Name as it appears on the ballot: Matt Sears
Campaign website: www.votemattsears.com
Phone number: 919-389-1867
Years lived in Durham County: 13
1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing the Board of Education? What are your top three priorities in addressing these issues?
Our students deserve very much to be performing better than 95th of 115 districts. You have my word that I will hold the superintendent and his team accountable for the following questions:
1. Are more and more students reading at grade level? In the short term: is our improvement outpacing our peers? We are currently around 95th in terms of performance...are we getting better?
2. Do Teacher Working Conditions and
3. Is our teacher retention rate improving?
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be an effective Board of Education member? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
3. If you are challenging an incumbent, what decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with? If you are an incumbent, what in your record and experience do you believe entitles you to another term?
I am an incumbent. I am most proud of my record of challenging the DPS status quo that has produced unacceptable outcomes for students over the last 25 years despite the amazing work of teachers and some school leaders. In Board meetings and in the community, you can view a consistent pattern of my demanding higher quality school leaders, better and more transparent information, and accountability for senior leadership and their decisions, particularly financial decisions. I am the only Board member who has each year asked and verified that evaluations have been performed for senior leadership and all principals. And, while it gave me
4. Research, including a new report from the NC Justice Center, suggests that North Carolina’s schools are becoming more segregated by race and economic status. What do you think is driving this trend, and do you think this is an issue DPS needs to address? Please explain your answer.
The bill in 2011 to lift the cap of the number of charters schools
5. What effects do you believe the popularity of charter schools is having on the school system? Is it exacerbating segregation or draining resources from neighborhood schools, as some critics contend?
See question 4.
6. In the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, what do you think should be done to make schools safer? Do you see preventing such shootings as a “school safety” issue?
School shootings are horrific, but they are also rare. Our schools are relatively safe. I support investing in mental health for our students, not the $3 million DPS is about to spend to put another set of doors at a dozen or so schools. I support and advocate for common sense gun legislation.
7. In a similar vein, do you support the placement of school resource officers in Durham schools? If so, what do you think their role should be? If not, what do you propose as an alternative?
I do not want armed officers in our schools and I worry that they often have too much access to student data. I would like to see our schools create “Dean of Student” positions that are well-trained on de-escalation and emergency response and to have our armed officers outside of the building for serious emergencies only.
8. On the most recent Durham City and County Resident Survey, respondents rated DPS poorly in terms of community engagement, quality of education, budget management, transparency, and quality of leadership. Do you think this is a fair assessment? Why or why not? What do you think should be done to improve the system's image?
Yes and no.
Yes: (but it’s somewhat justified) We are not a great “listening,” transparent district because that is not the way our educators have been trained and it has not been the expectation for years. We want our educators to be good at that—educating! But with increased competition from charters and the influx of business practices in education, we also want them to be great at customer service
No: Education is one of the areas of our society where everyone had their own experience, and thus have an informed opinion about education, which may not be true for healthcare professionals, transportation services, etc. Thus, I think the data is skewed too far towards the negative because not everyone’s ideas about education are always valued in the way they want by the professionals they encounter in our district.
9. According to the most recent data, DPS’s four-year graduation rate is 81.4 percent, which is significantly lower than other Triangle counties’ graduation rates, as well as the state average. To what do you attribute this? And what steps can DPS take to increase its four-year graduation rate?
There are too many factors at play to answer this question effectively, not to mention that post-secondary success, while tied to graduation rate, is just as important to me. I will continue to push our district leadership on success for all students, including graduation and post-secondary success by examining data like the National Student Clearinghouse data.
10. Three-quarters of DPS students are black or Hispanic, yet students of color are trailing their white peers in grade-level proficiency. Why isn’t DPS doing a better job of reaching students of color? What should be done to close this achievement gap?
See question 1. To make significant progress on this gap we need to focus on reading achievement, school leadership, and teacher retention. Our efforts towards universal will also help.
11. What do you think the system could do to keep down suspension rates in Durham County schools?
When the US Dept of Ed’s Office of Civil Rights complaint emerged in 2014, I joined the board in time for Dr. Jacob Vigdor’s report that showed that within DPS schools, suspensions were given out fairly evenly in terms of offense = consequence. There were two challenges: 1. Rates of suspension between schools
All that said, I see our most recent data as just one data point and too early to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of programs like Capturing Kids Hearts.
I feel from my experience in DPS that I know that principal training is needed to norm our district to be consistent from school to school, from consequence to consequence. I do not think our principals know how to do this through their certification programs and that it
In this past year’s
12. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some points with voters.
Redistricting. We must be responsible to the communities that support our neighborhoods and the overcrowding of schools in south Durham paired with magnet programs that are inaccessible because of walk zones or numbers of applicants,