Eric Becoats reflects on 3 ½ years leading DPS
(These are the remarks Durham Public Schools Superintendent Eric Becoats delivered Thursday night after the Board of Education accepted his resignation.)
According to Webster – journey is defined as “the act or instance of traveling from one place to another.” This journey has lasted 3.5 years -- 42 months, approximately 1,260 days, 30,240 hours, 1,814,400 minutes, 108,864,000 seconds – (to) December 31, 2013.
Let me first start off by saying the journey has strengthened my faith and belief that all our children can succeed (graduation rate – 80 percent). Despite what others may think or say, we, the teachers, students, principals, administrators, bus drivers, custodians, office support, parents, school board have all made a difference. Never let anyone tell you that we have not made a difference in the lives of the children that we serve. I as superintendent did not alone, one person cannot, we have done it collectively.
Let’s take a moment to reflect.
-- Conducted a Listening & Learning Tour of Durham, garnering over 4,000 voices in the development of the district’s first comprehensive strategic plan -- “One Vision. One Durham.”
-- Increased business involvement in the district through the Superintendent’s Business Advisory Council.
-- Established the Superintendent’s Principals Advisory Council as a key stakeholder group.
-- Developed the Budget Advisory Committee.
-- Opened the state’s second middle Montessori school (Lakewood).
-- Adopted DPS Strategic Plan.
-- Rogers-Herr Middle School named a School to Watch by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform.
-- Received Race to the Top funding to support transformation at W.G. Pearson Elementary School, Lowe’s Grove Middle School and Neal Middle School.
-- Developed the Superintendents Principal and Teacher Advisory Council.
-- Had no low performing schools under the state’s accountability model for the first time in district history
-- 100 percent of middle schools met expected or high growth
o City of Medicine Academy and J.D. Clement Early College named Honor Schools of Excellence
-- Awarded district accreditation from AdvancED
-- R.N. Harris Elementary School won 2012 National Excellence in Urban Education Award from the National Center for Urban School Transformation
-- Facility shared between Lakewood Montessori Middle School and Durham YMCA opened.
-- Julian S. Carr Building at Durham School of the Arts reopened after $14.9 million renovation.
-- Project SEARCH internship program for students with disabilities opened in partnership with Duke Durham Regional Hospital.
-- Sandy Ridge Elementary School opened as a magnet arts program.
-- DPS, NASA and East Durham Children’s Initiative partnered to provide a live downlink with astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
-- Launched monthly radio broadcast partnership with LaMega.
-- Held the district’s State of Our Schools address, where we updated our community on the status of the Strategic Plan.
-- Four-year graduation rate rose to 79.6 percent, representing a 10-percentage-point climb in four years and, rounded up, meeting the district’s strategic plan target of 80 percent one year in advance.
-- Hillside New Tech, J.D. Clement Early College and Southern School of Engineering achieved 100 percent graduation rate.
-- Met or exceeded growth in 77 percent of schools despite implementation of the Common Core curriculum.
-- Redesigned Southern High School into the Southern School of Engineering and Sustainability.
-- Durham School of the Arts ranked number one high school in North Carolina by U.S. News.
-- Dr. Becoats named Superintendent of the Year by the National Alliance of Black School Educators.
-- Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy opened at Durham Performance Learning Center with 14 initial graduates.
-- Durham Hub Farm opened at Eno Valley Elementary School.
-- Partnered with Duke University’s Office of Durham and Regional Affairs to implement a dropout prevention support “early warning system” at Chewning, Lowe’s Grove and Neal middle schools
-- Partnered with Durham County Government, the City of Durham and Duke Medicine to offer hands-only CPR training to all 10th-graders.
-- Re-launched the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council.
-- Revitalized the Superintendent’s Closing the Achievement Gap Committee.
-- Opened five new magnet programs at Holt Elementary School, Lowe’s Grove Middle School, Neal Middle School, The School for Creative Studies (formerly Chewning Middle School), and Southern School of Energy and Sustainability.
-- Implemented middle school Instructional Focus Areas at Brogden, Carrington, Githens and Lucas, leaving every DPS middle school with a unique magnet theme, calendar or academic program.
-- Launched DPS Family Academy.
-- Redesigned Superintendent’s Business Advisory Council.
The work must continue. The goal has not been achieved for our children.
The strategies used in the past have shown us that we can rise -- we can rise from where the district’s current academic rankings -- NOTHING is impossible. It is important to remember this as we strive to raise our current performance levels with the new accountability model.
As I have stated in 2010 and in 2012, we must do what is right for our children. We must put forth the effort to make a difference in the lives of our children.
Regardless of whom sits in this chair (the superintendent’s) -- compromise, commitment and collaboration is what’s required to continue to move the district forward. My hope is that this community will continue to do that important work.
To my supporters and non-supporters, I say thank you for what you have taught me. Principals -- you are the greatest. Stay focused and do not get distracted by the noise. Teachers -- you are the best. Continue to work with the administration through the (STAC) on ways to improve your working conditions in spite of the N.C. legislature. Students -- thank you for your openness and thoughts with my work with the (SSAC). I hope this work continues. To our business partners (SBAC) -- you have been invaluable to this administration . I hope this work will continue – we cannot be successful without you. (SPAC) – you have been chosen by your peers to represent them. Continue to advocate and manage up.
There is one person that I have to pay special recognition to, and that is to Minnie Forte-Brown, who was the chair at the time of my appointment to the superintendency in 2010. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your leadership, guidance, support and unwavering devotion to public education can never be surpassed. I listened to a sermon by Jeff Johnson one time driving back from Baltimore and the speaker asked the question. “Are you a senior or are you an elder? An elder is one who does not stand in the way of the next generation in hopes that they will enhance outcomes for the next generation; an elder is one who encourages, provides direction, supports, corrects but is not scold full. Minnie you represent our elders are one of our elders. You are a phenomenal leader.
I will end as I began. This journey has strengthened my faith and belief that all children can succeed if provided the appropriate resources. As a taxpaying member of this community, where I plan to remain, where my son received a great high school education that adequately prepared him for college, I will continue my work to support young people. In addition, I will be an active community member who will hold elected officials accountable. As I continue to advocate for the voiceless and for the children in this community, my mission has not changed nor has my vision – it will be accomplished.
Durham Public Schools, thank you for the opportunity to serve. One Vision. One Durham.