Durham County

DPS hopes restart brings academic success to 14 low-performing schools

The Durham Board of Education received an update on restart plans for 14 low-performing schools during a worksession, Thursday, Oct. 5.
The Durham Board of Education received an update on restart plans for 14 low-performing schools during a worksession, Thursday, Oct. 5. Greg Childress

Local reviews of the 14 low-performing DPS schools getting “charter-like” flexibility from the state will begin next week and run through December.

The school board received that news Thursday during an update on its “Destination Success Restart Program,” which is set for implementation April 2018-June 2019.

Durham Public Schools officials have used the impending restart program to argue against a possible state takeover of two of its elementary schools.

One of the schools, Lakewood Elementary School, was removed from the list of six schools from across the state being considered for the N.C. Innovative School District (ISD) program. Schools chosen for the program will be handed over to a private charter-school operator to manage as part of a state effort to improve academic outcomes.

DPS’ Glenn Elementary School remains on the list, along with three others.

“We are striving for Glenn to be removed from the list as well,” said Dietrich Danner, the school district’s director of federal programs.

School board member Matt Sears, who has a child at Lakewood, continued his criticism of the ISD process Thursday, noting that Lakewood was dropped the day state officials were supposed start a comprehensive needs assessment of the school.

Sears said ISD Superintendent Eric Hall told him he was sending in a comprehensive needs assessment team because he needed qualitative data to use in deciding which schools to recommend for the ISD.

“To make a decision before he’s even been to Lakewood, just shows how arbitrary this process is,” Sears said. “We know it is, our community knows it is, but I think we have to point out when things are not done in a process that is public, transparent and honors the community they claim they want to partner with, and we know they don’t.”

The local reviews of the 14 restart schools will be conducted by consultants who will meet with school leaders and school improvement teams.

“Once we conduct all reviews, we will report the findings to our schools to ensure that they embrace what we find so we can develop robust plans,” Dietrich said.

He said DPS plans to begin sharing the restart plans with parents in March.

The state granted the 14 schools “charter-like” flexibility in July. The move gives them more calendar flexibility to target their needs and provide more professional development, as well as increase daily instructional time.

It also gives the DPS flexibility to route more money to professional development, support specific areas that affect student achievement and to convert positions including teaching assistants.

In addition to Glenn and Lakewood, the restart schools are Bethesda, Eno Valley, Fayetteville, E.K. Powe, Sandy Ridge, and Y.E. Smith elementary schools, Brogden, Shepard, Lowe’s Grove, Githens and Lucas middle schools and the Southern School of Energy and Sustainability.

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645