Three newcomers to join school board
Fueled by the endorsements of Durham’s three influential political action committees, newcomer Mike Lee on Tuesday defeated incumbent Omega Curtis Parker in the District 1 school board race.
Two other newcomers – Sendolo Diaminah in District 2 and Matt Sears in District 3 – also won handily and will join the board in July.
District 4 incumbent Natalie Beyer ran unopposed and was re-elected to the seat she has held since 2010.
Unlike past years, there will be no runoffs in the school board election. Board of Elections Director Michael Perry made that call after he discovered that neither state law nor the 1992 agreement merging city and county schools provide for runoffs in school board elections.
So the candidates who received the most votes in each of the four races on Tuesday are the winners.
Lee takes District 1
Lee, a product manager of global data services at Credit Suisse, said in an interview Tuesday night that he is looking forward to the opportunity to serve the school district.
“I’m excited to get to work for my children and all the children of Durham Public Schools,” Lee said.
He said improving the schools will help to improve people’s perception of Durham.
“I want to create a top-notch school district so people will know Durham is a top-notch city,” Lee said.
He received 59.90 percent of the vote cast -- 3,412 votes compared to 31.99 percent for Parker or 1,822 votes. Thomas Poole got 6.99 percent of the vote, for a total of 398 votes.
Lee was endorsed by the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, the People’s Alliance and the Friends of Durham’s political action committee.
The major endorsements helped Lee to unseat Parker, a retired educator, who has held the District 1 seat since 2006. She was endorsed by the Durham Association of Educators and The Herald-Sun.
Parker said she welcomes Lee to the board and wishes him and the rest of the board’s members well as they tackle the pressing problems of the district.
“The voters have spoken, and he was the choice,” Parker said of Lee.
She said she plans to travel and continue her many volunteer efforts with Durham’s school children.
“I’m going to continue to live life to the fullest, but will continue to work with students and teachers in any way that I can,” Parker said.
It’s Diaminah in District 2
Diaminah, a lead community organizing trainer for Black Organizing for Leadership & Dignity (BOLD), got 44.29 percent or 2,916 of the votes cast in the District 2 race, outpacing the nearest competitor in the five-way race to replace Fredrick Davis by more than a 1,000 votes.
The second highest vote-getter in the spirited race was Donald Hughes, an online advertising agent, who received 28.39 percent of the vote, or 1,869 votes
In spite of raising more than $17,000, nearly twice as much as the next highest candidate competing for a seat on the school board, Jimmy Doster finished a distant third with 13.75 percent of the vote for a total of 905 votes.
Terrence Scarborough, assistant director of licensure for the UNC System, received 8.85 percent of the vote, the equivalent of 583 votes and DeWarren Langley, a document review associate with Synergy Legal Professionals, got 3.99 percent of the vote or 363 votes.
“I feel inspired,” Diaminah said, calling from a party at Motorco where the candidates gathered.
Diaminah said one his first goals will be the great “channels” of community engagement to hold “deep listening” sessions with students, staff and parents, so that the board can begin to look for solutions to the school district’s suspension and literacy problems.
Sears wins District 3
Sears, director of school services at the public education nonprofit North Carolina New Schools, ran away with the District 3 race, garnering 58.66 percent of the vote, the equivalent of 5,007 votes.
He will replace Nancy Cox who did not seek re-election.
The next nearest candidate was Deborah Bryson, head of school at Bryson Christian Montessori School, who received 21.36 percent of the vote, or 1,823 votes.
Lisa Gordon Stella, director of Durham’s Truancy Court, finished third with 15.25 percent of the vote, or 1,302 votes and Steve Gatlin, a teacher at the charter school, Voyager Academy, finished last with 4.16 percent of the vote or just 355 votes.
Sears said he looks forward to working with the district’s other six school board members to improve the school district.
“I’m grateful the community has put its trust and faith in my ability to work with six other people for school improvement,” Sears said.
He said he plans to support a more “bottom up” approach to running the district than what he experienced when he was a teacher in Durham Public Schools.