DURHAM — Public schools Superintendent Eric J. Becoats rolled out a districtwide strategic plan Wednesday night that seeks to shrink the high school dropout rate to 3 percent, raise student proficiency in various grades and subjects to at least 80 percent, and obtain a 90 percent approval rating on teachers' working conditions by 2014.
"We are here tonight because Durham Public Schools is about to do things differently, and we will have different results," Becoats said to about 400 people gathered at the N.C. Biotechnology Center to hear the plan with the theme "One Durham - One Vision." "What that means is there are some resources that we will have to redirect, there are some resources we may have to move, and we will do that because at the end of the day it is about the children," he said.
Other goals of the 10-year road map for the district include increasing partnerships with local colleges and businesses, improving school nutrition, establishing equitable standards for school resources, and starting a competitive recruitment and retention initiative to attract the education industry's best and brightest.
While Becoats' plan outlined broad goals and strategies, specific details about how each school will reach those thresholds will follow, said school board Chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown.
On July, 1 Becoats officially stepped into the superintendent's position, replacing Carl Harris, who left to work for the U.S. Department of Education. Becoats, who was the chief administrative officer for Guilford County Schools, has been credited with developing improvement plans for that system and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
Along with the continued challenge of a shrinking budget linked to state and county cuts, Becoats inherited a district facing external and internal pressure to raise proficiency levels in schools, reduce the drop-out rate, and increase black male achievement and graduation rates, which trail those of their counterparts in other races.
In 2004, Superior Court Judge Howard Manning threatened to close Hillside, Northern and Southern high schools, along with others in the state, if the district didn't raise the number of students performing at grade level to at least 60 percent. Hillside is 4.6 percentage points away from that goal. Northern is almost there, at 59.6 percent, and Southern continues to lag at 43 percent.
Githens Middle School teacher Kelly O'Toole touted the plan's goals on equitable resource distribution and nurturing teachers but added that she is eager to learn about the process that will help the system reach those goals.
"I can't wait for it to come to life," she said.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 564-9330