Name as it appears on the ballot: Frederick X. Ravin III
Campaign website: www.FrederickRavin.com
Occupation & employer: Computer Systems Coordinator & City of Durham
Spouse: Samantha Ravin
Occupation & employer: Stay at home mother & Mother to Carter & Parker Ravin
Years in Durham: (30 Years) I have been a permanent resident of Durham since 1986
Phone number: 919-627-1413
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1. What are the most important issues facing Durham County Public Schools? If elected, what will be your top priorities?
The three most important issues are as follows:
- Retaining the great teachers throughout Durham Public Schools and providing them with more support.
- Out-of-the box ideas that engage students, increase retention rates, and reduce achievement gaps. Placing a strong emphasis on reaching the students who are not primarily focused on going to a traditional four-year university. These students may want to go to a community college, serve the country in the military, or seek out vocational and specialized training in various industries emerging throughout North Carolina.
- Durham Public Schools (DPS) increasing dependence on county funding. The dependence has increased as the total percentage of funding from the state decreases. We need to design a better funding model. A model that can project 2-5 years of indexed baseline funding need the County will be able to provide. The goal is to create a stronger infrastructure.
My top priorities are improving DPS communication, coordination, and confidence. I have a more detailed listing of what all is included in those three priorities on my website www.FrederickRavin.com The three priorities are the tools needed to improve and strengthen operational processes.
2. What is there in your public record or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be an effective leader? Please be specific about your public- and community-service background.
I am a product of the Durham Public School system. I attended Oak Grove Elementary School, Neal Middle School, and graduated from Southern Durham High School in 1998. After graduating high school, I attained a Marketing degree from North Carolina A&T State University in 03’, Finance degree (Magna Cum Laude) from North Carolina Central University 05', MBA from North Carolina Central University 09' and lastly a MIS in Strategic Information Management from North Carolina Central University in 12'. During my professional work life, I have worked for financial companies such as American Express and Citigroup in the corporate sales and the consumer finance industries respectively. While working in the public sector I have worked as a revenue analyst, grants accountant, and a computer systems coordinator. I am a business strategist & consultant for small businesses and non-profit entities. I am a small businesses owner who fully grasps the realities we face here in Durham, NC. Currently I sit on two boards: Kappas of Durham Foundation and Evolve Mentoring. Both non-profits focus on mentoring and assisting the Durham community. I was active in the Guide Right program (My Brother’s Keeper) where we mentored 5th grade students at R.N. Harris.
3. How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am a member of the millennial generation before anything. I am a member of a generation that feels the weight of the baby boomers accomplishments. The millennials are a generation that are not scared to try to see what works and go with that even if it goes against what is politically advantageous to the parties we are affiliated with. My parents whom were both veterans raised me and instilled traditional family values in me. However, that does not mean, I was raised to think negatively of someone else regardless of his or her race, orientation, religion, or affiliations. I was raised to respect everyone, as I would want to be respected. I was raised a Southern Baptist who recognized that everyone’s faith and journey is at the core of who they are. My philosophy supports me in my desire to have mastered multiple fields such as marketing, finance, and then proceeding into the information technology field. The campaign to elect Frederick X Ravin III is not mine. It’s a campaign dedicated to my children, my friends’ children, and all the students throughout Durham. Interestingly enough I still see myself as a student of DPS. I am still learning. I am still being motivated by, some of my favorite K-12 teachers and counselors that I am friends with on Facebook. I will continue to keep an open mind, to empathize with people on both sides of the coin, and base my decisions off the information available to me.
4. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
I would support an all-boys and/or an all-girls school. Data shows that students can thrive in environments such as these. I am confident there would be a long line of parents that would want to enroll their child in high-performing schools such as these. However, there would also be members of the community that would be vehemently against those types of schools. Ultimately, you have to be able to put politics aside and make the best decision for the students.
5. The INDY’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
I think I have a unique connection to the community that no politician does. For almost a decade I have marketed events, products, and brands throughout North Carolina and in various other metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Orlando, DC, and New York City. My Facebook page www.Facebook.com/FrederickRavin shows how engaged the Durham community is with the campaign and how much they are supporting our efforts. If you take an even closer look you will see that 80% of my support comes from the 18-45 demographic. Being a student of history the one thing I know is that when a generation is ready to make a change you have two choices: Get out of their way or join them in their efforts. My election to this office would be an extension of an underrepresented group gaining a voice. Allowing people to speak candidly to you, without fear of retribution, is when you hear the truth. My comment feed, the plethora of inbox messages I receive daily, and all of the direct messages I receive tell me that people are energized. Additionally, I have no desire run for any other political office. I have one goal and that is to make the school system better. If I had no children in school, I do not believe I would, be as emotionally vested as I am. The passion to push for change it what compelled me to be the initiator of the change.
6. A report released last year found that while 51 percent of DPS students were African-American, these students comprised nearly 73 percent of school suspensions. What, if anything, do you believe the Board of Education should do to address this disparity?
These statistics are depressing and there is no easy answer. No one can say that all of the suspensions were because of bias. Coincidentally, no one can say that some of the suspensions were unwarranted. I remember being sent to time-out in 5th grade because I told my physical education (PE) teacher I did not want to play one of the planned games for the day. I was passionate about going to my PE classes. I am sure I requested to play dodgeball and/or crab soccer twice a week. After being sent to time-out, I can still recall mumbling under my breath, “at least I don’t have to play this game”. Within five minutes, I had been written-up and suspended for the day. I was a child who had perfect attendance, who was enrolled in academically gifted classes, and was an AB honor roll student. In hindsight as an adult, I am fully aware that I was in the wrong. Perhaps on that day my favorite PE teacher allowed me, a nine year old, to get under her skin. I think suspensions like that happen in the moment and teachers are justified. The great teachers however, work around issues like that and use suspensions only as a last option. However, if we want teachers that go that extra mile, we have to go the extra mile for them as well. I do not think the Board of Education should address a matter like this until all of the board members have done their homework on it. First, you have to break out the types of suspensions that deal with fighting and contraband. Secondly, you then group together the students that have multiple suspensions. Next, perform an analysis of where the suspensions are originating from (school/grade level/teacher) and the students suspended. Only then, can the data be interpreted and properly addressed. .
7. The Durham Public Schools Code of Conduct is currently under review. What should the goal of this review be? If revisions are made, what would you most like to see changed, and how do you believe this would affect students.
Changing the Code of Conduct sends a message. There are no applicable catch all phrases that solve or properly address this matter. It is about how the rules are applied. The code of conduct would serve us all better if it were addressed with a common sense approach. State the intent and purpose of the code and be consistent when detailing the listing. Certain portions are far too specific and some are far too board for example; “Students may also be disciplined for conduct that occurs off educational property that violates this Code of Conduct…” The code of conduct reads as if it has prepared more so for parents, teachers, and attorney than for students. Lastly, the code of conduct on the site as presented looks poorly maintained. Bullet point numbers are repeated, margins are off, and spacing patterns are far from consistent. If an AP English teacher were grading it as it appears on the DPS website, it would not be worthy of an “A”.
8. As a leader of a school system with more than 33,000 students, how do you propose to improve retention rates as well as the individual student experience?
From my experience, you cannot make a change without engaging the people who truly need to buy-in to the change. You need the buy-in from the people who are close to dropping out. We need to be able to communicate with them and find out about their interest. Having graduated from Southern Durham in 1998 it is not difficult to figure out what the issues are. That is mainly because; I am already familiar with the issues. I am that friend that has split my lunch money with his friends since middle school. The issues deal with communicating the opportunities available to underserved individuals in our community. The goal is to highlight what can reasonably be achieved regardless of their current economic status. From there you have to show them the plan in place and who it has worked for. If we can reduce negative perceptions by presenting more attainable future outcomes and opportunities, everyone in the school system will benefit from it.
9. At the state level, there has been increased focus on charter schools and voucher programs, which critics allege comes at the expense of traditional public schools. In your view, have these non-traditional options affected Durham students positively or negatively? In addition, in an age with more and more educational choices, what should the school system do to encourage parents to choose traditional public schools, if anything?
I am not in favor of charter schools. However, if you are honest with yourself you know that a change was needed at the time that charter schools were opened in Durham. There are many parents in Durham that had to decide between sending their child to a low performing school or a higher performing charter school. If I were one of those parents, I too would have sent my sons to a charter school, faced with those options. It is evident that funding in recent years has been, diverted from public schools to charter schools. Charter schools are here to stay so; the question is how we can make public schools stronger. The goal should be to make Durham Public Schools so strong that it becomes difficult for charter schools to compete.
10. The Board of Education is now facing the prospect of as much as $16 million in budget cuts for the 2016–17 school years. How do you believe the school board should address this issue? Where do you believe cuts should be made? And do you believe the county commission needs to allocate additional revenue to DPS?
I have been asked this question numerous times. Having been an analyst and accountant for years, my first step would be to do a full review of all of the financials. I would need to gain access to DPS financial enterprise system so that I could review every line item under every object code and compare each to its historical data. I would separate the personnel fund from the operations funds and review all growth and reductions in cost. While reviewing the operational budget, I would look to see if there are any agreements or contracts that can be refinanced or renegotiated. On the personnel, side I would need to make sure the growth is on track with projections and determines what cost savings is available in the lapsed salaries area. After reviewing everything, I would feel more comfortable with stating what the true need is. Lastly, I would work to index our request so that moving forward we would have an established index baseline budget. This budget would always address the keep the lights on (KTLO) needs. No one wants any cuts to be made so, my priority would be to save jobs first. Reduction in force (RIF) and layoffs always have a negative effect on morale as well as a ripple effect within the community.