“Graduate Durham” – that’s the theme our schools are rallying around this school year.
Durham Public Schools has – justifiably and proudly – touted the consistent growth in our four-year graduation rate for the last six years, from 63 percent in 2009 to 81.5 percent last year. So why continue to focus our efforts on something we seem to be doing well?
We have two reasons.
First, even though our graduation rate is close to our state’s average, it still means that close to one in five DPS students will not graduate on time. We can do better.
Second, we are using “Graduate Durham” to help our elementary and middle schools focus on preparing their students for future grades. Graduation rates are not only an indicator of a high school’s success, but also of the experiences a child had before high school. This is a way of helping all of our schools work toward the same goal: every child graduating on time, college- and career-ready.
Three months into my work as superintendent, I see fantastic opportunities ahead for our students and schools as long as we emphasize strong academic achievement at all levels. From speaking to teachers, administrators and support staff across DPS, I have heard a common refrain: they believe they can do great work as long as we do our best to offer them a stable environment. Our Central Services team will do our best to support them without creating additional distractions.
That said, some changes are unavoidable; we have serious district-level work to do in some areas to improve student achievement. In order to better support our schools, we have reorganized our Academic Services division to ensure that our staff is playing to its best strengths.
Here are the changes that will most directly benefit schools:
We have a lot of smart, dedicated educators and support staff in Durham Public Schools. It’s time to unleash that creative energy to help strengthen every student and school. I am excited to see what the future brings for Durham Public Schools.
Bert L’Homme is the superintendent of Durham Public Schools.