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AdvancED returning to Wake this month to monitor compliance

In somewhat election-related news, AdvancED will be back in town at the end of the month to assess how well the Wake County school system is doing with the issues the accreditation organization announced in March.

In the March report, AdvancED criticized the school board's governance and put the high schools on accreditation warned status. AdvancED identified seven action steps in its report and gave Wake a year to address the issues.

Ann Majestic, the school board's attorney, said a review team from AdvancED will return on Nov. 29-30 to see what's happened in the past six months. Superintendent Tony Tata has said they're seeking to fully comply with AdvancED's requested changes.

Spring Valley principal honored

DURHAM Barbara Parker (right), principal of Spring Valley Elementary School, has been named Principal of the Year for Durham Public Schools in a program sponsored by the state Department of Public Instruction and Wells Fargo Inc.

Spring Valley's principal since 2010, Parker has worked in Durham's public schools since 1979, starting in the former county system as a special-education teacher at Southern High School. She was an assistant principal at Bethesda Elementary and Carrington Middle schools before becoming principal of R.N. Harris Elementary.

Parker spent 10 years at Harris before moving to Spring Valley, where she won a Leadership Excellence Award for the school's improvement.

For winning the honor in Durham, Harris continues as a candidate for state Principal of the Year. That winner is to be announced next spring.

Durham Public Schools to receive full accreditation from AdvancED

AdvancED is showing more love to the Durham school system than to Wake County right now.

A review team from AdvancED told the Durham school board on Wednesday that they're recommending that the district receive full accreditation. This comes as Wake's high schools are on accreditation warned status.

In a blog post today, Terry Stoops of the conservative John Locke Foundation calls the accreditation of Durham's schools "meaningless." He points to Durham's performance on state exams, which is much lower than Wake's performance, to say that "it is proof that AdvancED accreditation does not mean much about the quality of the schools in a district."

Panel recommends Durham Public Schools for accreditation

From correspondent Virginia Bridges

Durham Public Schools moved one step closer to district-wide accreditation this week with a review that commended the system for making key strides, while calling for it to address resource and achievement disparities in schools.  

Today, a 13-member panel of educators from across the nation recommended that AdvancED grant DPS district-wide accreditation. Last school year, DPS commissioned AdvancED, a Georgia based nonprofit, to audit the system in the accreditation process that includes a self-assessment and a 3 1/2 day external audit by the team of 13 educators.

School Board Chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown describes DPS’s application for accreditation as a bold move. “To have an external review team come here and look at what we do and tell us openly and honestly, what it is we need to work on, where we are not, where we want to be,” she says. “We are going to do right by our children.”

The team visited 12 schools and interviewed 570 stakeholders, from board members to students, Monday and Tuesday. The team rated the district “operational” – the third highest rating out of four – in all seven of its evaluation standards.

'Sales and use' means 'education' say sales-tax proponents

A campaign is under way to promote a quarter-cent sales tax for schools that Durham County voters will decide on Nov. 8.

"We have a very popular product to sell," campaign Co-chairwoman Meredythe Holmes said this morning in a meeting of County Board of Commissioners and City Council members.

The tax is proposed for Durham Public Schools, pre-kindergarten programs and scholarships for Durham residents to attend Durham Tech. However, on the ballot it is listed as a "sales and use tax" with no reference to its purpose.

"When you think of the 'local sales and use tax' think 'education,' " said campaign Co-chairman Steve Toler.

"We're going to be going out to the community ... to tell this message," Holmes said.

"We're working on the money, we're working on the yard signs, we're also working on social media and letters to the editor," said Toler.
"There'll be a big hole in the bucket for the durham public schools if this does not pass," said County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow, due to the end of federal stimulus grants and cuts in state appropriations for public schools.

Holmes said the tax would produce about $5 million a year for its beneficiaries.

"It's a powerful message and I hope you will get the word out really strongly," said Reckhow. "When I talk to people, everyone says this is a slam dunk [but] you can't take anything for granted."

DPS to lengthen Neal sixth-graders day by 2 hours

Breaking news

Durham Public Schools announced today that it will partner with a national nonprofit organization to lengthen the school day at Neal Middle School by over two hours for all sixth graders.

The nonprofit, Citizen Schools, will serve about 270 students at Neal. It runs programs in Durham, Charlotte and 15 other cities across the country

During the expanded hours, students will receive academic support, participate in a language arts “academic league” aimed at raising proficiency in language arts, and learn about what it takes to succeed in school and get into college.  In addition, students will sign up for “apprenticeships” where small groups of students will be matched with professionals from the community. 

Neal met expected growth under the last two year's state ABCs of Public Education accountability program. About 50.7 percent of sixth-grade students were proficient, or doing grade-level work, in math in 2009-10, up from 43.6 percent the year before. About 41.1 percent of sixth-grade students were proficient in reading, up from 33 percent, according to the district's website.

Look for more on this story in tomorrow's N&O and Sunday's Durham News. If you would like to speak with a reporter covering this story contact Lana Douglas at 919-932-2008 or  

Today in The Durham News

Here's a look at today's local headlines:

REDUCING CLASS SIZE: DPS already ties class size to a school's percentage of kids on free and reduced meals. Now the school district is fine-tuning the plan to give poorer community schools even more attention. Read Virginia Bridges story for the details.

BOARD KEEPS START TIMES: Experts say high school kids need more sleep, so it made sense  to start the school day for them later. But one bus fleet does not fit all. Virginia also reports today how DPS has tabled, for now, a plan to change start times.

CITY WEIGHS NEGLECT CASE:  The city is building its case against Greenfire Development, which increasingly looks like it may have taken on more properties than it could manage. Read Jim Wise's report on a hearing next week to determine if the real estate firm is negligent in the recent roof collapse at Liberty Warehouse.

We have a rundown on local high school graduations, Frank Hyman says vote for higher taxes in today's My View (not sure everyone will agree with that; tell us what you think at and modern dance masters Pilobolus (that's them at right, of course) is coming to the 78th annual American Dance Festival, opening tomorrow at DPAC.   

Thanks for reading,


Teachers, parents ask Durham school board to demand more money

From correspondent Virginia Bridges

Durham Public Schools teachers, parents and students asked the Board of Education Monday night to ask for more local and state money  to prevent the loss of teachers, support staff and additional resources for yet another fiscal year.

The comments, which ranged from raising local taxes to demanding state elected leaders give schools more money, came during a public hearing on a draft budget that proposes cutting 117 positions to help the system deal with a projected nearly $23 million shortfall for the 2011-12 fiscal year. The proposed cuts include 55 teachers and eight assistant principals. The remaining positions, 32 academic coaches, 20 facilitators and two math and reading interventionists, represent salaries that were paid via federal stimulus funds that are no longer available.

Superintendent Eric Becoats’ proposed $418 million budget reflects a reduction of more than $21 million, or 6 percent, compared to this year’s operating budget. The changes include an estimated nearly $16 million, or a 9 percent, decrease in state funding.  

 Other resources identified to close the gap includes asking the Durham Board of County Commissioners for an additional $4 million, $6 million in identified savings, and a one-time $6.2 million federal grant.

Southern Poverty Law Center threatens complaint over Durham schools treatment of Latinos

From correspondent Virginia Bridges

The Southern Poverty Law Center has threatened to file a federal complaint if the Durham Public Schools doesn’t immediately curb alleged discrimination against Latino students and their families.

Attorney Jerri Katzerman, director of educational advocacy for the Montgomery, Ala., based nonprofit civil rights organization, said the organization has spoken with hundreds of Hispanic families in Durham since last year.

“These children and parents report that they have limited access to languages interpreters, are unable to read and understand important school documents, and, most alarmingly, that students often experience a hostile environment where they are made to feel unwelcome and unwanted in their neighborhood schools,” Katzerman said in a Tuesday letter.

A DPS statement, provided by spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte, said the school system has referred the complaint to its attorneys and is investigating the claims. Efforts to rreach school board chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown were unsuccessful.

“We are committed to providing appropriate services to all students in DPS and to complying with the requirements of federal law in serving students of all nationalities,” the school statement said.

The letter, which asks the school system to respond within 10 businesses days, indicates that if an agreement can’t be reached the law center will file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. 

Look for more on this story coming Sunday in The Durham News.   

Denlinger joins Peace College

Former Durham Schools chief Ann Denlinger is going to work for Peace College.

Denlinger, most recently president of the Wake Education Partnership, will be an associate professor and direct Peace College's education department.

Denlinger served as schools superintendent in Wilson and Durham counties and in 2000 was the first woman named North Carolina Superintendent of the Year.
Denlinger will oversee several changes to Peace's education department, including a new option for middle school licensure and a curriculum reorganization.

And Denlinger said in a college news release she expects to find new ways to provide real-world experience for students through relationships with schools in Wake County and perhaps elsewhere.

Denlinger earned her associate's degree from Peace College in 1964 and her master's and doctorate in educational administration from Campbell University.  She has been a classroom teacher and a school principal.

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