The News & Observer – Durham CAN lays out issues in Latino community

Durham CAN lays out issues in Latino community

BY JONATHAN M. ALEXANDER jalexander@newsobserver.com April 28, 2014

DURHAM — Lined up side by side and holding signs that read ‘Yes’ on one side and ‘No’ on the other, the 13 Durham school board candidates waited, as community members and students walked to the podium and asked the candidates to commit to certain education requests made by the community, particularly the Latino community.

The event hosted by Durham Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods (CAN), brought about 300 community members and a few elected officials to Nehemiah Christian Center in downtown Durham Sunday night.

Incumbent Omega Curtis Parker, and challengers Thomas Poole, Mike Lee, Sendolo Diaminah, DeWarren Langley, Jimmy Doster, Terrence Scarborough, Donald Hughes, Deborah Bryson, Steven Gatlin, Lisa Stella and Matt Sears, held up ‘Yes’ to each question.

Current board members who attended the event, Heidi Carter, Natalie Beyer, and Parker also answered the same questions and a few extra ones. Beyer, who is running unopposed, and Carter, were the only two who couldn’t answer ‘yes’ to every question.

Among the questions asked:

• Would the candidates commit to expanding the Universal Free Breakfast program, a program where all students including students whose parents are middle class, can eat breakfast for free?

• Would the candidates set up a meeting with Durham CAN leaders and the new superintendent within 60 days of his/her hiring?

• Would the candidates hire an additional interpreter?

• Would the candidates work for more transparency and training on the budget?

Ivan Parra, the lead organizer for Durham CAN, said the communication between the district and the fast-growing growing Latino community needs to improve. Interpreters are few and about 24 percent of the nearly 34,000 students at Durham Public schools are of Latino decent.

“We hope that they will pay attention, and we hope that it will become a reality,” Parra said.

Parra said Durham CAN had a good relationship with the previous superintendent and hope to have a good relationship with the new superintendent.

In explaining her answers, Beyer acknowledged that an interpreter was needed but said she could not commit to setting aside money for an extra family facilitator for Spanish-speaking families in the school. A family facilitator is a bilingual person who helps connect the administration with the parents and helps the parents get involved.

A few in the crowd whispered as if surprised to see a ‘No’ card.

“I want to be clear that I believe the needs for interpreters and for more support for Latino students are deep and profound but I don’t want to falsely let you believe that those items are already in the budget, presented to us for the first time on Thursday evening,” Beyer said. “We have a long list of competing priorities to be considered over the coming weeks.”

“If we put these things in we will need to remove other things.”

Carter echoed her sentiments. She said that other groups have also laid out their priorities to the board. She proposed alternatives, that were already in the budget that could suffice for the issues brought at the event. Such options include more counselors, alternatives to suspensions and mental health support.

“All of these things cost money,” Carter said. “What we’re going to need to do is listen to what you all presented to us as your priority need, and listen to are other stakeholders across this community as to what their priority needs are, and we’re going to have to try and make a wise decision.”

Alexander: 919-932-2008

The Herald Sun – Durham CAN Assembly questions school board candidates

Durham CAN assembly questions school board candidates

Apr. 27, 2014 @ 08:17 PM  

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan

DURHAM —

Durham Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods asked school board members and candidates to agree to its education agenda, then set out on a march to the polls for early voting Sunday.
Hundreds of delegates packed the CAN assembly held at Nehemiah Christian Center downtown on Mangum Street. All 13 school board candidates were there, including members Natalie Beyer and Omega Curtis Parker, who are seeking re-election, and also Heidi Carter. Beyer is running unopposed for District 4. Candidates for District 1 are Parker, Michael D. Lee and Thomas Poole. District 2 candidates are Sendolo Diaminah, Jimmy Doster, Donald A. Hughes, DeWarren Langley and Terrence R. Scarborough. District 3 candidates are Deborah Lorraine Bryson, Steven Gatlin, Lisa Gordon Stella and Matt Sears.
All the candidates voted yes to Durham CAN’s agenda that if elected they would go on a retreat with CAN, are in favor of a universal breakfast, want to meet with the new superintendent within 60 days of he or she being hired, and more transparency and training about the budget.
Universal breakfast means a free breakfast for DPS students, something Parker said is very helpful but that some students don’t take advantage of it because of the stigma. Parker also supports CAN’s desire for Durham Public Schools to hire interpreters and family facilitators to work with Spanish-speaking students and families.
Beyer said the need for interpreters and support is profound, but the board has a long list of competing priorities.
“If we put these things in, we will need to remove other things,” Beyer said.
Carter said there are other crucial needs and that for Latino families, they might want to fund more mentors, counselors, alternatives to suspension and more mental health support in schools. All of those things cost money, Carter said, and the board will try to make wise decisions.
Candidates were each given a few minutes to speak, and talked about their families, jobs and work in the community. Lee’s three young children wore T-shirts supporting their dad, and he suggested that budget discussions include looking at the last year’s end budget as well. Poole stressed his experience in the community raising money for children. Diaminah talked about his work community organizing and said CAN’s agenda is about social justice. Doster said he was disappointed other candidates were not being bold, and thinks the board is rushing the superintendent hiring process. Hughes, who noted he was raised in Northeast Central Durham, said school board members need to understand budgets. Langley said that hiring interpreters would help every DPS child receive a quality education, and that education is the pathway to success. Scarborough noted his family’s funeral home history in Durham, and Bryson talked about starting a Montessori school. Gatlin said that as a teacher on the board he would always ask about teachers. Stella talked about her work in truancy court, and Sears noted his time as a teacher at Hillside High School.
Beyer said that she wished the job of a school board member came with a magic wand, but it doesn’t. She said their work is getting harder with the current General Assembly, and advocacy is incredibly important.
Those congregations, associations and neighborhoods represented at the assembly included Watts Hospital-Hillandale Association, Watts Street Baptist Church, Durham Economic Resource Center, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church, Judea Reform Congregation, Durham People’s Alliance, El Buen Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, New Creation United Methodist Church and several others.
The Rev. Herbert Davis, pastor of Nehemiah Christian Center, said that what was called “voter ID” legislation is really voter suppression.
“We must vote, and we must vote strong,” Davis rallied the assembly, and as the meeting ended, a crowd gathered and march toward the polls together.