Durham schools' superintendent to unveil district plan tonight

CorrespondentJanuary 26, 2011 

— When Eric J. Becoats officially stepped into his role as Durham Public Schools’ superintendent this summer, he hit the ground listening.

“I’m seeking your answers to these questions,” he wrote in a Sept. 1 blog entry on the school system’s website. “What should become the standard in Durham Public Schools within the next ten years? Of those things, what should we have accomplished in three years? What is your role in accomplishing our goals? What is going well? What needs improvement? What innovative ideas can we implement in Durham Public Schools?”

At 6 p.m. tonight, just under seven months from Becoats’ July 1 start date, he plans to roll out a much anticipated a district-wide strategic plan that seeks to improve the local education system through “transformation and innovation,” he said.

The presentation at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center in Research Triangle Park is not open to the general public due to limited space in the facility, but will be streamed live on the DPS Web site: http://www.dpsnc.net. Meetings on the plan throughout the community will follow, Becoats said.

The foundation of the plan stems from four goals that the Board of Education adopted in August, which include developing:

High academic achievement for all DPS students.

An effective, district-wide leader ship team.

Effective and efficient business systems.

A culture and a climate that fosters positive relationships and the well being of staff, students, the community and the Board of Education.

DPS officials and the community will be able to monitor the plan’s progress via a software system, Becoats said.

“We will do the work. Then we will check what we are doing along the way,” Becoats said. “And then we will take the appropriate action as relates to modifying as we move forward.”

Becoat replaced former Superintendent Carl Harris, who left more than a year ago to work for the U.S. Department of Education. When school board members hired Becoats, they touted his previous experience with the Guilford County Schools, which also adopted a district-wide strategic plan to help struggling schools in that area.

School board Member Nancy Cox, who has seen the plan, warned that the district won't be able to do everything Becoats presents tonight.

“I don’t want anyone to think, “Wow we are going to try that kind of thing,” Cox said. “I want everyone to be reminded; seriously, we don’t have the money to do it.”

Some of the steps, she said, will require financial support from grants or local businesses that hasn't been secured.

School board member Natalie Beyer agreed.

“I think it has some visionary elements that will be challenging with the financial realities that we will face, but I think it calls for community involvement and business partnership that we hope to continue to develop as we serve the needs of Durham children.”

Beyer described tonight as the “beginning of the conversation.”

“I think it is a starting point,” Beyer said. “I think we look forward to hearing from all stakeholders as we look at implementing different aspects of it.”

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