About Paula

For 35 years, I have had a never ending passion for the children and families that I have served in various capacities, with over 20 of those years working in public schools.  I have been an advocate for teachers and families. I am now ready to serve and be a voice for all teachers, students and families in Durham Public Schools by being elected to Durham Public Schools Board of Education. As a school board member I will focus on advocacy and accountability for families, educators and all schools. I will be accessible to all stakeholders and I promise to continue my diligent work ethic, my transparent communication, and my determination to make necessary system changes that will benefit ALL stakeholders in DPS.

Twenty-seven years ago, just four months before my first child was born, I moved to Durham. I immediately fell in love with Durham and the diverse mix of people, cultures and a feeling that the city was on the verge of great things beginning to happen. The new Durham Bulls ballpark was being built, the vision of Central Park was being formed, and Durham City and County School Systems were about to be merged. I had 6 years of experience teaching in public schools and 2 years as a Family Support service provider under my belt, so almost immediately after my son was born, I became involved in education and family support services in Durham.

Charging education forward in the Bull City

Within my first two years in Durham, I connected with Bonnie Hillerbrand, who was thinking of starting an educational consulting business, so in 1993, we paired up and created Educare, offering Family Support and Advocacy services to families who had a child with special needs. Eventually, in 1996, together with Bonnie and Kate Thegan, we co- founded a non-profit called Community Allies for Children. In 1995, the NC Smart Start initiative, awarded Durham with 5 million dollars to improve the lives of children ages 5 and under.  Durham’s Partnership for Children was formed and I was elected to be one of 7 parent representatives on the 40 member founding board of DPfC.

I have not stopped serving Durham’s families since.

From 1996 – 2002, I was the proud Co-Founder and Director of BUSY STREET Children’s Museum in the Shoppes At Lakewood in Durham (across the green space from El Futuro). This hands-on educational playspace and community gathering place, averaged 3,000 visitors per month. My mission for BUSY STREET was to create a safe place where ALL children and families could come together to play and learn together. That mission was accomplished during the five years it remained open. It also allowed me the opportunity to interact with and form relationships with hundreds of parents, service providers and community organizations in and around Durham.  

My story as an educator

I started my career in public education 35 years ago in Kentucky, over the river from Cincinnati, after graduating from the University of Cincinnati with a Bachelor of Science in Education (emphasis in Special Education). Prior to relocating to Durham, I have been a public school teacher in Virginia and Kentucky, as well as an educator in a home visiting Family Support Project in Baltimore. I have worked for Durham Public Schools for 12 of the past 17 years. My experience ranges from teaching in schools labeled as one of the lowest performing schools to one of the highest performing schools in Durham, as well as mentoring over 75 Beginning Teachers. Those experiences are one of the main reasons I decided to run for school board.

The inequities within the DPS school system are unforgivable. Our students who live beneath the poverty line and our black and brown children continue to be treated as if they are not worthy of the same education as their peers. I am currently serving as an Instructional Coach at Merrick-Moore Elementary School in Durham Public Schools, identified as an “underperforming school.” I see the inequities in action and it needs to stop.

Of my 35 years as an educator, 13 of those years in Durham Public Schools as an EC Inclusion, and then 4th grade teacher and mentor at Forest View; a grade 4-5 Spanish Dual Immersion teacher at Southwest Elementary School; Instructional Facilitator at Pearsontown Elementary; a district Full-Release Mentor at four elementary schools, and now a Literacy Coach at Merrick-Moore. I also served as Assistant Director at Central Park School for Children, a charter school located in downtown Durham.

While at CPSC, I participated in a NC pilot project for Peaceful Schools, helped to begin the process for teachers and parents to participate in Racial Equity Institute trainings, and I was part of the initiative to begin a weighted lottery system there to assure that there would be more seats available to low income families. This has given me a unique perspective about charter schools and what DPS can learn from the parents and teachers who choose charter schools for school experiences.

Throughout my career, I have proudly mentored Student Teachers and Interns from several universities. I served on Principal Search Committees and on hiring teams in four DPS schools. I have served as an Adjunct Lecturing Fellow and Course Instructor in the Program in Education at Duke University, and I was an Adjunct Instructor in Education at Meredith College, taught Early Childhood Courses in the Dept. of Education at Durham Technical Community College and was an Instructor in the Duke University Non-Profit Certification Program.

My story as a parent

Without a doubt, my greatest accomplishments in life are my two grown children, Austin and Callie. They are both graduates of Durham Public Schools. As a single parent for seven years during their elementary school years, I remained active in their education as a class parent and as a member of the PTA’s in their schools. I was able to advocate for student and family needs and learn about the DPS system as a SIT parent representative on both the Githens and Rogers Herr teams.

Austin and Callie both attended RN Harris and Forest View Elementary Schools, as well as Jordan HIgh School, but they chose different middle schools, attending Rogers Herr and Githens. My son is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and currently resides and works as the Assistant General Manager for the Daytona Tortuga baseball organization in Florida. My daughter is a graduate of Appalachian State University, a graduate of Americorps City Year in Chicago and currently pursuing her Masters in Social Services Administration at the University of Chicago. Both Austin and Callie are well-rounded, open-minded young adults who are proud to be products of our Bull City. Their educational experiences and opportunities in Durham Public Schools were a large part of shaping who they are today and the way they choose to live their lives.

I have been married for fourteen years to Clark Godfrey, a retired DSS/DPS School Social Worker, one of the best social workers DPS has ever seen. We met in 2005, while taking care of families at Forest View Elementary School together after many families there lost their homes to a massive fire at an apartment complex. I took on raising money and notifying the media about the needs for the families, and my fourth graders transformed our classroom into an Italian Restaurant for an evening to host a spaghetti dinner to raise money for one of the students in our class. My husband, then only a school social worker in my eyes, became my strongest supporter during that time and also showed me that he, too, was a strong advocate for DPS families and students.

We both worked tirelessly to empower families to advocate and care for children. After we married, I joined his childhood church, Watts Street Baptist Church, a progressive and community-oriented organization. It was there that I became involved in building relationships with a sister church in El Salvador. I have since traveled to El Salvador with adults and youth from WSBC eleven times over the past fourteen years. These experiences, along with an immersion experience in Guatemala with other DPS teachers in 2007, have been invaluable for me as I learned first-hand what our immigrant families from Central America lives were like before coming to the United States. Their stories of courage and their love for their families are etched in my heart.

I am the proud granddaughter of Italian immigrants and of my Italian heritage, including my love of cooking passed down to me from my grandmother and mother. I understand how immigrant families value relationships, and I do not judge them based on their language, skin tone or religious beliefs. In my experience, every parent wants what is best for their child and they want to trust that schools will be a safe and stimulating learning environment for them. I was fortunate enough to have an incredible, large, loving family as a child, and two parents who taught me that I mattered, and that all others were to be valued too. I also enjoy time with my own family, including my seven bonus grandchildren who live in Beaufort and Greensboro, NC.  

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT

I have been an active community member and advocate for families, children and education in Durham for 26 years. Some of the boards and committees I have served on include:

  • Durham Parent Education and Support Network, (1993-99) Co-Chair (1995-97)
  • Durham Day Care Council Quality Improvement Team (1995-98)
  • National Center for Development and Learning, UNC FPG Advisory Board (1997-2001)
  • Durham Day Care Council Board (1997-99)
  • Children First Non-Profit Preschool, Board (1997-2003)
  • Welcome Baby Parent Workshop Facilitator (1998-2002)
  • Triangle Day School Board (1998-2000)
  • Durham’s Partnership for Children Board, Vice Chair of founding board (1999-2002)
  • Durham’s Partnership for Children Family Work Group (1996-97)
  • The State of Durham’s Children Steering Committee (2000)
  • Meredith College, Child Development & Birth-Kindergarten Advisory Board (2001-03)
  • Site-Based Committee Member, Rogers-Herr Middle School, Parent Rep. (2004-06)
  • Student U, Advisor to the Director, Teacher Mentor (2007-09)
  • Pauli Murray Project Leadership Team, Founding member (2009-16)
  • El Salvador Outreach Committee, Co-Chair, Watts Street Church (2007-present)
  • Watts Street Baptist Church, Missions Committee, (2011-17) (Chair 2012-16)
  • People’s Alliance Education Team (2012-14)
  • People’s Alliance Testing Team (2015-16)
  • Bull City Fair Trade Board, formerly One World Market (2014-present, Chair 2016-19)
  • Duke Program In Education Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation Accreditation (CAEP) Advisory Team (2014, 2018)
  • Gaspard & Dancers 10th Anniversary Fete Sponsor and Planning Committee (2019)

Paid for by Paula for School Board

5117 Starcross Lane, Durham NC 27713