As we noted in our post about vetting school board candidates, we have sent questionnaires to each school board candidate and are publishing them in the order received. Questions were compiled by board members of both Triangle Blog Blog and Bridging the Gap, and attendees of a four-part community read and discussion series on reparations and race at the Chapel Hill Public Library. The discussion series was led by Danita Mason-Hogans and Simona Goldin, the co-charpersons of the Equity and Schools Task Force, members of the UNC Commission on History, Race, and a Way Forward and members of the Chapel Hill community.
Deon Temne has been a member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education since 2019, serving as Chair for 2022-23. He is one of three incumbents running for reelection, alongside a slate of 11 new candidates.
Temne has also served on the School Improvement Teams for Northside Elementary and Rashkis Elementary, and on the Special Needs Advisory Council for Seawell Elementary. He is a cyber security engineer who most recently served as the COO of Farmer Foodshare.
Make your 2023 municipal election voting plan
Beginning with the 2023 municipal elections, North Carolina voters will be required to show photo ID when they check in to vote. Voters who vote by mail will be asked to include a photocopy of an acceptable ID when returning their ballot by mail.
Check your voter registration now. You can look it up here. This is really important particularly if you’ve moved in the past year.
Make a plan to vote during early voting. This ensures that if there’s a problem, you can sort it out. Early voting runs from October 19-November 4. Here is the complete schedule of voting sites, dates, and times for Orange County.
Read about the new voter ID requirements. Every vote counts in North Carolina, and this information must be shared early and often. If you know of people who have just moved here, or students, or new neighbors, please let them know about registering and the voter ID requirements.
What is your vision for education in this community? What do you see as the major issue(s) facing the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools? Public education?
I stand for students. My vision is for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools to shape an environment where every student, regardless of background or circumstance, emerges empowered and ready to engage with the world. To achieve this, we must prioritize:
- Personal Discovery—Every student should have the opportunity to foster a strong sense of self, understand their unique strengths, and value their cultural identity.
- Individual Skills—Beyond academics, students should be equipped with life skills that prepare them for real-world challenges.
- Cognitive Enhancement—Pushing the boundaries of all students’ intellectual capacities should be a mainstay.
- Criticality—Encouraging questioning, deep thinking, and problem-solving is crucial for success in today’s world.
The success of CHCCS hinges on embedding these principles at the heart of our education. Only then can our students truly unlock their full potential.
Some of the challenges facing our district, akin to challenges in all of public education, include:
- Curriculum—There’s an emphasis on testing standards rather than holistic student development.
- Inadequate Funding—In recent studies, North Carolina ranked 48th in public school expenditures in the United States. This profoundly affects our ability to educate students, recruit and retain diverse, high-quality teachers, address mental health challenges, update aging facilities, and more.
- Politics in Education—Political agendas sometimes dictate educational directives, causing shifts in curriculum and funding that may not align with the best interests of students.
- School Safety—The physical, emotional, and psychological safety of our students and staff is paramount. Creating environments where students feel secure is foundational for learning.
By addressing these issues, our district could demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the challenges in education both at a local and broader level.
What are three things that you believe the school board could be doing better?
From my current seat on the school board, I have a unique vantage point that allows me to see several opportunities for improvement, including:
- Operational Efficiency and Focus: The board needs to streamline its processes and prioritize its initiatives. A more organized and efficient approach will help us address the root causes of issues, rather than getting sidetracked by peripheral challenges.
- Inclusivity in Decision-Making: It’s crucial that we actively seek out and understand the voices in our community that often go unheard. Decisions that affect the community should be made with a comprehensive understanding of its diverse needs and perspectives.
- Transparent Communication and Collaboration: A strong bridge of understanding and respect between the school board, school district and the community is vital. We must recognize that what’s considered the best approach for some might not address the needs of all. Prioritizing open communication about our decisions and the reasons behind them is essential. By fostering a collaborative environment, we ensure that educators, parents, and students can freely share feedback, leading to more informed and community-driven choices that genuinely cater to everyone’s best interests.
What are the things you think the school board is currently doing right?
The school board has taken several commendable steps that reflect our commitment to continuous improvement and our genuine concern for the well-being of our students, staff, and the broader community. Notably:
- Adaptability in Decision-making: We actively listen to feedback from both staff and the public. When a decision doesn’t resonate or produce the intended results, we demonstrate the humility and agility to revisit and revise. It’s vital that our actions and policies are fluid enough to adapt to the dynamic needs of our school community.
- Resilience Amidst Political Pressure: We are facing an era where education often becomes a political battleground. Despite the pressures, our board has consistently taken bold steps to prioritize what’s best for our students and staff, even if it means swimming against the tide. We remain staunch advocates for educational integrity, refusing to bend to transient political assaults that don’t align with our core values or the best interests of our community.
How do you feel about CHCCS’s reputation as a preeminent school system while also maintaining one of the highest achievement gaps in the country for Black and Brown students?
The CHCCS’s reputation as a preeminent school system speaks volumes about its potential and the quality of education it can offer. Yet, the significant achievement gap for Black and Brown students is not just a datapoint of academic disparities but a testament to the continued resistance from Black and Brown students to instruction and curriculum that does not inclusively represent or resonate with them. Another vital factor is the importance of having instructors who mirror the diverse backgrounds of our students, fostering a deeper connection and understanding. True excellence in education means ensuring every student sees themselves in what they learn and feels a genuine connection to their studies. Prioritizing a culturally relevant approach that encompasses: Personal Discovery, Individual Skills, Cognitive Enhancement, and Criticality. With high expectations, understanding, valuing, and reflecting students’ diverse backgrounds and experiences in the curriculum and instruction, we will close the gap and elevate the quality of our entire education system.
Do you support posting school demographic performance data on the front page of the district and school websites for transparency and choice options for parents and caretakers?
Yes, I support posting school demographic performance data prominently, including on the front page of district and school websites. Transparency is vital, and parents and caretakers deserve to have all the information at their fingertips to make informed decisions about their children’s education. It provides a clear view into areas of success and challenges.
However, with transparency must come accountability. When we identify discrepancies or areas of underperformance in the data, it’s imperative that we proactively address them. Educators, Principals, and the District as a whole must be held accountable. Our primary obligation is to devise and implement strategies that rectify poor performance. Posting the data is the straightforward part; our true commitment lies in our relentless pursuit to elevate our standards and ensure every student receives the best possible education.
What specific education policies would you advance to tackle the achievement and therefore opportunity gap? Then, how would you translate policy into action to ensure that all children are having their needs met by the district?
I recognize that the achievement gap is multifaceted and can’t be bridged by any single policy. I would champion the following policies to address our opportunity gap holistically:
- Culturally Relevant Curriculum: Ensuring our curriculum is inclusive and representative of all students can foster deeper connections and engagement with learning.
- Personalized Learning Plans: Every child is unique. By tailoring learning experiences to individual needs, we can ensure every student progresses at their optimal pace.
- Block Scheduling: Implementing block scheduling can provide students with extended periods for deeper understanding and hands-on learning. Moreover, aligning all our schools to a single, consistent scheduling format will foster district-wide cohesion, streamline resources, and ease any potential transitions for students moving between schools within the district.
- Technological Integration: By leveraging technology, we can provide students access to specialized programs, even if not offered at their home school, bridging potential resource gaps.
To ensure these policies translate to meaningful actions I would continue to advocate for an evidence-based approach to decision-making. That entails:
- Pilot Programs: I’ve been an advocate for piloting new strategies, ensuring they’re effective and practical before implementing them district-wide.
- Feedback Mechanisms: I’ll continue to push for regular feedback sessions involving students, educators, and parents, as their firsthand experiences are invaluable.
- Resource Allocation: My commitment has always been to direct resources where they’re needed the most, ensuring that every school and every student benefits from our initiatives.
- Partnerships: I’ve championed collaborations with external organizations that bring specialized expertise and resources to our district.
- Transparency: I believe in transparent governance. It’s vital for every stakeholder to be aware of our actions, the reasons behind them, and the expected outcomes.
At the end of the day, our policies must not only be effective in theory but must tangibly uplift our students’ educational experiences.
In what school district or community activities/organizations have you been involved?
- Board Member, Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools, 2019-Present (Vice-Chair 2021-22; Chair 2022-23)
- Orange County Community Remembrance Coalition, 2023
- Vice-Chair, Equity Advisory Council, 2019
- School Improvement Team, Northside Elementary, 2019-2020
- Special Needs Advisory Council (SNAC) representative, Seawell Elementary, 2018-2019
- Northside Elementary Liaison & Title I representative, Superintendent’s Family Commission, 2018-2019
- Steering Committee Member, Campaign for Racial Equity in Our Schools, 2018
- Tutor/Coach, Math Olympiad, Rashkis Elementary, 2017-18
- School Improvement Team, Rashkis Elementary, 2017-18
What changes should be made on the state and local level regarding public education?
North Carolina’s ranking at 48th in the nation for school funding paints a clear picture: we must rethink our priorities. As a state that seeks to attract well-educated residents and innovative businesses, our education system needs to be front and center. Here are the changes I envision:
- Increase Funding: Beyond mere numbers, it’s about strategic allocation. We require more funds to hire and retain diverse, highly qualified teachers, modernize our facilities, and invest in programs that holistically develop our students.
- Curriculum Flexibility & Autonomy: Standards are crucial, but they shouldn’t stifle creativity or local relevance. Local districts should have the latitude to modify curriculum to better resonate with their communities. Moreover, the influence of political agendas on educational content and practices should be minimized to maintain the integrity and objectivity of our teaching.
- Budgetary Autonomy: The individuals most familiar with a community’s educational needs are its educators and administrative leaders. Thus, decisions, especially those regarding budget allocations, should be made locally. Furthermore, streamlining school budgets to interface directly with the state, including granting taxing authority, could enhance efficiency and transparency.
- Depoliticizing Education: Our children’s future shouldn’t be subject to political whims. We must prioritize an education system that values learning and development over politics.
We must rally for these changes at both state and local levels. Our children’s future depends on it.
Relative to other schools, do our public schools have trouble hiring and retaining good teachers? (Explain your answer)
Drawing from our local colleges and universities for teaching talent is an exceptional strategy that aligns with the spirit of community and localized excellence. From my firsthand experience North Carolina Central University produces some of the most dedicated and passionate educators I have met, but the challenge often occurs post-hiring. Many of these educators, despite their drive and qualifications, grapple with a lack of adequate support, leading to disillusionment and turnover.
Furthermore, the financial dimensions exacerbate these challenges. Our state’s ranking in terms of school funding critically impacts our ability to competitively compensate and retain these quality educators. Our teachers often bear the brunt of systemic underfunding, finding themselves undervalued in terms of pay and stretched thin in their responsibilities.
Beyond the teachers, our students also bear the consequences. Without proper funding, we’re handicapped in our ability to holistically address student needs. Essential resources like mental health support, comprehensive special education provisions, expansive pre-K options, vocational training, and opportunities in the Arts remain elusive. These are not just add-ons but integral aspects of a holistic education that caters to diverse student interests and strengths. Their absence not only deprives students of rounded development but also potential career pathways.
It’s not just about hiring— it’s about creating an ecosystem where educators feel valued, supported, and equipped to handle the diverse needs of their students. We must prioritize a holistic investment in education, from teacher salaries to multifaceted student support, to truly make a difference.
How have your experiences informed your decision to re-run for school board?
I am seeking re-election because I bring a unique and often missing perspective to our discussions and decision-making. I unapologetically advocate for our students. While my votes may not always align with the most popular views, they consistently champion the best interests of our students. My mission is to ensure every student leaves our district as an independent, empowered, critically-thinking, lifelong learner, poised to achieve to their utmost potential.
What do you see as the primary work of the board of education?
The primary role of the board of education is to set a visionary direction for the district. We craft and adopt policies, then work closely with the Superintendent to ensure a strategic plan brings our vision to fruition. While policy-making is pivotal, our duties extend to evaluating the effectiveness of the strategic plan and remaining flexible in its implementation. When outcomes diverge from our vision, we adapt, always prioritizing the students’ best interests.
Like many school districts, CHCCS has had difficulty hiring and retaining school bus drivers. Last year, our problems were so acute that many students were routinely late to school, or spent two hours or more each day on the bus. This past spring, CHCCS took some small steps toward addressing this problem. Do you agree with their policy approach? If problems continue, what do you recommend that the CHCCS do next? Would you support CHCCS hiring a transportation planner, as the Durham County schools did in 2022?
In my tenure as a board member, I have consistently supported creative and proactive approaches to our transportation challenges. I wholeheartedly agree with the strategic changes we implemented to address the problem and have always inquired if there are additional measures we can undertake. The issue at hand isn’t about optimizing routes – it’s about addressing the fundamental driver shortage. CHCCS has TIMS operators (transportation planners) adept at route planning, and it’s notable that even they find themselves behind the wheel due to the driver shortage.
While hiring a transportation planner was a solution that benefited Durham County, CHCCS faces unique challenges that require tailored solutions. Our primary focus should be on recruitment and retention initiatives for bus drivers. This could mean offering competitive salaries, providing full-time status, benefits, or creating pathways for career advancement within the district.
We must delve deeper into understanding why we’re facing a driver shortage, whether it’s due to compensation, working conditions, or other factors. By addressing the heart of the problem and offering concrete incentives like those mentioned, we can find the solution to our transportation issues.