1st day of school red with support
Durham Public Schools’ traditional public schools headed back into the classroom early Monday morning with energy to spare following summer break.
DPS Superintendent Eric Becoats, Ph.D. was out early visiting school after school throughout the county and looking forward to a positive year ahead.
“We want to continue to make some of the strides that we’ve made in Durham and do something for our teachers,” Becoats said. “We want them to know that we do support them and value what they do.”
Becoats said that professional development and continued recognition and acknowledgement will be part of the arsenal to ensure teachers understand their value to the county.
One way Becoats and others throughout the district showed support of teachers was by wearing red. As part of the “Wear Red for Public Ed” campaign, the superintendent and others used the color to show solidarity in their commitment to public education.
Several DPS board members were out and about Monday as well. Board member and retired educator Omega Parker wore red from head to toe as she visited classrooms and schools across Durham.
“It’s a good feeling when you know that you are needed and when you think in terms of your usefulness,” Parker said while walking the halls at Lowe’s Grove Middle School. “We can’t allow our teachers to feel down.”
As tight as the budgetary straightjacket seems to be, Parker said that this is just one more obstacle the district will have to work through.
“Times have been just as hard and we survived and with a positive attitude, they can too,” she said.
Parker taught for 41 1/2 years teaching, all but two in DPS. Having witnessed many ups and downs, she still has a certain joy that comes from the first day of school, even when it’s the 54th.
“Teaching is rewarding,” Parker said. “When I went out to Hillside (high school) and saw those fathers, it was amazing.”
Parker was also on hand at Hillside High for the Million Father March. Men were asked to bring their students to school and commit to volunteering at least 10 hours this school year.
Lowe’s Grove Principal Darneise Massey said that her school’s enrollment was at 761 and counting as parents continued to enroll their children for school.
“Once you see the students, that’s when everything makes sense and everything comes together,” Massey said. “I’ve been very impressed with the first day today.”
Massey and Assistant Principal Avis Keen were both wearing red as they walked the halls of Lowe’s Grove and helped anyone who had a question.
Keen said her red wardrobe was indicative of her belief in a “long-standing public education” and the recognition that “students are our future.”
“Every year is different,” Keen said. “I always look forward to building relationships with students and watching them grow.”
In her 28th year in education, Keen advises educators to remain as focused as possible as the school year begins.
“Stay focused on educating and growing our youth and don’t get sidetracked with the other variables and forces acting on education,” she said. “Our students and youth need to be educated because education is the key to success.”
Southwest Elementary had a table set up by the front office with any paperwork any parent would need, from supply lists to copies of the school newsletter.
“It’s been wonderful,” said Southwest Assistant Principal Torrey Flores. “We’ve had a large amount of parents that came and walked their children to class. There’s just been a real positive presence.”
At the Southern School of Energy and Sustainability, the first day was as smooth as any. Teach for America teacher Maria Sylvester said that she is ready for her English I students this year.
“It’s been wonderful,” she said. “It’s been exhilarating and refreshing. It’s good to be back. I love the nervous jitters and the nervous smiles that come with the first day of school. I love being that energetic person they’re not expecting on that first day.”