Durham school board incumbent faces two challengers so far

Feb. 17, 2014 @ 12:33 PM

Two challengers want on the May 6 ballot to take on Durham Public Schools Board of Education member Omega Curtis Parker for her District 1 seat.

Parker, who has filed for re-election, has held the seat since 2006. 

Thomas Poole, a retired Title 1 instructor and community activist who has been outspoken on the district’s suspension of African American students, said he is running to refocus the school district on early childhood education.

“I don’t think enough emphasis is placed on the early days of child development,” said Poole, who last worked at Research Triangle Charter School.

His decision to run for the District 1 seat is not a referendum on Parker’s performance, he said.   

“I just want to run for the school board, even though it pits me against her,” Poole said.

Michael Lee, a production manager for Credit Suisse, also joined the District 1 race.

Lee said he currently volunteers in the school district in various capacities, but wants to do more.

“I want to get more involved for a variety of reasons, but I have a first-grader and two two-year-olds who will be attending Durham schools,” Lee said. “I have a huge vested interest in Durham Public Schools because of my children.”

Lee said the school district needs a voice from “outside of the education arena” to help guide it.

He said he believes his technology and business background would be an important addition to the board.

Like Poole, Lee said he’s not entering the race because of any displeasure with Parker’s work.

Meanwhile, Parker, a retired DPS media coordinator, noted that she filed for re-election on the opening day of the filing period.

“I’m in it to win it,” Parker said.

She said the entry of Poole and Lee into the race is the democratic process at work.

“It will be left up to voters to decide who they want in the position,” Parker said.

Incumbent Natalie Beyer has filed for reelection to the District 4 seat she has held since 2010. So far, she has no challengers.

Matt Sears, director for school services at North Carolina New Schools (NCNS) and a former Durham educator, and Lisa Gordon-Stella, an attorney and mediator who works as the in-school truancy court director at the Elna B. Spaulding Conflict Resolution Center, have filed for election to the District 3 seat currently held by Nancy Cox.

Cox has said she will not seek re-election.

No one has filed to run for the District 2 seat held by Fredrick Davis, who has said he won’t seek re-election.