Daniel Holbert, a Northern High School sophomore, thinks having more school counselors would go a long way to help improve Durham Public Schools.
Holbert, 15, one of about 200 people at the third and final “Community Conversation” held at Brogden Middle School on Tuesday said counselors have too many students now.
“I think there needs to be a one counselor for every 30 students instead one for every 500 and the counselor must be able to build a personal relationship with the students they’re responsible for, so they can help them with their emotional needs as well as help them find a career path,” he said.
Tuesday’s “Community Conversation” focused on education and economic development. City and county governments and DPS held the three “community conversations” to hear what is important as they begin planning their budgets for the next fiscal year.
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Before the attendees began to tackle questions, they heard from several elected officials, including Mayor Steve Schewel, who for the second time this week, urged residents to send their children to Durham Public Schools.
“One of the main things we need to be doing here in Durham is sending our kids to public schools and fighting for them,” said Schewel, a former member of the school board.
Schewel first made the comment about residents sending their children to public schools during his State of the City Address on Monday.
He said too many parents never consider Durham’s schools, choosing instead to trust negative rumors about DPS.
Schewel noted that his son attended Brogden and received a great education.
“I coached soccer for six years at this school,” Schewel said. “It’s awesome.”
In an interview, Schewel said it’s critical that Durham’s children attend the same schools so students from different racial and cultural backgrounds can get to know each other.
“All of our kids need to go to school together,” Schewel said. “That’s what builds a society where everybody is able to embrace difference, and it builds a society where everyone is able to get along and work well together in the workplace.”
The attendees occupied nearly 20 large tables set up in Brogden’s gymnasium. They were asked to consider three questions:
▪ What could the city and county do to better ensure economic prosperity for all residents?
▪ What could be done to improve the schools in our community?
▪ What could the city, schools and Durham Tech do to better prepare residents for the jobs in our community?
Near the end of the event, each table was asked to share answers.
Here is what they said is needed, sometimes to address all three:
▪ Universal pre-kindergarten and a larger investments in early childhood education.
-- An education system that’s better aligned with the business community to focus on current jobs and those of the future.
▪ More vocation educational courses for students who do not plan to attend college
▪ More paid apprenticeships and internships.
▪ Better pay for teachers and a living wage for workers.
▪ Smaller class sizes along with increased funding for public schools.
▪ Workplace childcare.
▪ Affordable housing.
The concept of Community Schools, an approach which integrates focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement, also got a big nod.
Deborah Giles, director of the city’s Equal Opportunity/Equity Assurance Department, said schools should focus on more programs to teach students about entrepreneurship.
“It would allow students to have a different focus,” Giles said. “For people in school who are not interested in going off to college, what they really want is a job. We offer them very few opportunities to have that.”
Bill Ingram, president of Durham Technical Community College, said he heard a lot Tuesday that resonated with the role the college.
“The key is to make sure our residents are prepared to take the jobs that are coming to Durham,” Ingram said.