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
email responses to email@example.com
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: (919) 578-5711
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
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
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
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 (http://www.dpsnc.net/about-dps/board-of-
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
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
• Serve as the basis for instructional improvement;
• 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
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
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
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.
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
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
-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.
-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.
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
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.