DPS Corner: All children, schools matter

Jul. 28, 2014 @ 11:04 AM

Last week 3,100 eager students poured into our five year-round schools for the start of the school year. They were excited to meet new classmates, teachers and challenges, and their energy was catching. As I visited these schools on the first day, I felt just as excited. It was a new beginning for all of us.

Every student and every school matter. This is true regardless of whatever demographic category or home address a child may claim. We are here for every child in Durham County. We are charged to help them succeed in the classroom and prepare them for college, career and life. We are accountable for each child to each family, taxpayer and stakeholder, without exception. Durham Public Schools serves a community that is celebrated for its diversity. We must honor and reflect that diversity while fostering equity within our schools to help each child meet high academic standards.
This is the challenge that drew me to become DPS’s superintendent — back to a home I never fully left. After six years as associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, I served as superintendent for the Franklin County school system and then the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. We kept our house in Durham, however, regularly returning to visit our family. Saying “yes” to the DPS Board of Education’s invitation to work for our Durham students was an easy decision.
There has been a lot of talk here about Durham County enjoying a renaissance. You can feel the energy in our downtown and across our county as new businesses and residences spring up. We are an entrepreneurial, creative and fast-moving community. But poverty and disengagement weigh heavily in some areas — and in every school there are students for whom we must help restore hope and trust.
We will know we have succeeded as our student performance and graduation rates increase and as our suspension and dropout rates decrease. But we are also holding ourselves accountable for our children feeling safe, valued and responsible for their own learning.
Let me say it again: Every student and every school matter.
As this new school year begins, I urge you to join our educators and staff in helping each child in Durham Public Schools feel engaged, challenged and valued. If you are a parent or guardian, your school needs you as much as your child does. Please stay in contact with his or her teacher, help with homework and participate in the PTA. If you have the time and desire to volunteer with our students, or if you are part of an organization that wants to deepen its commitment to our schools, go to our website at dpsnc.net and click on “Volunteers and Partnerships.”
I’m pleased to begin this new school year with you. It’s good to be home.

Dr. Bert L’Homme was sworn in as superintendent of Durham Public Schools on July 14.