Private invites for Durham schools event irk some parents

Posted January 17, 2011 5:51 p.m. EST
Updated January 17, 2011 7:39 p.m. EST

— Durham Public Schools plans to unveil a strategic plan next week to increase student achievement, but some parents are upset with how district officials are handling the information.

The plan has been in the works for months, but some parents learned it would be shared publicly Jan. 26 from the Bull City Rising blog. The blog posted an invitation sent to some people to attend the event, and the invitation reads, "This is your personal invitation. Please refrain from forwarding it to others."

Some parents expressed concern over the apparent secrecy surrounding the event.

"We haven't heard anything about any changes that Durham Public Schools are making, and it's actually a little concerning because, as parents, we should really know if they are making any changes to our schools," parent Mary Archer said Monday.

Superintendent Eric Becoats declined to comment Monday, but school district spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte issued a statement saying that invitations were needed because of space constraints.

"While we would have preferred to invite the entire community to the event, there is no venue in Durham large enough to accommodate every person in the community," Stalberte said in the statement. "The space donated to us could only accommodate a limited number of parents, students, business leaders, community members and staff."

The event will be carried live online and will be repeated on a local-access cable channel so more people can see it, she said. Also, district staff will discuss the strategic plan with various church, neighborhood and business groups in the coming months, she said.

Stalberte didn't say how many invitations had been issued.

School board Chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown said she's excited about the strategic plan, and there is no plan to conceal anything from the public.

"Durham Public Schools is making sure that everything we do is absolutely transparent to our public," Forte-Brown said. "So, definitely, our parents are going to know what is going on (and) what the strategic plan involves. It's being held under wraps right now because it is going to be a massive launch."

Parent Kenny Levine said he's not as concerned about who is in the room when the plan is unveiled as he is about what the plan says.

"I'm most interested in knowing what the content of the plan is going to be," Levine said.