Choices for school board from strong field

Apr. 26, 2014 @ 12:46 PM

The years just ahead will be daunting ones for the Durham Public Schools Board of Education.

The current board, if its timetable holds, will select a new superintendent to replace Eric Becoats, whose uneven tenure ended in disarray. But any slippage in that ambitious timetable could vault the decision to a board that will have at least two and possibly three newcomers.

Even if the superintendent is selected before then, the newly constituted board will face an array of challenges as well as forging relationships with the new leader. So the choices voters make before polls close at 7:30 p.m. May 6 are especially important.

Voters in District 4 face an easy decision – incumbent Natalie Beyer is unopposed. She has been an astute and engaged board member, a probing questioner and a consensus-seeker. We readily welcome her continued membership on the board, and her experience promises to make her an even greater contributor in the next four years.

Voters face crowded fields in the other three districts, and the level of interest and commitment from candidates is encouraging.  Several would make strong board members.

Three in our view stand out.

Voters in District 2 will choose from among five candidates – and the choice is difficult in a good way. Sendolo Diaminah and Donald Hughes are impressive, and Hughes’ energy and passion no doubt will land him in elective office one day.

But in this campaign, our endorsement goes to Terrence Scarborough, a member of a family with a long tradition of community service. Now in the University of North Carolina’s general administration, he previously spent more than a decade with the N. C. State Education Assistance Authority.

He displays a detailed grasp of issues facing the public schools, and pledges to increase community involvement and revive a mentorship program to help early career teachers succeed.

In District 3, with four candidates, Lisa Gordon Stella offers an especially impassioned and detailed critique of DPS’s performance. The issues she raises help inform the debate over the system’s direction.

Our endorsement, however, goes to Matt Sears, a former teacher who now leads professional development efforts with the N. C. New Schools project. His classroom experience and measured personality would productively lend important insight to board discussions. A supporter of high Common Core standards, he will challenge DPS to lend substance to its promise to prepare students for college or career.

In District 1, the only contested race with an in incumbent on the ballot, we were impressed with Mike Lee’s grasp of and belief in technology’s role in instruction and assessment.  But Omega Curtis Parker’s experience gives her a broader view of the issues and wins our endorsement for the seat. With at least two newcomers on the board, she will help ease the transition, and we hope experience will embolden her to be a more forceful member in the years ahead.

With a crowded ballot and no run-offs, the May 6 voting will decide who wins these seats. In that context, each vote is potentially even more important than usual, so whatever your choices, we encourage you to vote.