Durham school escapes possible state takeover. Parent calls decision ‘a win-win’

Parents and teachers are meeting at Glenn Elementary School on Tuesday, Oct. 10 to discuss strategies to prevent a possible state takeover.
Parents and teachers are meeting at Glenn Elementary School on Tuesday, Oct. 10 to discuss strategies to prevent a possible state takeover.

Parents, teachers and students at Glenn Elementary School are breathing a lot easier now that the school is no longer targeted for a state takeover by the North Carolina Innovative School District (NCISD).

NCISD Superintendent Eric Hall announced Friday, Oct. 13 that Glenn, had been removed from the list of schools being considered for the program created to improve academic outcomes for students in low performing schools.

Durham’s Lakewood Elementary School was removed from the list last week.

Hall selected Southside Ashpole Elementary School in Robeson County for the NCISD program for the 2018-19 school year.

In an interview, Hall said his decision was based on performance data and after meeting with school leaders and officials to discuss local improvement plans.

Durham school board Chairman Mike Lee was alerted to Hall’s decision in a text message.

Lee said he is pleased neither Durham school was chosen for the NCISD.

“Although we don’t have schools on the list, the community is going to keep this energy moving forward to make Glenn and Lakewood successes,” Lee said.

Hall’s recommendation is expected to go to the State Board of Education (SBE) next month. The board is expected to take a final vote at its December meeting.

As many as five schools could be selected for the NCISD over the next few years, and Hall said he will continue to have discussions with districts with schools not chosen this year about their strategies to improve academic achievement.

Schools chosen for the NCISD must accept being handed over to a private charter school operator or close the school.

Durham Public Schools Board of Education member Matt Sears, the parent of a Lakewood student, said the decision was the right one because the process for selecting schools for the ISD is faulty.

“I’m excited about the community engagement that has been generated by this threat of a non-consensual takeover,” Sears said. “The rally around these two schools is going to lead to incredible outcomes, not only for these two schools, but for all of our schools.”

Hall acknowledged the process needs tweaking and said he plans to take recommendations to lawmakers next year.

He said, for example, the Oct. 15 deadline for selecting schools doesn’t provide enough time to go into schools to fully assess their needs.

Moving on with ‘restart

Meanwhile, Lee said DPS will continue to move forward with restart planning and implementation for Glenn, Lakewood and other schools that need additional support.

Under the state’s restart option for low-performing schools, Glenn, Lakewood and 12 other DPS schools were granted “charter-like” flexibility by the State Board of Education in July.

The move gives the schools more calendar flexibility to target their needs and provide more professional development, as well as increase daily instructional time.

It also gives DPS the 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.

Community support made a difference

Over the past several weeks, the Durham community, led by the Durham Association of Educators (DAE), has rallied around Glenn and Lakewood.

Parents, teachers, elected officials and civic organizations have written letters of support to Hall, urging him to allow the two Durham schools to remain under local control.

Tamara Vanie, the mother of two students at Glenn, said community activism and unity paid off for Glenn.

“I am so pumped,” Vanie said. “It shows what a community can do when it comes together.”

Vanie said she spoke with Hall on Tuesday and told him that if Glenn was chosen for the NCISD, parents would not support the school being taken over by a charter school operator.

She believes Glenn was removed from the list because parents were unwilling to compromise.

“All around it’s a win-win,” Vanie said. “We’re going to celebrate today and roll up our sleeves and go back to work tomorrow.”

Glenn Principal Cornelius Redfearn said he and his staff are relieved that Glenn is no longer under consideration for the NCISD.

“Our teachers and staff are very grateful for the support of our community,” Redfearn said in a statement. “We will continue to give our students our all.”

Bryan Proffitt, president of the DAE, said the past three weeks, which included rallies at Glenn and Lakewood and many hours of strategy sessions, show how much Durham loves its public schools.

But now that the fight against a state takeover is over, Proffitt said it’s time to develop a plan to improve academic outcomes at both schools.

“When the community comes together like it has the past few weeks, there’s nothing we can’t fix,” Proffitt said.

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645