DPS Corner: Looking back on successful year
On May 22, 204 seniors at our smaller specialty high schools — Clement Early College, City of Medicine Academy and Middle College — crossed the stage, shook our hands and took their first steps as high school graduates. By the end of the day on June 12, the total of Durham Public Schools graduates will swell to nearly 2,100 – 2,100 young adults ready for whatever comes next, a career, college, maybe the military. They will be ready to make their mark on the world.
And did we mention they bring with them some $29 million in scholarships?
In Durham Public Schools, our goal is for each of these graduates, and for every student that enters a DPS school, to leave us prepared for further education and the job market, and with the skills to participate in our community as leaders and adults. We want them to be ready for college, career and life whether enrolled, employed or enlisted. Every child deserves that future, and our community expects our schools to deliver that promise. Though we need to move faster to ensure every child’s success, our students continue to improve and our schools continue to innovate.
This year, six of our high schools were named among the nation’s best. Durham School of the Arts, City of Medicine Academy, Jordan High, Northern High and Riverside High made the Washington Post’s America’s Most Challenging High Schools list, while Hillside New Tech High School made the U.S. News 2014 Best High Schools list. Thirty-one students — the highest number in 10 years — were selected to attend the 2014 session of the Governor’s School of North Carolina. Carrington Middle School’s Jeff Whitt was named the 2014 Outstanding Teacher of the Gifted by the North Carolina Association for the Gifted and Talented.
Club Boulevard Humanities Magnet Elementary School and Lakewood Montessori Middle School earned the “Magnet School of Excellence” designation, the highest level offered by Magnet Schools of America. The School for Creative Studies, in its first year of operation, offered the first public school competitive cycling program in the Southeast. Hillside High School opened the state’s first high school bank training center in partnership with Woodforest National Bank, providing internships and banking services for the Hillside community.
These are just a few of the examples of our teachers’ and schools’ accomplishments during a particularly challenging year. Per-pupil funding declined at the state level, and we are concerned that this trend may continue into the next year. Our district leadership, including the Durham Public Schools Board of Education, is concerned that our teachers and teacher assistants are respected and supported with the state resources they need to positively impact every child.
Fortunately, our community has stepped up. Businesses are partnering with our schools. Volunteer efforts such as the Durham Rotary’s Reading Rangers and Book Harvest have made a commitment to early literacy, with many partners joining us for a Literacy Summit in May that will deepen our support for young readers during Summer Reading Camps and into the next school year. We have partnered with our county and city to align resources to support our children inside and outside the classroom. We are grateful that the Durham community is committed to our students’ and schools’ growth and success.
This has also been a year of transition. We will be saying farewell to departing board members Nancy Cox, Pastor Fredrick Davis and Omega Curtis Parker. On behalf of the students they have served and supported, all of us in DPS thank them for their dedication. We will also welcome new leadership: new board members Sendolo Diaminah, Mike Lee and Matt Sears, as well as a new superintendent. We will enter the 2014-15 school year with new perspectives, but our district’s commitment is unchanging: we want every child to succeed and every school to thrive.
We will meet that commitment thanks to our teachers and staff, our families and community working together in common cause to support our students and schools. From those combined efforts, our 2,100 graduates received the resources and encouragement that helped them achieve this milestone. This week, we celebrate their success, bring the school year to a close — and pledge to work even harder for our students in 2014-15.
Hugh Osteen is interim superintendent of Durham Public Schools