UNC alum Atrayus Goode campaigns for the Durham County Board of Education vacant at-large seat

Atrayus Goode sits for a portrait at his office within the N.C. Mutual Life Insurance Co. building. (Photo by Eilah Wood).

Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024

By Eilah Wood

Voters elected Alexandra Valladares in 2020 for the at-large seat for the Durham County Board of Education, and she has opted not to pursue a second term.

The race for this seat is between Atrayus Goode and Joy Harrell, two individuals who have dedicated their careers to youth development.

The primary general election for the District A, District B, and at-large seats – as well as a special election for District 3 – occurs on Mar. 5, 2024.

There are seven members of the nonpartisan board: four are elected by their districts, two are elected from combined districts and one at-large member is elected by the entire county.

Valladares endorsed Atrayus Goode and said she wants the at-large position to be “the seat of compassion.” She also said there is underrepresentation of black men in the teaching sector.

“Atrayus wasn’t looking to run. He didn’t come to me. I came to him,” she said.

As an undergraduate junior at UNC-Chapel Hill, Goode started the Movement of Youth (MOY) in 2006 to provide scholarship and mentoring opportunities for students of color across high schools in the south.

He serves as the President and CEO of Youth Mentoring Collaborative, an advocacy nonprofit that is “dedicated to increasing the number of black and brown youth in identity-affirming mentoring relationships.”

“I do see consistent work and commitment and dedication to youth. I see a movement that has been built that is not only here in Durham, but it’s also national,” Valladares said.

If elected, Goode says he wants to work against social homelessness, a term that refers to feeling unwelcome in spaces due to intersecting identities.

“What I would like to see is us creating spaces for young people, where they can be their full authentic selves, have no apologies and they don’t have to negotiate anything about themselves where they can show up and pursue the lives that they would be most proud of,” Good said.

The Board is currently facing controversy after former Superintendent Dr. Pascal Mubenga sent estimated salary raises that he knew the budget would be unable to provide. Goode hopes to earn the trust of the Durham community, but he says this will not happen without difficult conversations.

This accompanies a strike of bus drivers across Durham Public Schools. Part of Goode’s campaign includes recruiting and honoring longtime workers of the county.

“I think part of what we’ll need to do right now is rebuild trust and help people to understand that if they are told they are going to have a particular pay raise or benefits, that those things can be counted on,” Goode said. “There are a lot of people and families that have been disrupted because of this situation.”

Goode’s campaign has seen recent setbacks, including losing the endorsement of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People after claims about his past resurfaced.

In 2013, a coworker accused Goode of sexual harrasment while employed at the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development, now the National Institute of Minority Economic Development. The claim was found to be unsubstantiated, however, Goode was fired.

The father of the alleged victim, Keith Corbett, told NC Newsline that he will attend “every meeting” if Goode is elected.

Corbett brought the allegations to the Committee, and Harrell received the organization’s endorsement in their Jan. 6 meeting.

Goode has acknowledged the accusations around the incident and his journey to redemption in a 2014 TedTalk. After he was fired from the Institute, Goode worked as a janitor for the health department.

“Part of leadership is also reckoning with the fact that in order to be the best version of yourself, you have to also reckon with the times that you weren’t the best version of yourself,” Valladares said.

Goode says politicians need to better create space to listen to the needs of the community, and this is something he plans to do as a newcomer to politics.

“If you have someone that’s willing to listen, it increases space for making sure people are represented when it comes to those sorts of conversations,” Goode said.

Edited by: Cade McConnell