Volunteering a great way to support schools

Oct. 07, 2013 @ 11:34 AM

During the past month I have tried to spend two days a week visiting our schools and seeing for myself the hard work of our students and teachers. I continue to be impressed with our teachers’ dedication and perseverance. At a time when state financial resources are not what we would want them to be, we need to find other ways to support our students and schools. One of the best ways is to volunteer.

Q: How can I become a school volunteer?

A: You can make a profound contribution to a child’s life by volunteering in one of our schools. Volunteers are an essential part of our efforts to ensure high academic achievement and personalized learning for every student in every school. Our schools have short-term and long-term volunteer options, from class trip chaperones (our most popular choice) to ongoing tutoring or mentorship—your chance to become a role model and friend, adding that touch of personal support that helps a child make healthy decisions.

Many parents will want to volunteer specifically at their child’s school. Every school has a volunteer coordinator who will match your interests with the best opportunities at the school. However, if you would like to volunteer in a school where the need is greatest—perhaps you’re a business volunteer or retiree hoping to give back to our community—you may contact our community engagement liaison, Regina Nickson, at (919) 560-2082. She will connect you to one of our coordinators.

Registering to become a volunteer is easy. You can go to the Durham Public Schools website at www.dpsnc.net/volunteers or click on our front-page banner. If you do not have access to a computer, you may fill out a paper application from your child’s school.

Our children’s safety is our highest priority, so every volunteer must be approved through a national background check. This process usually takes seven to 10 days, so please complete your application in advance of any activities in which you wish to participate.

I hope to see you in one of our schools soon!

Q: Will the federal government shutdown affect Durham Public Schools?

A: The shutdown will not affect our schools in the short term.

About 6 percent of our funding comes from the federal government, mainly from grants for specific purposes such as Title I support for schools with high poverty, special education, and career and technical education. These grants will still be sent out on schedule this month. (Our main support comes from state funding, while county funding gives us the flexibility to address needs unique to Durham schools and students.)

Therefore, while the shutdown poses a hardship to other people and agencies at the moment it has no impact on our K-12 classrooms and only a slight inconvenience to our district. If we have to get someone from the U.S. Department of Education on the phone to answer a question, we may have a long wait because 90 percent of their employees have been furloughed. For now, that’s all. If the shutdown drags on, we could feel a more significant impact as future grants could be delayed. We hope that the disagreements on Capitol Hill will be resolved long before that might happen.

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.