Ask the Superintendent: Explore the many DPS options

Feb. 11, 2013 @ 03:44 PM

Across our county, families are exploring options within Durham Public Schools for 2013-14. This is an exciting time for DPS parents and students preparing to enter middle and high school, as well as those who are looking forward to the start of kindergarten. Our magnet and showcase schools have opened their doors for tours and open houses to families, inviting them to see our opportunities. Durham Public Schools has the resources, business partnerships, university connections and community support to provide a strong foundation for all of Durham’s children.
If you have any questions about our schools, ask them at
Q. I know an impressive student at our school and saw a Student of the Month in The Herald Sun. How would I nominate that student?
A. The Student of the Month is sponsored by Duke University’s Office of Durham and Regional Affairs and The Herald Sun. Eligible high school students may be nominated by anyone in their school community except their own parents. The school-by-school schedule for Student of the Month and online application are on the DPS website at The Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Council makes the final selection.
Q.  will the Common Core curriculum affect my child’s EOG tests?
A. The state Department of Public Instruction will base all End-of-Grade and End-of-Course exams on the Common Core State Standards. All assessments will be new and there should be a direct alignment with the taught standards.  The new mathematics assessments will have a new style item called “gridded response” along with the traditional multiple-choice type items.   With gridded response items, students will have to enter their final responses in grids as opposed to choosing an answer from a list of possible choices. 
Q. Thanks to our recent winter weather, how many school days must we make up?
A. Jan. 18 was the only full school day canceled for students due to inclement weather and that did not affect traditional-calendar students that were out for a teacher workday. Middle College High School students will make it up on March 4, Early College students on March 11, year-round students on March 14, and City of Medicine Academy on March 15. For other possible make-up days, visit
Q. Who develops the school calendar?
A. We have a calendar development committee that includes parents, teachers and administrators. They review and revise two draft calendars and recommend Professional Learning Community/Early Release days before sending the options to each school to vote their preferences. Based on their responses, our staff presents a recommendation to the Board of Education. To meet a new state law, the 2013-14 calendars will be one school day longer: 181 days of instruction.
Q. I wanted to bring cupcakes to my child’s class for her birthday, but I was told I couldn’t do that anymore. Why?
A. In September, our school board revised a comprehensive wellness policy that went into effect Jan. 1. We are committed to providing a school environment that promotes and protects every child’s health, well-being and ability to learn. Food safety and security is an important part of that policy. For that reason, foods brought to school to feed more than one child must be one of the following: peelable whole fruits or vegetables, unpeelable whole fruits or vegetables both pre-washed and washed on site, bottled water, and pre-packaged foods or foods prepared by a restaurant or catering service that meets all applicable food safety and sanitation requirements. Any other foods must be approved in advance by the principal.
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