In March, school board Chairman Mike Lee said the Durham Public Schools has to do a better job of promoting its schools and programs to compete with the county’s charter schools.
Lee thinks he’s found the right marketing tool to get the job done.
Near the end of a DPS Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Lee pointed to a newly created poster titled “Congratulations Class of 2017. You Did It.” hanging on the wall of the boardroom.
The poster contained the names of hundreds of colleges and universities that accepted many of the school district’s 2,231 Class of 2017 graduates.
It also noted that the graduates had earned more than $40 million in scholarships.
“We have a narrative out there about Durham Public Schools that isn’t necessarily true, and this poster represents the positive side of that narrative: that we are doing positive things for students at Durham Public Schools,” Lee said.
“Do we have challenges? Absolutely, but we also have successes.”
The universities include ivies such as Princeton, top UNC system schools such as UNC Chapel Hill and N.C. State, top state-funded Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) such as N.C. Central, N.C. A&T State universities and private HBCUs such as Hampton, Howard universities and Morehouse and Spelman colleges.
“We’re getting children into high-end schools,” Lee said. “Princeton’s on that list, the University of Chicago is on that list, Stanford is on that list. There are a lot of high-end schools our children are achieving to.”
The names of the valedictorians and salutatorians are listed at the bottom of the poster with the names of the schools they have chosen to attend.
Lee’s concern comes as projections show charter-school enrollment in Durham County will grow by 700 next school year, potentially pushing enrollment in the county’s soon-to-be 14 traditional charter schools to 7,000 students.
At the same time, DPS expects its enrollment to decrease by 500 students next school year.
That would mark the third consecutive year the school district’s enrollment has decreased, a troubling trend for DPS leaders because fewer students means fewer state dollars for teachers and program. Superintendent Bert L’Homme has said every loss of 21 more students costs the district a teaching position.
Lee said the idea for the poster came up in June during DPS’ graduations.
In addition to all DPS highs schools, Lee said he wants the posters placed in all elementary and middle schools and other high-traffic areas where it can be seen.