New school board members offered advisory roles

May. 22, 2014 @ 10:43 PM

In a contentious meeting, the Durham Public Schools Board of Education on Thursday voted 4-3 to include newly elected members in the superintendent search process in a non-voting, advisory role.

Board Chairwoman Heidi Carter and members Nancy Cox, Leigh Bordley and Natalie Beyer voted in favor of the motion to include newly elected board members.

Vice Chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown joined members Fredrick Davis and Omega Curtis Parker in opposing their inclusion.

Those in favor said that allowing members-elect to participate is one way to build a bridge between new and old members and to receive additional input from the community on an important decision.

“I don’t see what we’re giving up by doing this if they’re in an advisory role,” said Bordley. “I always think more wisdom is better than less.”

Those opposed argued that the job of hiring a superintendent is solely that of the current board and that it would set a bad precedent to allow anyone other than current members have a role in the process.

The meeting was marked by several motions and substitute motions with Parker, who lost her re-election bid this month, hinting that she would step down early and allow the board to appoint her successor if the majority believes it’s important to include newly elected members.

Davis, who did not seek re-election, said he would not participate in the search process if the board allowed the newly elected members to act – even in an advisory role.

“If I got to go to jail, this is a moral issue for me,” Davis said.

He asked board attorney Ken Soo if legal sanctions might result if he did not participate in the search.

Soo said Davis would not commit a criminal violation.

Forte-Brown wondered whether those voting in favor would feel that way if candidates they didn’t support had been elected.

“If the election had gone in a different direction, would we be as gracious to extend the olive branch and say ‘come in’ had it not been the people many people endorsed?” Forte-Brown mused.

As spelled out by Carter, newly elected members Mike Lee, Sendolo Diaminah and Matt Sears would join the board next week as it interviews semi-finalists for the superintendent’s job.

The three members-elect would sign confidentiality agreements pledging not to reveal information about the candidates.

They would sit in while the board interviews superintendent candidates and join the board during its debriefing and be allowed to offer opinions about the candidates.