Education

School board, parents fight to 'Defend Durham Schools' amid proposed charter takeover

Posted October 3, 2017 6:12 p.m. EDT
Updated October 3, 2017 9:46 p.m. EDT

— The Durham County Board of Education said Tuesday it’s prepared to fight if the state tries to take control of any of its schools amid talks of a charter school takeover.

A group that calls itself “Defend Durham Schools” says it wants what’s best for local children and, in members’ opinion, having schools handed over to charter school operators does not meet that criteria.

Lakewood and Glenn elementary schools in Durham are two of six schools in the state being considered for the state’s “Innovative School District,” which will take struggling schools and allow charter school operators to manage them in an effort to improve academic performance.

The takeover means local school boards will no longer have a say in the staffing, instruction or other educational matters at the schools, but will still be responsible for maintaining buildings, supplying appropriate furniture and equipment and providing student transportation.

"You cannot put an arbitrary grade or test score on our school. We educate children in Durham. You cannot degrade public schools and then point and complain about the performance that you're seeing," said Durham County Board of Education chair Mike Lee.

Lakewood Elementary and Glenn Elementary were chosen because their student performance ranks among the lowest 5 percent in the state.

"There's a huge disconnect between the score that your state gives you and the way that they assess your school in the first place and the actual quality of education that they get," said parent Hyewon Grigoni. "These teachers have not given up on our kids...so I'm not giving up on these teachers."

The group says they are ready to fight back against the proposed takeover.

“This all concerns me. The legislation is a terrible idea. Going with it or shutting down the school are two of the options, and neither of those are good options, and we’re not going to stand for it here in Durham,” said Board of Education member Matthew Sears. "We can't let outside agencies come in and take over our schools."

A petition circulating Tuesday had nearly 800 signatures from people against the takeover.

The State Board of Education will chose two schools to participate in the “Innovative School District” this year and three next year. The full list of schools being considered this year are:

  • Durham Public Schools – Glenn Elementary
  • Durham Public Schools – Lakewood Elementary
  • Nash-Rocky Mount Schools – Williford Elementary
  • Northampton County Schools – Willis Hare Elementary
  • Robeson County Schools – R B Dean Elementary
  • Robeson County Schools – Southside Ashpole Elementary

The State Board of Education will start making decisions around December, but there are not many options. If the chosen schools do not cooperate with the state’s decision, the only other option, by law, is to shut the school down.