Superintendent’s Corner: Conversations to focus on suspensions

Oct. 28, 2013 @ 10:57 AM

All children in Durham Public Schools, without exception, deserve an education that will prepare them for the future: college, career and life. Our teachers, principals and administrators understand and accept our responsibility for keeping every child engaged. Learning must never stop, even when circumstances are difficult.
Keeping our schools safe and healthy is essential to serving all of our students. Maintaining school discipline is part of fostering that positive learning environment. But as educators, we have an obligation to all children to balance discipline with educational opportunities and also to provide order with an environment adaptive to individual needs.
Developing and implementing alternatives to suspension is one component of the Strategic Plan. We have implemented a number of strategies to support that effort, working with many community partners.  But we have much more work to do to ensure that alternatives to suspension are plentiful and effective, and that students who are suspended remain engaged in learning.
In recent months our community has asked to play a larger role in discussing and helping to shape our policies and practices regarding out-of-school suspension, especially among African-American male students and students with disabilities.
We hear you!
This December, we will host a series of Community Conversation sessions that will help me, the DPS Board of Education, and school leaders gather your thoughts and ideas about suspension rates, root causes and solutions. We are reaching out to teachers, parents, faith communities, non-profit and public agencies, housing communities, government officials, higher education leaders and more. These public, facilitated meetings will help us to come together as one Durham to support every child and every school.
You are invited to join us:
• Saturday, Dec. 7, 10:30-noon, Staff Development Center at 2107 Hillandale Road.
• Monday, Dec. 9, 6:30-8 p.m., Northern High School at 117 Tom Wilkinson Road.
• Tuesday, Dec. 10, 6:30-8 p.m., Southern School of Energy and Sustainability at 800 Clayton Road.
We will provide an overview of our current initiatives to reduce suspensions and support suspended students, and most importantly an opportunity for you to be heard. Please consider joining us – your voice is vital to shaping Durham Public Schools’ future. I hope to see you there.
Eric J. Becoats is superintendent of Durham Public Schools. His column appears the last Tuesday of each month.