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It takes a village moving Durham Public Schools forward
Published Tuesday, January 30, 2018
by Evelyn Howell, Correspondent

DURHAM – New Durham Public Schools Superintendent Pascal Mubenga says he believes all students can learn and reach their potential once they enter the classroom.

So the veteran educator is developing a new strategic plan that he says will help pave the way for students to get a valuable education in Durham Public Schools.

“We need support from parents and members of the community. We need to mobilize the staff to get the job done,” Mubenga said last week at a town hall meeting at Northern High School.

Parents, teachers, staff and community leaders were invited to share ideas on how to make DPS better. The meeting was the second held within a couple of weeks.

“It's going to take a whole village to correct some of the problems that we have at Durham Public Schools. It will take a village to make it happen,” Mubenga said. “We have to get everybody involved.”

As the district’s top administrator, Mubenga has visited 24 schools, including six in one day, to receive input and ideas before beginning work on a strategic plan he will use to guide the district over the next five years. Although student performance increased in 2017 across the board and the high school graduation rate is slightly above 80 percent, Mubenga said “we can do better.”

He asked the audience to consider his four guiding principles. The first is to raise the bar for the level of performance through high expectations.

DPS has 53 schools with over 33,000 students, which is 76 percent black and Hispanic, and only 18 percent white. Charter school enrollment is over 6,400 with a slight increase of a little more than 1 percent from last year.

According to data, DPS ranked No. 96 of 115 districts last year with 18 low-performing schools.

“You have to raise the bar. Why can’t we be in the 60's or 70's? We have to raise the bar. We have to do things different – remove all excuses,” Mubenga said.

The second principle is to provide outstanding support through a service-oriented approach to schools (teachers and principals) and students and their families.

Third, hold everyone accountable in their roles and responsibilities for increasing student achievement. “We have fifth-graders reading on a third- grade level. Some students try to avoid the classroom,” Mubenga adds.

And fourth, celebrate successes along the way. “We have to learn how to celebrate one another. We don’t have to wait until they graduate from high school. We need to celebrate students along the way. It does not take much to celebrate a student.”

After his presentation, parents and educators divided into four groups to discuss concerns and ideas for improvement, which they shared.

Their ideas on high expectations included not letting test results define expectations, what can you as a parent do to help your children set and meet your expectations, and the importance of having a strong advocate at the state level.

Also, DPS should be a welcoming place where parents and students feel they are welcome.

“I think this is a great productive meeting in bringing all stakeholders together to give valuable input to move Durham Public Schools forward,” said Michelle Tuck Thomas, AIG specialist at The School for Creative Studies, formerly Chewning Middle School.

Frances Douglas, mom to sophomore Marlon and third-grader Saira, is also optimistic. “I think he will be able to reach the community. I want to see students become comfortable in science and math because they seem to fear these subjects. Having a strong background in these areas is important because they will have a strong base in college,” she said.

Kim Vaughan’s daughter Ansley is a freshman. Her concern is how much time teachers deal with disruptions.

“Northern has great teachers who are passionate about their jobs but disciplining kids should not be a part of their job. Their job is to educate kids,” she said.

New deputy superintendent of academic affairs, Nakia Hardy, said town hall meetings are a great opportunity for the superintendent to continue his listening and learning tours across the district.

“We want parents to have an opportunity to engage, and we want to listen to the community,” she said.



Very informative article
Posted on February 1, 2018

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