.  REV.  1565  (1997).     Editor   Peacemaker  Dispute  Resolution  Journal,  2009-­‐2012   Prognosis  Health  Law  Journal,  2002  –  2004     Recipient,     Award  of  Merit,     National  Center  for  Missing  &  Exploited  Children  (2004,  2005,  2006)     Pro  Bono  Award    N.C.  Bar  Association,  Young  Lawyers  Division  (2006)     Scarborough  Award  for  Outstanding  Work  for  the  Poor     Nelson,  Mullins,  Riley  &  Scarborough  (2006)