Superintendent’s Corner: Back to school

Sep. 02, 2013 @ 04:40 PM

Our year round and specialty high schools have already been hard at work with our students. When our traditional schools joined them in opening last week, more than 32,000 children were learning in Durham Public Schools. After a hard summer in which state legislators’ support of teachers and public schools was in question, our teachers began the year truly focused on their students. DPS teachers are dedicated and loyal to Durham’s children; I could not be more proud of them.
A tight state budget that did not support teachers calls school and district leaders to action. I have shared with our principals that we must demonstrate to our teachers in every way possible that we value, respect and support them. We must give them a reason to come to work every day excited about the possibilities in Durham Public Schools.
As Durham County parents and citizens, you play an important role in making that happen. Go to and find out how you can get involved in supporting our students and teachers. Join your school’s PTA. It takes a village to support not only a child, but also our schools. Your visible presence can make a difference.
This year, literacy, writing, critical thinking and mathematical discourse will be focus areas across our entire district. We begin 2013-14 on a high note, with the Class of 2013 having an 80 percent graduation rate, representing a 10 percentage point increase during the last four years. We must seize and build upon this momentum to help more high school students stay focused and graduate. We must also ensure that elementary and middle school children develop the habits and attitudes that will carry them toward future academic success.
Our staff will continue to collaborate in Professional Learning Communities to share ideas and provide greater consistency from classroom to classroom. They will be assessing our students’ progress throughout the year, intervening when necessary and providing additional challenges to our students as they become more and more proficient.
All of these efforts will support our continued implementation of new state standards, as well as the General Assembly’s Read to Achieve program which mandates third-grade reading proficiency before promotion to the fourth grade. As in previous years when our state has made curriculum changes, there will first be a decrease in proficiency and then our students and teachers will resume their trajectory. Higher expectations will lead to greater academic success. Together, our elementary, middle and high schools are preparing our students for college, career and life.
When I visited Holt Elementary this summer, at the start of the year-round calendar, it looked as though school had been in session for months. Principal Star Sampson, her teachers and students were fully engaged: writing, discussing, exploring and learning. This is what I expect to see at all of our schools as I visit during this time of year. Among the kindergartners rushing into classrooms leaving parents shocked at how much older they seem, sixth-graders learning locker combinations for the first time, and ninth-graders navigating new schedules and class changes, our teachers will be focused on setting expectations and nurturing Durham’s next generation of leaders.
As superintendent, I will do my best to support them all. I encourage you to join me.