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Matthew Sears

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Matthew Sears
Matthew Sears.jpg
Board member, Durham School Board, District 3
Elections and appointments
Last electionMay 6, 2014
First electedMay 6, 2014
Term limitsN/A
Bachelor'sPurdue University
Master'sUNC-Chapel Hill
Campaign website
Matthew Sears campaign logo
Ballotpedia's school board candidate survey
Matthew Sears is the member-elect for the District 3 seat on the Durham Public Schools school board in North Carolina. He first won election to the chamber on May 6, 2014.


Sears is a native of St. Louis, Missouri. He studied mathematics and computer science at Washington University and graduated with a B.S. in Math with Computer Science from Purdue University. He earned his Master's of Arts in Teaching degree from UNC-Chapel Hill, where he spent time student teaching at Hillside High School in Durham. Sears began teaching at Hillside High in 2004. He joined Hillside New Tech High School as its founding and lead math teacher in 2007 where he became a state and national leader in Project Based Learning, a practice in which students learn through engaging in real-world problems related to the content area. In 2011, Sears joined North Carolina New Schools, an educational non-profit that provides professional services to innovative high schools and middle schools across North Carolina. He currently serves on the Board of Advisors to the Kenan Fellows Program and participates in other local education related groups, fellowships and alumni organizations. Sears was awarded Durham’s Teacher of the Year in 2008-2009. The Burroughs Welcome Fund honored him as one of its five inaugural Career Award winners in 2010 and the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education presented him with the alumni award for Excellence in Teaching in 2011. Sears and his wife, Ellen Beckmann, like in Durham with their two daughters.[1]



See also: Durham Public Schools elections (2014)


Matthew Sears faced fellow newcomers Steven Gatlin, Lisa Gordon Stella and Deborah Bryson for the District 3 seat in the general election on May 6, 2014.


Sears won election to the board in 2014.

Durham Public Schools, District 3 General Election, 4-year term, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngMatthew Sears 58.6% 5,034
     Nonpartisan Deborah Bryson 21.4% 1,837
     Nonpartisan Lisa Gordon Stella 15.3% 1,313
     Nonpartisan Steven Gatlin 4.1% 356
     Nonpartisan Write-in votes 0.6% 48
Total Votes 8,588
Source: North Carolina Board of Elections, "05/06/2014 UNOFFICIAL PRIMARY ELECTION RESULTS - DURHAM," accessed June 2, 2014


Sears reported $6,641.09 in contributions and $5,285.38 in expenditures to the Durham County Board of Elections, which left his campaign with $1,355.71 on hand.[2]


Sears was endorsed by The Durham People's Alliance, The Durham Association of Educators and INDY Week.[3][4][5]

What was at stake?

Four seats on the Durham school board were at stake in the May election. Incumbents Omega Parker and Natalie Beyer sought re-election to their respective seats.

Issues in the district

Teacher tenure

In March 2014, the Durham school board voted unanimously to join a lawsuit challenging the state law ending teacher tenure. The law awards four-year contracts with annual $500 raises to the top 25 percent of teachers in their district. The teachers would have to voluntarily give up their tenure, before tenure ends for all teachers in 2018. The law was intended to promote competition and remove teachers with low student test scores. Under this law, the superintendent will recommend 25 percent of teachers in the district to the school board for four-year contracts beginning in the 2014-2015 school year. The Durham school board joins the Wake County school board as the second board planning to sue the state over this legislation.[6]

Charter schools

Durham County's influx of charter schools has raised concerns for some of the county's residents. The county is home to ten charter schools and will be adding another in August 2014. Six more Durham-based charters have applications pending with the state to open in 2015. Critics fear that the new charters will take students and funding away from traditional public schools. They also believe that charter schools educate a disproportionate number of middle-class children and lead to a concentration of poor and minority students in the district schools. Supporters have responded by emphasizing overall improvement in education quality in the district's charter schools.[7][8]

Superintendent resignation

In December 2013, Eric Becoats resigned as superintendent after receiving criticism for a number of issues throughout the year. In June 2013, school board chairwoman Heidi Carter reached out to the county commissioners because the school board thought it had only $4 million in unassigned funds, far less than the typical $16 million the board has normally kept in order to offset state budget cuts. In December 2013, an audit revealed the district had $15 million more in unassigned funds than the board originally reported. Becoats, who provided the board with the initial financial documents, could not explain how the mistake was made.

In October 2013, records also revealed that Becoats spent $20,157.86 on his district-issued credit card from July 2012 to June 2013 for out-of-state conferences, dinners and lunches with colleagues, economy-class air travel, hotels, room service, limousines from the airport, meetings, workshop supplies, flowers for recognition of employee achievements and gifts to a host family in Mexico. Becoats’ credit card was one of four district-issued cards. There had been no official policy outlining the use of the cards, but the board cancelled his card in October 2013. In November 2013, they also decided to discontinue the other cards and tighten rules on travel reimbursement and spending. Becoats was also criticized in July 2013 for hiring a school activity bus and driver to take friends and family members to private events. He reimbursed the school system $726.80 and was reprimanded, but the contents of his reprimand were not released to the public.[9]

About the district

See also: Durham Public Schools, North Carolina
Durham Public Schools is located in Durham County, North Carolina
Durham Public Schools is located in Durham County, North Carolina. Durham County is home to 279,641 residents, according to the United States Census Bureau.[10] Durham County Schools is the seventh-largest school district in North Carolina, serving 32,478 students during the 2010-2011 school year.[11]


Durham County outperformed the rest of North Carolina in terms of higher education achievement in 2012. The United States Census Bureau found that 44.7 percent of Durham County residents aged 25 years and older had attained a bachelor's degree compared to 26.8 percent for North Carolina as a whole. The median household income in Durham County was $50,997 compared to $46,450 for the state of North Carolina. The poverty rate in Durham County was 18.0 percent compared to 16.8 percent for the entire state.[10]

Racial Demographics, 2012[10]
Race Durham County (%) North Carolina (%)
White 53.0 71.9
Black or African American 38.8 22.0
American Indian and Alaska Native 1.0 1.5
Asian 4.9 2.5
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 0.1 0.1
Two or More Races 2.3 2.0
Hispanic or Latino 13.4 8.7

Party Affiliation, 2013[12]
Party Registered Voters  % of Total
Democratic 118,059 58.8
Republican 27,874 13.9
Libertarian 685 0.3
Unaffiliated 54,240 27.0

Note: The United States Census Bureau considers "Hispanic or Latino" to be a place of origin rather than a race. Citizens may report both their race and their place of origin, and as a result, the percentages in each column of the racial demographics table may exceed 100 percent.[13][14]

Recent news

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See also

External links

Suggest a link


  1. Matt Sears for Board of Education District 3, "About Matt," accessed February 24, 2014
  2. Durham County Board of Elections, "2014 Organizational Disclosure Reports," accessed February 24, 2014
  3. Wes Plat, The Herdald-Sun, "People’s Alliance releases Durham endorsement slate," April 4, 2014
  4. The Herald-Sun, "Durham educators issue endorsements," April 7, 2014
  5. INDY Week, "Durham school board: We recommend a clean start this election," April 23, 2014
  6. Jonathan M. Alexander, News Observer, "Durham school board votes to join Guilford County lawsuit in teacher-tenure fight," March 5, 2014
  7. Ned Barnett, News Observer, "Charter schools press Durham’s district schools," February 1, 2014
  8. Jenna Zhang, The Chronicle, "Charter schools on rise in NC," February 6, 2014
  9. Jonathan M. Alexander, News Observer, "Durham schools chief Becoats resigns amid criticism," December 19, 2013
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 United States Census Bureau, "Durham County, North Carolina," accessed February 21, 2014
  11. National Center for Education Statistics, "ELSI Table Generator," accessed February 18, 2014
  12. Durham County, "Voter Registration by County," accessed February 21, 2014
  13. United States Census Bureau, "Frequently Asked Questions," accessed April 21, 2014
  14. Each column will add up to 100 percent after removing the "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin percentages, although rounding by the Census Bureau may make the total one- or two-tenths off from being exactly 100 percent. This Ballotpedia page provides a more detailed explanation of how the Census Bureau handles race and ethnicity in its surveys.