Durham Association of Educators–DPS Board of Education Election Endorsements


Durham Association of Educators PAC Endorse Natalie Beyer, Matt Sears, Mike Lee, and Bettina Umstead for the May 8th, 2018 School Board Election.

“We are endorsing Natalie, Matt, Mike, and Bettina because each of them has been a strong ally for educators and parents in our work to defend and transform Durham Public Schools,” said Michelle Burton, a school librarian at Spring Valley Elementary and the coordinator of the DAE PAC. “Our endorsements are based on a careful evaluation of each candidate’s public record, their responses to our candidate questionnaire, and in-person interviews,” Burton explained. The DAE Political Action Committee is proud to be the first major Durham organization to announce an endorsement for school board in the upcoming May 8th election.

In District 1:
We endorse Mike Lee because of his deep commitment to public schools as a father and community leader. Mike was a strong voice in opposition to the recent state takeover attempt of Lakewood and Glenn Elementary, and understands the importance of developing, and then adhering to, a strong and robust strategic plan for the district. Mr. Lee is committed to a community-based approach to public schooling, and we look forward to continuing to work with him over the next four years.

The other candidate in District 1, Ms. Pebble Lindsay-Lucas did not submit a questionnaire and therefore was not interviewed by our committee.

In District 2:
We endorse Bettina Umstead and are excited about the energy, vision, and critical thinking that she brings to her work as a board member. Since being appointed to fill a vacancy two years ago, Ms. Umstead has focused her attention on improving student achievement among African American and Latinx students. Ms. Umstead’s questionnaire demonstrated a deep understanding of the systemic disadvantages faced by low-income students and a desire to approach these challenges with creative solutions such as an embrace of the community school model.

In District 3:
We endorse Matt Sears especially for his strong leadership role in pushing for a rigorous superintendent search this past year and for helping galvanize the Durham community against the state takeover of Lakewood and Glenn Elementary schools. As a former DPS teacher and current DPS parent, Mr. Sears has a deep commitment to public schools, a thorough understanding of policy, and an unshakable commitment to equity. Mr. Sears is willing to have important but difficult conversations about the equity of staffing allotments across the district and the need to re-evaluate school attendance zones with a view to improving equity. We appreciate that Mr. Sears consistently takes principled positions, holding firm to his values and clearly communicating his values, vision, and purpose even with those with whom he disagrees.

Our committee enjoyed our interview with the other District 2 candidate, Ms. Katie Jones. We deeply appreciate Ms. Jones’ 25 years of service as a classroom teacher and her desire to improve student achievement. However, especially in today’s climate, we feel that a broader political perspective of the problems that our students face is needed. We applaud Ms. Jones’ passion and sincerity but did not perceive her to have a strong strategic vision for how to achieve the improved outcomes she desires.

In District 4:
We endorse Natalie Beyer because we value her experience and steady leadership on the Board. Ms. Beyer has been a stalwart ally in the fight against privatization and charter schools, working to end the DPS contract with Teach for America and publicly critiquing state policymakers for underfunding our schools. Ms. Beyer is detail oriented and responds quickly to community concerns. She has supported efforts to improve equity within our schools both in terms of funding and student achievement, and we appreciate her willingness to publicly and privately call on white and middle-class parents to remain committed to enrolling their students within DPS rather than abandoning the system for other options. We are impressed with Ms. Beyer’s leadership style, a unique combination of humility and tenacity, which we feel gives her the skill set to work effectively both behind the scenes and in public.

Our endorsement of Ms. Beyer in District 4 does not diminish our respect for her challenger, Mr. Antonio Jones. Mr. Jones is a former DPS employee who knows what it takes to make a school work effectively, and who shares with DAE an emphasis on student-centered, common-sense policies that would provide educators with the support they need in the classroom. If elected, we are confident Mr. Jones would be a strong public school advocate and a reliable partner.

The third candidate in District 4, Ms. Angela Starke, did not return our candidate questionnaire and was not interviewed by our committee.

Please note: The Durham Association of Educators (“DAE”) Political Action Committee operates under the umbrella of North Carolina Association of Educators (“NCAE”) Political Action Committee and requires both NCAE and DAE membership. The DAE Political Action Committee is organized separately and is distinct from the Durham Association of Educators.

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