Letters to the Editor, May 1

May. 01, 2014 @ 07:49 AM

STEM and appreciation for vetting

Recently, another candidate for Durham School Board questioned the value of teaching science and mathematics to struggling middle school students. I, too, am a candidate for the school board, but my understanding of education began somewhere else -- in the classroom at Hillside and Hillside New Tech High School, where I taught math for seven years and was honored to be named Durham’s Teacher of the Year.

Here is what I learned in the classroom: Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is critical to the success of all students. A STEM education certainly teaches the content of science and math, but more importantly it teaches students the skills they will need to succeed in college and careers --designing solutions to problems, communicating ideas and persistence.

North Carolina’s education and business leaders are dedicated to supporting STEM education.  North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction has developed rubrics for STEM implementation at all grade levels.  And in 2013, the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce co-signed a letter to U.S. senators calling for a STEM fund to increase the employability of our graduates.

Finally, as a candidate for school board, I want to thank our community for taking the time to interview and make recommendations on our community’s candidates.  I am grateful for the rigorous processes each community group took to get to know us and am proud to have earned the trust of so many: The Herald-Sun, Durham Association of Educators (our teachers), Indy Week and the Durham People’s Alliance.

Matt Sears


A vote for Lisa Gordon Stella

I’m disappointed by your endorsement for the District 3 school board race. The Herald-Sun dismissed Lisa Gordon Stella as the best candidate even as it praised her calls for systemic change, including fiscal transparency and accountability for results. If, as you write, these are "issues that will inform the debate over the system’s direction,” they need to be the focus of the board's work -- not left in the margins.

Are we really satisfied with a system that delivers student achievement rates lower than the state average? Many families -- of all races -- are leaving Durham schools, if they happen to have the means to pay for private education or to move to another district, or if they’re lucky enough to get a spot in a charter school. Are we going to continue to ignore this, or vilify them as "elitists," while writing off the students and families who find they don't have any real choices?

The paper justified its choice of another candidate by citing his experience as a classroom teacher. Recent research from the Fordham Institute shows that across the United States, the local school board members who are most well-informed about system-critical issues -- such as finance, teacher pay and class size -- are not the ones who come from the classroom.

This is not to say that your chosen candidate isn’t well-informed. But it does refute the notion that classroom experience is an important credential for school board leadership. I plan to vote for Lisa Gordon Stella.

Mary Jo Dunnington


Gordon Stella means real change

The choice for District 3 on the Durham school board is a choice between two gears - neutral and drive. In my opinion, Lisa Gordon Stella is the candidate who will move our troubled district forward.

The other candidates in the race are more aligned with the current board and its existing policies. If you believe everything is fine with the Durham Public Schools as they are today, that’s the vote to cast.

These candidates all bring strong classroom qualifications, and I’d never speak ill of anyone who would volunteer for a tough job like this. But classroom skills shine in the classroom. Those aren’t the skills it takes to manage 56 schools, 4,600 employees and a budget of more than $400 million a year.

In contrast, I’ve been impressed with Ms. Gordon Stella’s command of the details and her first-hand knowledge of how Durham schools really work. She runs the district’s truancy court, is president of a conflict resolution center, and helps run a charter school for under-served kids. She’s an accomplished attorney and business leader who has managed people and budgets before.

Her promise is that we can do better -- not just for teachers, but for everyone who has a stake in the success of our schools. That starts with the kids who are slipping through the wide cracks in the current system. It’s time to get in gear. I hope my neighbors will join me in electing Lisa Gordon Stella on May 6.

Jim Doughty


What I stand for

I am Brian Aus and I want to be your next district attorney.  I have been a lawyer for 29 years.  I am peer-rated as an “AV-Preeminent” lawyer by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest professional rating that a lawyer can get. 

I am involved in this community.  I have served on the Mental Health Board, Criminal Justice Partnership, Sentencing Services and Truancy Court and coached basketball teams at the YMCA.  I am a volunteer instructor at the STARR Program, a substance abuse/life skills program at the county jail that is designed to reduce recidivism in our community.

I have a vision of what the Durham district attorney’s office needs to be -- to keep us safe and make Durham attractive for business.     

I want it to be proactive rather than reactive.  That means meeting regularly with civic, business and religious leaders and groups to try to reduce poverty, improve education and thus reduce crime.  We need to assure that there will be no school to prison pipeline in Durham.

I want to make the criminal justice system work more efficiently by reorganizing the office to better respond to the needs of law enforcement and to eliminate the enormous wasting of valuable and limited court time.

I want to make sure that the office is transparent so that the public trust is restored. 

I ask you to join me in my quest to make the Durham district attorney’s office something that we can all be proud of.

Brian Aus


Re-elect Jacobs to commission

Barry Jacobs has served our community well, with his sharp focus on education, the environment, rural Orange issues and his work as a facilitator to resolve long-simmering equity issues, to bring public services to the Rogers Road neighbors who have lived near the community landfill for four decades.

Barry is an extraordinary listener.  His will and ability to facilitate dialogue and understanding, and to reach accommodation, are extraordinary, and we cannot afford to lose him as county commissioner.

I hope you will join me in voting to re-elect Barry Jacobs as county commissioner.

Bob Epting

Chapel Hill