Education

See who Durham's political action committees endorsed for school board

N&O file photo

With one exception, incumbents have gobbled up every endorsement by Durham's influential political action committees and the Durham Association of Educators in the races to fill four school board seats.

The lone exception? The Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People (DCABP) and the Friends of Durham (FOD) endorsed newcomer Antonio Jones over two-term board member Natalie Beyer in the District 4 race.

The Durham People's Alliance and DAE endorsed incumbents in all four district races.

Jones, who was featured in a story published by The Herald-Sun last July on the importance of the next superintendent selected to lead the Durham Public Schools, is one of two challengers for the District 4 seat held by Beyer since 2010. The other is Angela Starke of Bahama.

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Antonio Jones is one of two challengers in the District 4 school board race. Submitted

"While we appreciate Natalie’s 8 years on the Board, we feel that our schools need new direction,” FOD Chairman Dick Ford said in a statement. "Antonio Jones represents that new direction with his emphasis on a new strategic plan. Like FOD, Antonio [Jones] cannot accept the status quo. As a former school treasurer, Antonio [Jones] is well aware of the resources Durham possesses which must be delivered to our students."

Keith Bishop, chairman of the DCAP's political action committee, said Beyer's response to a question about the DPS' 95th rank in grade-level-proficiency among the state's 115 school districts, likely caused the committee to favor Jones in its recommendation to the full DCAP membership.

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Natalie Beyer is the incumbent in the District 4 school board race Submitted

"She seemed a little dismissive of the ranking," Bishop said. "It resonated that way with me, and I suspect it might have resonated the same way with other members."

Bishop said the other incumbents were also challenged on the ranking, but took responsibility for the district's shortcomings and pledged to work harder to improve academic outcomes for students.

Beyer declined to address Bishop's comment, but pledged to continue to work to improve educational outcomes for Durham's children.

"I will not rest until our graduation rates is 100 percent and every student is achieving and prepared to meet their future goals and dreams," Beyer said. "I appreciated the Committee's two previous endorsements and look forward to continuing to work with the Durham community."

The committee's endorsements produced one other twist, this one coming in the District 1 race where School board Chairman Mike Lee is being challenged by Pebbles Lucas, a former chairwoman of the DCAP's Education Committee.

The committee gave the nod to Lee.

During interviews with the political action committee last month, Bishop said both Lee and Lucas made quality arguments about why they should receive the committee's endorsement, with Lucas challenging the status quo and Lee defending the board's initiatives to improve the school district.

"Both represented themselves well," said Bishop, comparing the two candidates to boxers. "If you want to say there was a draw, then the champion, Lee in this case, wins and gets to keep the belt."

Meanwhile, Lucas said she is "shocked" the committee did not endorse her in the race after she spent a year working closely with Committee Chairman Omar Beasley as chairwoman of the group's Education Committee.

"I was shocked," Lucas said. "I thought I was going to be endorsed, but I guess we all get surprises in life."

Lucas said she will continue to talk to voters about the issues confronting DPS until the school board election on May 8. Early voting begins on April 19.

In two other highly watched races, the Committee endorsed incumbent Roger Echols in the district attorney's race. Echols has two challengers, Satana Deberry, who was endorsed by the People's Alliance and Daniel Meier.

Echols also received the FOD's endorsement.

"Roger is a veteran prosecutor who has shown the judgment and management skills to be returned to office," Ford said. "He has recruited a top-notch staff of seasoned prosecutors and engaged in dynamic initiatives such as alternative options for non-violent crimes and first offenders. Roger [Echols] has brought stability and responsibility to the District Attorney’s office while prioritizing violent crimes."

In the sheriff's race, the Committee gave the nod to Clarence Birkhead over incumbent Mike Andrews. Birkhead was also endorsed by the People's Alliance. The FOD also endorsed Birkhead over Andrews.

Here is a full list of endorsements in the school board races:

Friends of Durham

Roger Echols, District Attorney

Clarence Birkhead, Sheriff​

Mike Lee, Chair, DPS School Board, District 1

Matt Sears, DPS School Board, District 3​

Antonio Jones DPS School Board, District 4

Bettina Umstead is running unopposed in District 2.

Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People (Previously announced)

Mike Lee, school board, District 1

Bettina Umstead, school board, District 2

Matt Sears, school board, District 3​

Antonio Jones, school board, District 4

Durham People's Alliance (previously announced)

Mike Lee, school board, District 1

Bettina Umstead, school board, District 2

Matt Sears, school board, District 3​

Natalie Beyer, school board, District 4

Durham Association of Educators (previously announced)

Mike Lee, school board, District 1

Bettina Umstead, school board, District 2

Matt Sears, school board, District 3​

Natalie Beyer, school board, District 4

Here are the Committee remaining endorsements:

Rep. GK Butterfield, Congressional District 1

Rep. Congressman David Price​, Congressional District 4

Hon. Roger Echols, 14th District Attorney​

​Sen. Floyd B. McKissick Jr., Senate District 20

Sen. Mike Woodard, Senate District 22​

Rep. Marcia H. Morey House District 30

Rep. MaryAnn Black, House District 29​

Zack Hawkins for North Carolina, House District 31

Representative Robert Reives II, House District 54

Clarence Birkhead, Sheriff​

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