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:_Matt Sears_______________________________________
Address: ___1505 Blount St. Durham, NC 27707 ____________________
1. Why do you want to serve on the Durham Public School Board of Education? What
is the role of a board member?
1. As a teacher and educational professional focused on public schools, I
believe that it is our duty to fully educate each student, regardless of their level
of need. I want to ensure that all students in DPS have access to the resources
and supports they need to maximize their education.
2. Stagnant wages and reduced support are forcing great educators to leave our
classrooms and preventing talented people from entering the profession. I want
to work to enact local policies and allocate local funding that will support,
respect, and protect DPS teachers.
3. I believe we want dedicated and knowledgeable advocates for public
education on our Board. My work in DPS classrooms and at the state and
national levels gives me the experience and expertise to hire a superintendent, to
hold DPS leadership accountable, and to set policies that are informed by
research, successful models, and emerging innovations.
The role of a Board member is to represent the students, families and residents
of Durham, to hire and supervise a superintendent, and set and monitor policies
that support the mission of DPS. I also think it is a responsibility of a Board
member to increase community engagement with DPS and its schools and staff.
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?
I would like to see DPS spend time and effort to vet the search firms for their
previous successes in bringing talented people to their clients (districts). If this
vetting yields a firm that the Board feels can deliver strong candidates, then DPS
should not simply select the lowest bidder, but invest in the firm that will give us
the best chance for bringing a long-term, successful superintendent to Durham. I
want the Board to engage the community to create a list of qualities of a
successful superintendent and prioritize those qualities. Once those qualities
and priorities are decided, I feel that a closed application, interview, and selection
process gives our community the best chance to attract a talented
Among the qualities I hope the community will identify in partnership with the
The ability to recognize and develop talented principals and central office staff
The ability to effectively supervise/evaluate principals and central office staff
The willingness and ability to engage with community partners that results in
tangible quality outcomes for students
The ability to focus on student achievement and student need by both
addressing immediate needs and long term planning
Is respected by teachers and the community in their current district
3. How should teachers and administrators be evaluated? Are the current state
I was teaching math and computer science at Hillside New Tech when the latest
teacher assessment tool was rolled out. I appreciated the differentiated
categories that showed where I could grow in areas like leadership, teaching
diverse groups of students, etc. Standard 6, however, worries me as it ties a
teacher’s evaluation to how their students perform on exams. While teachers
should be accountable for their students’ success, I am not confident that End of
Course or MSL exams effectively measure learning on their own. Adding student
performance to teacher evaluation can result in teachers focusing too much on
their students’ performance and not enough on the benefits of working as a
whole-school or departmental team. A competency- or standards-based
assessment model would help better measure student performance as it relates
to teacher performance (see Question 4).
I think that the Rubric for Evaluating North Carolina Teachers offers teachers a
quality feedback experience. I view it as a portfolio of work when looking at the
“Examples of Artifacts” section for each standard. I worry, though, that
administrators are charged with too many tasks--being both the instructional
leaders of the school as well as the managers of school operations. The latter
(school operations) is important work, but I think the time it requires can prevent
them from effectively providing teachers with quality walk-through and
observations feedback. I believe the Board needs to engage teachers and
principals to see if they share this sentiment, and to propose policies that could
support quality feedback processes.
Having participated in “360 Degree Evaluations,” where a person is evaluated by
supervisors, peers, and reports, I believe strongly that (if it is not cost-
prohibitive) we can and should use this method to help develop our principals
and identify top talent. Having teachers provide feedback about principal
performance in a confidential way when paired with the principals’ supervisors
will provide the principal the opportunity to grow their practice.
4. How should students be assessed? What role should standardized tests play in
I am excited about the work being done in Colorado and New Hampshire (see
Rose Colby’s work at
competency- and standards-based assessment (I mentioned this in Question 2.).
Explaining to students and families how students are progressing in their
learning of concepts and standards, rather than time-based learning or grade-
based assessment, helps all stakeholders support that student’s growth. In a
competency-based model, students and parents view the student’s progress on
each standard according to a rubric.
Implementing such a program would be long, intensive, and require community
involvement, but would yield such advances in student learning that I would be
willing to lead the board’s investigation into this emerging area of assessment.
Among the benefits are that students cannot simply pass or fail a test and move
on. They must progress and re-focus on areas where they are not proficient.
As I mentioned in Question 3, I am not confident that we effectively measure
student learning with only MSL or End of Course exams. Accountability is
important, but the body of work a student completes during a semester or year
speaks to their learning. If we are resigned to cummulative/summative exams, I
hope we could move to a more measured approach, perhaps looking at the
international exams (like PISA, by which states and our country are measured
against other countries). I also believe strongly that it is time for our schools to
dedicate themselves to measuring the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that
business and industry have dubbed the “21st Century Skills.” While I know that
DPS has pockets of excellence in teaching 21st Century Skills, dedicating our
district to teaching and measuring those skills would set our district above and
apart from our neighboring districts and give our students a competitive
advantage. The City of Medicine Academy, for instance, is piloting the use of the
College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA+) to measure their students’
growth in 21st Century Skills.
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?
I believe in the research that clearly describes the benefits to the community
when schools are diverse. I think we need to gauge the community’s interest in
looking at diversity as an issue and I will research this issue during my work on
the Board should I be elected. My experience at Hillside and Hillside New Tech
was working with students who were diverse in socioeconomic status, but not
diverse in race.
6. Does DPS need to make changes to its school suspension policy? If so, what
changes would you work for as a Board Member?
Our classrooms need to be places of learning, developing, and mentoring. DPS
has a detailed code of conduct and suspension policies that provide the district
with the flexibility to address behavior in many different ways--Positive Behavior
Support (PBS) and peer mediation are quality examples. I do think we need to
look at how we provide our counselors the time and space to do more
counseling. My experience as a DPS teacher was that counselors were not
provided sufficient time to support students through counseling.
This response addresses the suspension issue as a current problem. Please see
the first response to Question 11 as to how we might mitigate suspensions
through investment in early interventions.
7. What is your opinion about the Charter School movement?
The responsibility of a member of the Board of Education is to create the best
educational environment possible for the 33,000+ students that come through
our schools’ doors every day. While charters are a valuable part of our
community, I will focus my work as a Board member on DPS’s students, day in
and day out.
That said, I do not want to see charters grow further in North Carolina in areas
that are becoming saturated with charter schools (like Durham), and I oppose for-
profit Charter Management Organizations (CMO’s). Charter schools are designed
to be places of innovation and experimentation in education and they serve that
role in their current capacity. Charter schools were not designed to be
competitive alternatives to Local Education Agencies.
8. What is your opinion about school vouchers?
I oppose school vouchers and support the North Carolina Association of
Educators and the North Carolina School Boards Association lawsuits to block
the implementation of the school vouchers legislation.
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?
DPS and our community need to own ALL of our children and students, not just
the 80% that graduate our schools with a diploma. I will lead my work on the
Board by advocating for support, research-based and school-driven programs,
and resources to ensure that learners who are at risk for low achievement and
dropping out have everything they need to succeed. As a teacher, I enjoyed
working with and teaching at-risk students to build their Algebra literacy so that
they could be successful in higher math courses.
Please see the first response to Question 11 as to mitigating dropping out
through early intervention.
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?
I think parents make the best choices they can for their children, just as my wife
and I do for our two daughters. As a member of the Board I will work tirelessly to
raise the public opinion of DPS by focusing on student achievement and student
success. Public schools are a family’s first option and I will work to ensure that
it is a quality option in each of our schools. I am a fierce advocate for quality
public education. I attended public schools, I have taught in public schools, I
work on behalf public schools in my current position, and we will send our
children to Durham Public Schools.
11. If you could do three things to improve Durham Public Schools, what would they
1. Investment in Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). I have not been able to
quantify DPS’s level of engagement in SEL, but I have been researching and
attending conference sessions on SEL for the past year and believe it to be a
investment the district can make to help students better engage and participate
in school. SEL teaches students self-management, social awareness, and
responsible decision making skills, among others. I would look to create a
working group to investigate the value SEL could bring to DPS. A group of
students, PTA members, teacher leaders, administrators, and Board members
could validate the practices, analyze costs and make recommendations on its
implementation. I would want to ensure that investment in this kind of program
(or any program for that matter) has buy in at ALL levels before looking to
allocate resources. Too many programs are billed as “quick fixes” and fizzle out
after a year or two. I would want SEL to be implemented for a defined period of
time, with measures and checkpoints, and have outside evaluation of its
implementation. I believe that investing in SEL would help us address some of
the needs of at-risk students as well as help mitigate against suspensions.
Please see the following resources for more information on SEL:
http://www.casel.org/ and http://www.edutopia.org/social-emotional-learning
2. Deepen the community’s engagement in our schools and the work of the
Board. Having been attending many Board committee meetings in my
preparations for running, and having interviewed all but one of the current Board
members, I feel that large blocks of the community are disengaged in the work of
the schools and the Board. It feels like a lot of attention is paid to the schools
through the media when testing results and graduation rates are published
annually, but the supporting work largely happens beneath the radar of the
general public. The Board seems to be on a trajectory of increased respect in the
community and I want to see that strengthened and community engagement
deepened. This community has so much intellectual capital embedded in it and
getting more of that power focused on the schools would help the Board and
schools make more informed decisions that affect students and families.
3. Further develop the sense that Durham is a great place for great teachers to
teach. As I mentioned in Question 1, the profession is suffering and I think we
can support teachers at the local level through policies and funding. I will also
work with the Board to continue to push back against legislation that degrades
the profession. But I want us to go further: I want all teachers to get the
feedback and support they need to develop their practice; I want teachers to have
development plans that include training that benefits their work and their
students; I want teachers to feel the importance of working collegially; and I want
the community to hold up its teachers as partners in developing our youth.
When we invest in our teachers in this way, they will return that investment to
our children. Teachers are doing great work now, but we are asking too much of
them and giving them too little, and we are seeing the results as teachers leave
the profession. Be it in the Triangle, NC, or nationally, I want Durham to be
known as a great place for great teachers.
12. Please describe your educational background, noting any degrees and honors you
have earned. (skip if resume included)
13. Do you have children? Where do they or did they attend school?
Marisol is 3 ½ and Greta is 9 months old. Both are in a childcare
center/preschool at the Goddard School at Fayetteville Rd. and Cook Rd. Marisol
will enter a DPS kindergarten program in August of 2015.
14. Please describe your adult employment history (skip if resume included)
MATTHEW M. SEARS 1505 Blount St.
Durham, NC 27707
DIRECTOR, SCHOOL SERVICES: LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES AND STEM EDUCATION, NORTH CAROLINA NEW SCHOOLS,
RALEIGH, NC — 2011-PRESENT
• Manage teams of school-based coaches to implement and support change and innovation in more than
twenty secondary schools across North Carolina, with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering,
Mathematics (STEM) schools
• Develop tools and resources to support virtual and face-to-face professional development of teachers
• Develop relevant programs for North Carolina teachers and principals based on researching national and
international models of educational innovation
• Continue to develop professionally: training on highly effective teams, change management, conflict
resolution through the Center for Creative Leadership
MATHEMATICS TEACHER, HILLSIDE NEW TECH HIGH SCHOOL, DURHAM, NC — 2007-2010
• Developed and implemented Project Based Learning (PBL) units for Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry,
Pre-Calculus, and AP Computer Science curricula. Parsed the curricula into month-long projects that study
multiple objectives in depth and assess students through exams, presentations, mock trials, and
• Developed and implemented “iPhone Programming” Computer Science elective course
• Mentored pre-service teachers from Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill
CONFERENCE COORDINATOR, NORTH CAROLINA PROJECT-BASED LEARNING CONFERENCE, 2008-2013
• Planned, coordinated, and hosted the statewide conference for teachers seeking knowledge
of/experience in teaching via PBL. Conference has grown from 30 attendees to over 220 in 2013
FULBRIGHT TEACHER EXCHANGE, KV SULUR, TAMIL NADU, INDIA — AUGUST 10, 2008 - DECEMBER 20, 2008
• Taught mathematics courses to 6th - 9th grade students using India’s CBSE Math curriculum
CONSULTANT, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, CHAPEL HILL, NC — 2006-2008
• Facilitated discussions with pre-service teachers on how to bridge the gap between educational theory
and actual classroom practice in Masters level courses EDUC 245 and EDUC 247
MATHEMATICS TEACHER, HILLSIDE HIGH SCHOOL, DURHAM, NC — 2004-2007
• Taught Algebra 1, Integrated Math I and II (Algebra sequence), Pre-Calculus, AVID. Students averaged
between 55% and 73% proficient on Algebra 1 EOC when school averages ranged from 22% to 49%
• Coached Golf: 2004-2009. Coach of the Year for PAC 6 Conference 2008.
• University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC — Masters of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.), 2004
Concentration: Secondary Mathematics
• Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN — Bachelor of Science (B.S.), 2002
Major: Mathematics with a Specialization in Computer Science Minor: Spanish
COMMUNITY SERVICE AND LEADERSHIP
• Board of Advisors, the Kenan Fellows Program, 2011-present
• Contributor to Business Planning Committee for the Buck Institute for Education, 2012
• Durham Neighborhood College
• Durham Public Schools High School Reform Committee
• Creation Committee for Hillside New Tech High School, 2007
AWARDS, HONORS, CERTIFICATIONS
• 2011 Excellence in Teaching Award - UNC School of Education Alumni Awards
• Career Award in Science and Math from Burroughs Wellcome Fund, April 2010
• Google Certified Teacher after attending the Google Teachers Academy in Washington DC, December 2009
• National Boards Certification (NBCT) in Adolescence and Young Adulthood/Mathematics
• 2009 Excite Award from Lemelson-MIT Program to attend EurekaFest at MIT, June 2009
• 2008-2009 Suntrust Gold Star Teacher of the Year - Durham Public Schools
• 2007-2008 Teacher of the Year - Hillside New Tech High School
• 2006 AAER Research Fellow for Annual Conference
GRANTS AND FELLOWSHIPS
• Educators’ Design Network Fellowship with World Class Schools. Research and develop blended school models,
• Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam Grant of $7,000. Students spent the 2009-2010 designing and building a residential
green roof invention. Team traveled to MIT in Boston, MA to present work at EurekaFest 2010.
• Alumni Fellowship in Kenan Fellows Program at North Carolina State University’s Kenan Institute for Engineering,
Technology & Science. April 2009-2010. http://kenanfellows.org
• 2008 Fulbright Teacher Exchange Grant. Spent four months teaching secondary math in south India.
• $20,100 Innovation Generation Grant from the Motorola Foundation for Podcasting STEM project in November
Funded computers and iPods to prove that video iPods could be used as study tools in math classrooms.
• 2006 Kenan Fellow at North Carolina State University’s Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology &
Science. April 2006-April 2008. http://kenanfellows.org
RESEARCH AND PUBLICATIONS
• Current roles at NC New Schools have required working with program evaluators researching our work.
Knowledge of writing research questions, creating benchmarks, surveys, and overall program evaluation.
• Holmes, Shawn, Brandi Thurmond, Leonard A. Annetta and Matthew Sears. "Serious Educational Games (SEGs) and
Student Learning and Engagement with Scientific Concepts." Cases on Inquiry through Instructional Technology in
Math and Science. IGI Global, 2012. 464-486. Web. 7 Apr. 2012. doi:10.4018/978-1-4666-0068-3.ch017
• Participant in National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant with Dr. Leonard Annetta aimed at having students create
video games that disseminate current university research in science: titled GRADUATE Project
• Participant in National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant No. 0525115, developing video games for classrooms that
engage students in science and mathematics: HI FIVES Project under Dr. Leonard Annetta of NC State University.
Have developed video games that address Algebra 1 curriculum and tested games with students in the classroom.
PRESENTATIONS GIVEN FOR NATIONAL AUDIENCES
• The “E” in STEM: Engineering Mindsets. New Tech Annual Conference. Grand Rapids, MI. 2012.
• Grant Writing in Support of Project Based Learning. Scaling STEM. Raleigh, NC. 2012.
• Creating STEM Networks of Schools. Many Voices, One Goal.. Raleigh, NC. 2011.
• Using Student Created-Videos in Classrooms. New Tech Network All Schools Conference. Grand Rapids, MI. 2009.
• Educational Trends in American Education. KG College of Arts and Science. Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India. 2008.
• Finding Projects from Resources. New Technology Foundation’s All Schools’ Conference. Grand Rapids, MI. 2008
• Learning Science Through Video Games. NARST Annual International Conference. Baltimore, MD. March 2008
• Engaging Teachers and Students in Science through Video Games: Experiences from the HI FIVES Project. ASTE
2008 International Conference. St. Louis, MO. January 2008
• Video Games in High School Classrooms. AAER 2006 Annual Conference. Hutchinson Island, FL. November 2006
• Read, write, conversational in Spanish
• Computer Programming