Durham school board candidates accuse one another of lies

Incumbent Mike Lee and challenger Pebble Lucas are running for the Durham Public Schools Board of Education District 1 seat.
Incumbent Mike Lee and challenger Pebble Lucas are running for the Durham Public Schools Board of Education District 1 seat.

With only a few days left before Tuesday's school board election, the District 1 race between incumbent Mike Lee and challenger Pebbles Lucas is heating up on social media.

This week, Lee used Facebook to refute what he contends is a series of untruths Lucas and her supporters are telling voters at early voting sites.

Lee said Lucas and her supporters are lying about the performance of schools in District 1 and telling voters that his children attend private schools when they are enrolled in Sandy Ridge Elementary School, which is one of Durham Public Schools' elementary schools.

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Mike Lee Submitted

"After hearing that stuff over and over, I felt compelled to do that video," Lee said, referring to the Facebook video he posted this week.

Lee said Lucas and supporters are also telling voters that he never visits schools.

"That is a pure lie," Lee said. "I have posted pictures of my visits on Facebook and teachers from the schools I visit also post pictures of my visits."

Lucas, a local minister, denies Lee's claim that she is spreading lies about his children attending private or charter schools or that he doesn't visit schools.

Pebbles Lindsay-Lucas is a candidate for the District 1 school board seat. Durham County Board of Elections.

"I'm so disappointed at the chairman of the Board of Education who represents me and the other parents," Lucas said. "I'm disappointed he would lie on me to make himself look good. All of those allegations he's made against me, he's lying and he is a liar."

Lucas said she is standing by her claim that 65 percent of schools in District 1 received either a "D" or "F" on the most recent North Carolina report card.

About 65 percent, 10 of the 15 schools in District 1, which begins in northern Durham with Holt and Sandy Ridge elementary schools and moves south through the center of the county to Lowe's Grove Middle School, did receive grades of "D" or "F."

But Lee said that is not what Lucas and her supporters are telling voters as they prepare to vote. Lee said he and his wife, Erin, have heard Lucas tell voters that 65 percent of the district's schools received an "F" on the state report card.

"I've heard her directly tell voters that 65 percent of our schools have "F's" and that's not true in no way, shape of form," Lee said. "That's what I'm trying to clarify for her. I've heard her say that and my wife heard it earlier today [Friday, May 4] while campaigning for me at the South Regional Library. That is a lie."

Nine of the district's 53 schools, about 17 percent, received a grade of "F" on the state report.

Lucas shared a text message from Erin Lee that was sent to at least one of Lucas' supporters urging the supporter to rethink supporting Lucas.

Lucas has declined to say who sent her the text message, but said it was from the wife of a "prominent" elected official.

Lee acknowledged that his wife did send a text message to the wife of Sheriff Mike Andrews with wording similar to that in the text message Lucas shared.

Here is part of the text message: "Yesterday, one of your husband's campaign workers informed Mike [Lee] that Pebble is lying about our children. What type of woman of God lies on children? She's telling people that our children attend private schools. However, she knows that all 3 attend the PUBLIC school across the street from HER neighborhood. I hope you know what you are doing associating yourself and ultimately your husband with someone that is capable of lying about children."

The other races

In District 2, incumbent Bettina Umstead, who was appointed to the board in October 2016 to complete the term of former member Sendolo Diaminah after he stepped down in August 2016, is running unopposed. Umstead will be the District 2 school board member unless there is a successful write-in candidate.

And in District 3, Incumbent Matt Sears, a former teacher who currently works as director of educational programs, Duke University Talent Identification Program, is being challenged by retired teacher Katie Jones.

Incumbent Natalie Beyer, who was first elected to the school board in 2010, has two challengers in District 4.

Beyer's chief rival appears to be Antonio Jones, a finance management analyst at Duke University. Jones was featured in a story published by The Herald-Sun last July discussing the importance of the next superintendent selected to lead the Durham Public Schools.

The second challenger is Angela Renee Starke, a stay-at-home mom.

Incumbents have fared well with Durham's influential political action committees and the Durham Association of Educators, earning all of the endorsements with one exception.

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

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

Learn more about Durham school board candidates at:

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645