Durham County

2 Durham schools to get charter-like flexibility under state’s ‘Restart’ model

Tamara Vanie speaks against a state takeover at Glenn Elementary School on Oct. 10, 2017. The school is one of two in Durham that avoided takeover and will now get charter-like flexibility to try to improve student achievement.
Tamara Vanie speaks against a state takeover at Glenn Elementary School on Oct. 10, 2017. The school is one of two in Durham that avoided takeover and will now get charter-like flexibility to try to improve student achievement. bthomas@heraldsun.com

Two struggling Durham schools that avoided a state takeover last year will get charter-like flexibility in the 2018-19 school year to try to improve student achievement.

Glenn and Lakewood elementary schools will be the only Durham schools under the state Restart Reform Model. They could have a longer school day and different school calendar, among other things, as well as route more money to professional development and support specific areas that affect learning.

Durham Public Schools originally wanted 14 low-performing schools in the program, but the N.C. Department of Public Instruction agreed Thursday to rescind Restart applications for the 12 others.

In a letter to the state, new DPS Superintendent Pascal Mubenga cited the costs of meeting the state’s new K-3 class size mandate as the reason for trimming the district’s number of Restart schools.

DPS estimates it will need 63 new classrooms and 90 additional teachers for 2018-19 under the class-size mandate.

Paul LeSieur, the district’s chief finance officer, said last month that it would cost the district “millions” to operate 14 Restart schools next year.

Mubenga told the school board in December the district will not forget the other 12 schools: 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 – Southern High School.

In his letter, Mubenga said what happens at Glenn and Lakewood next year will help guide the district in its decisions about the other 12 schools.

“The continuation of the Restart Model in these schools [Glenn and Lakewood] will allow the district to implement comprehensive transformation strategies for systemic change as well as explore the feasibility of the Restart Model in other schools,” Mubenga said.

In North Carolina, low-performing schools and districts are defined by the General Assembly and are based on each school’s School Performance Grade and Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS) growth.

According to state law, low-performing schools are those that receive a school performance grade of “D” or “F” and a school growth score of “met expected growth” or “not met expected growth.”

School officials and others used the fact that Glenn and Lakewood were slated for Restart in their successful argument against the state takeover. DPS initially had five schools under takeover consideration. Lakewood and Glenn were among the finalists.

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645

About the Restart model

About 100 schools in the state have received permission to use the Restart Reform Model.

The State Board of Education voted Thursday to allow eight schools, including two in Durham County, to use the model as a way to improve school performance by giving them the same flexiblity that charter schools have when it comes to setting school calendars, spending state dollars and hiring teachers.

Charter schools have historically been given more flexibility because they are taxpayer-funded public schools that are meant to be laboratories for innovation. Traditional public schools have long sought the same flexibility as charter schools, but state leaders have only been willing to offer it to struggling schools.

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