DPS Family Academy Festival coming up

Aug. 13, 2013 @ 12:49 PM

We are less than a week away from our traditional-calendar teachers returning to their schools to prepare for our students’ arrival, but we can already feel the energy building in Durham Public Schools. Some of that energy comes from anticipation, but the rest comes from momentum. Our year-round and specialty high schools are already underway, and when I recently visited our year-round schools I was impressed by how engaged our students and teachers were even though the year had only just begun.
You may also see DPS’s momentum in the graduation rate information the state Department of Public Instruction released last week. Our students’ graduation rate has climbed by 10 percentage points over the last four years, reaching our Strategic Plan’s 80-percent target a year ahead of schedule. Our teachers deserve enormous credit for this achievement. During the last few years of tight budgets and curriculum changes, they have maintained their focus on preparing our students for college, career and life. I hope that you share my pride in our teachers, and that you will congratulate them for their accomplishment.
Q: I saw a flier in my water bill about a DPS Family Academy Festival. What’s that about? Is this for me?
A: The “Parents as Partners” DPS Family Academy Festival will be a showcase for the kinds of training, information and support that we will provide this year through our new Family Academy program. It will be held on Saturday, Sept. 7, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hillside High School, and there will be fun and learning for the whole family. For children, there will be activities from face painting to “bouncy houses.” For parents and guardians, we will have wellness activities, samples from our Family Academy courses, and more. Everyone is encouraged to attend and get a taste of what the DPS Family Academy is all about.
We all know that students need support from their families, as well as from their schools and community, in order to succeed academically. This is true of every child, regardless of family circumstance. The DPS Family Academy is for all Durham families. It will be the comprehensive hub for our school system’s efforts to work with community partners to help parents and guardians become fully engaged in supporting their children’s education. The academy’s mission is to help them connect with their school, work together for their child’s success, live healthy and strong, and empower their families.
The progress we are making as a school system will be accelerated if our schools and families have a common vision of success for our students. The DPS Family Academy represents our commitment to achieving this shared vision. For information, visit http://www.dpsnc.net/community/family-academy-festival.
Q: When will we know the final impact of the state’s budget on Durham Public Schools?
A: Last Thursday, Aug. 8, we presented to the DPS Board of Education an overview of the additional challenges the new state budget places on our schools. We presented a budget proposal to our school board this spring based on earlier projections of what the state would do. The final budget approved by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. McCrory included a number of changes from the governor’s original budget plan.
We face an additional $4.2 million in budget reductions beyond what we projected for this year. We have lost state funding for more than 200 instructional positions: teachers, teacher assistants, and instructional support. We have also lost state funding for textbooks and classroom materials. Local funding offers us some flexibility to offset these cuts through other reductions. We also have money remaining in our reserves — our fund balance — that could stave off some of these cuts for another year.
The DPS Board of Education will make its final decisions on the 2013-14 budget this fall. Protecting our classrooms and supporting our students will be the first priority in Durham, even when that is not always the case in Raleigh.
Dr. Eric J. Becoats is superintendent of Durham Public Schools. He answers readers’ questions in his column the second Tuesday of each month. Submit your questions to superintendent@dpsnc.net.