Donald Hughes 2014 PA-PAC Questionnaire


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Donald Hughes, candidate for Durham School Board of Education District 2, 2014 People's Alliance PAC Questionnaire

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Donald Hughes 2014 PA-PAC Questionnaire

  1. 1. PA-PAC Questionnaire for Durham Public School Board of Education 2014 When answering this questionnaire, please repeat the questions in your response document with their numbers as they are organized here. Type your responses in italics or a different font to distinguish your responses from the questions. Please return the completed form along with your resume describing education, work history, community service and prior political experience AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, but by March 14, 2014 at the latest. Please answer concisely if possible. email responses to Please note that following the above deadline, the Durham People’s Alliance PAC may publish your responses to this questionnaire and your resume. Thank you for completing this questionnaire and your willingness to serve the people of Durham. Candidate Name: Donald A. Hughes Address: 1005 N. Roxboro Street, Durham, NC 27701 E-mail address: Phone: (919) 578-5711 School Board 1. Why do you want to serve on the Durham Public School Board of Education? What is the role of a board member? I am running for Durham School Board because I believe our community’s future depends on our ability to create great schools that educate all students. Education is a key component to creating healthy, safe, and thriving communities. As a native of Durham and product of the public schools system, I believe in the power of public schools to transform lives and communities and want to be an active part of Durham’s continued transformation. The role of a board member is to work with other board members, the superintendent and administration, parents, students, teachers and community members to set policies that support the school system’s mission of providing “all students with an outstanding education that motivates them to reach their full
  2. 2. potential and enables them to discover their interests and talents, pursue their goals and dreams, and succeed in college, in the workforce and as engaged citizens.” In addition to setting district policies, board members should provide oversight of the superintendent and administration, serve as advocates for public schools, and most importantly represent the values of the community they represent as it relates to the creation of an effective public education system that prepares students for productive lives. 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 hiring of a new superintendent will possibly be one of the new board’s most important first decisions. Four years ago, I urged the board to conduct the final interviews in a public meeting ( education/board-meeting-minutes/Minutes_signed_03.25.10.pdf). The board ultimately chose to go with a closed process in which the public was informed of the selection of the new superintendent only hours before the new superintendent’s contract was approved. I would renew my call for an open process that affords the community the opportunity to meet and ask questions, either directly or indirectly, of the finalists. The new superintendent should have a strong record of success in terms of student achievement, community engagement and financial management. Durham Public Schools needs a leader that the community can have faith in and will serve as a vocal supporter of public education. 3. How should teachers and administrators be evaluated? Are the current state standards effective? Evaluations of teachers and administrators are necessary and will help us determine what is working and what is not working as we seek to create a world- class public education system. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has developed a statewide evaluation process that seeks to: • Serve as a measurement of performance for individual teachers; • Serve as a guide for teachers as they reflect upon and improve their effectiveness; • Serve as the basis for instructional improvement;
  3. 3. • Focus the goals and objectives of schools and districts as they support, monitor, and evaluate their teachers; • Guide professional development programs for teachers; • Serve as a tool in developing coaching and mentoring programs for teachers; • Enhance the implementation of the approved curriculum; and • Inform higher education institutions as they develop the content and requirements for teacher training programs. If the evaluation system adheres to the goals listed above, I am confident that we can continue improve the delivery of public education in our community. Having no direct experience with teacher or administrator evaluations, I look forward to hearing directly from teachers and administrators about this process before making a determination about the effectiveness of the current standards. 4. How should students be assessed? What role should standardized tests play in evaluating students? Standardized tests have a place in public education. They allow us to measure achievement in basic competencies. Standardized testing, however, may be harming our students. Students are spending more time preparing for tests than actually learning and applying what they have learned to real world situations. Standardized tests should be used as tools to determine where to direct resources in order to ensure that we are providing every student with a world-class education. Standardized tests should not be used to punish students (by preventing them from passing a grade or graduating) or label them as failing or low performing. 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? Many Durham Public Schools have, in fact, become segregated by socioeconomic status and race. There are some schools within the district that have student populations upwards of 90% African-American and Hispanic. Our community is rich in diversity and the composition of our schools should reflect our community’s rich diversity. Magnet schools have been great assets to our community and have aided in the creation of diverse schools, but we must continue working in this area. School leaders should explore new options for magnet schools and other programs that will attract diverse student populations to all our schools. Having worked for a
  4. 4. technology company and served as a member of the Durham Workforce Development Board for the last four years, I have a great understanding of emerging industries and the interest in these industries by students of all races. My first-hand experience in this sector will allow me to provide thoughtful insights as the board works to address the issue of diversity in our schools. 6. Does DPS need to make changes to its school suspension policy? If so, what changes would you work for as a Board Member? Durham Public Schools absolutely needs to make changes to its school suspension policy. Currently, students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately suspended and harmed by the system’s discipline policies. Students that are suspended from school are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, and eventually come into contact with the criminal justice system. The cost to society of students dropping out and entering the criminal justice system is much greater than the cost of exploring restorative alternatives to suspensions that seek to keep students in schools and classrooms rather than on the streets unsupervised. Over the last few months, I have worked with the school system as a facilitator at a series of public meetings seeking to gather community input about the district’s suspension issue and develop solutions for more effective disciplinary policies. As a member of the Board of Education, I would work to implement a restorative discipline program that focuses on prevention of conflict and misbehaviors that often lead to suspensions. Restorative practices that actively engage students in the process have proven extremely effective in reducing suspensions in other school districts and are worth exploring in Durham Public Schools. In addition to implementing a restorative discipline program, I would work with board members to pass a resolution calling for an end to suspensions except when the offense threatens school safety and is a matter of state law. 7. What is your opinion about the Charter School movement? Like traditional public schools, there are great charter schools and there are not-so- great charter schools. Charter schools can, if done right, provide an alternative for students and families that may not find success in traditional public schools. However, there are many charter schools that place profits ahead of students and do not contribute to the positive growth of students in our community. Understanding the political reality in North Carolina, we must continue to advocate for controlled and smart growth of charter schools while also seeking to build bridges with charter school leaders in our community. Education leaders from
  5. 5. traditional public schools and charter schools must come together to share ideas and successful models for improving student achievement, particularly for those students that are at the greatest risk for low achievement and dropping out. 8. What is your opinion about school vouchers? I am sympathetic to the concerns of parents who feel as though public schools are not meeting the needs of their children, but school vouchers can be problematic for our community. While sympathetic to these concerns of parents who do not feel like their children are being served by public schools, taking money from public schools in order to allow a few students the opportunity to attend private schools is not a sound or sustainable strategy. School vouchers threaten the foundation of public education in our state and ultimately compromise our community’s future. Durham Public Schools should continue opposing “any vouchers, tax credits or education savings accounts that would divert both funding and community support from public schools that are subject to State Board of Education authority.” Instead of cutting public education funding, state leaders should commit to working with local public school leaders to create world-class schools that prepare students for college, careers, and lives as productive members of society. 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? The challenge of addressing the needs of students who are at risk for low achievement and dropping out is one that is not limited to only the school system. This is a challenge that our entire community must address. One facet of this issue relates to the district’s suspension and discipline policies and practices. As noted in a previous answer, many students are suspended for behaviors and indiscretions that are often minor infractions. Research shows that suspended students are more likely to repeat a grade and eventually drop out of school. We must do more to keep students in our schools and not on our streets. Another part to this issue is related to school funding. Students at risk for low achievement and dropping out need more support, not let support, in order to be successful in our school system. With cuts to public education funding, priorities and resources are often shifted away from those programs and personnel essential to supporting these students. We must, in the wake of these cuts, develop new partnerships and strengthen existing partnerships with community organizations that serve students who are at risk for low achievement and dropping out.
  6. 6. Finally, I would urge the administration to aggressively research curriculums, programs and strategies employed by other school districts that have resulted in measurable gains in achievement for students who are at risk for low achievement and dropping out. After identifying successful approaches for addressing the needs of these, Durham Public Schools should develop a comprehensive strategic plan that creates a roadmap and foundation for improving student achievement, reducing dropouts, and assisting our most at-risk students. 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? There is often a negative perception of Durham and Durham schools that lead some parents to take their children out of the public schools or don’t choose them at all. To address this issue, we should develop a positive media campaign that highlights the district’s achievements and benefits of public schools to our community. This campaign does not necessarily have to cost the school system significant resources, if we rely on proven social media tactics, earned media opportunities and partnerships with public and private organizations (businesses that benefit from great schools, city and county resources, national nonprofits) that may be able to equally contribute to this effort. We should also use local community and business leaders, athletes, celebrities and other products of public schools as ambassadors and stars of this campaign. In addition to the negative perception of Durham and Durham schools, some parents have had bad experiences with the school system—bullying, suspensions, and conflicts with administrators—that have led them to make the decision to remove their children from the public schools system. We must be sure that there is an effective system in place to receive concerns from parents who are considering removing their children from Durham Public Schools and that this system is responsive to the concerns expressed by these parents. 11. If you could do three things to improve Durham Public Schools, what would they be? -Increase communication and partnerships with community organizations working to improve literacy, student achievement, and reduce the “school-to-prison” pipeline. -Aggressively seek additional sources of funding (grant/foundation funding, public/private partnerships) to explore innovative programs and approaches to improve student achievement and reduce the dropout rate.
  7. 7. -Keep teachers, teacher assistants and support personnel in our schools and classrooms. Budget cuts have made it difficult to keep important staff in our schools and have contributed to larger class sizes, less support for our most needy students and low employee morale. As a member of the board, I would meet with and lobby members of our state legislature and Congress to protect public education funding. Additionally, I would work with the administration to develop a plan for seeking new sources of funding (grants, foundation support and partnerships with businesses) to free funds in the school system’s budget that will allow us to keep teachers, teacher assistants and other important support personnel in our schools and classrooms. Personal Information 12. Please describe your educational background, noting any degrees and honors you have earned. (skip if resume included) -B.A. Economics from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (2010) -Master of Public Administration from North Carolina Central University, Cum Laude (2012) 13. Do you have children? Where do they or did they attend school? I do not have children. 14. Please describe your adult employment history (skip if resume included) I have worked in online advertising with a local advertising agency since 2010.