BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for December 8, 2010
Unconfirmed rumor: Hooters to open up on ... Ninth Street?

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for December 9, 2010

New Arts Magnet?: An intriguing article in the H-S by Matt Milliken today on DPS super Eric Becoats' plan to turn the new north Durham elementary school under construction on Old Oxford Rd. into an arts magnet -- with a priority zone favoring attendance by students at a mix of high-poverty (Glenn, Holt) and relatively balanced or higher wealth (Mangum, Easley, Hillandale, others) elementaries. It's the same priority zone concept used in close-in distances around DPS' Watts and Morehead Montessori schools, but with a much larger catchment zone, and described by Becoats as designed to avoid creating a high-poverty school out of the chute where it's hard to recruit top teachers and leaders. This is a big story to watch in the coming weeks. (Herald-Sun)

Pavin' Delayin': Cold weather and one contractor's possible bankruptcy have slowed completion of paving efforts on NC 751 (Cameron Blvd.) near Duke and T.W. Alexander near Cornwallis. NCDOT says the Alexander work is halted pending a new contractor, while near-term warm-ups may mean a temporary surface on Alexander, but that'll need another look come spring. Paving operations halt in winter due to cold weather. (N&O)

More on 54: The NC 54 plan -- which has some Durhamites grousing about too much density and a seemingly Chapel Hill focus -- will take months to reconstitute based on citizen and elected official complaints, it seems. (Herald-Sun)

Dalton in Durham: Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton was in the Bull City yesterday, talking economic development and seeing points of economic renewal, from Joe's Diner to American Tobacco to Golden Belt (Herald-Sun); at a mid-day roundtable, he discussed programs to help small business subcontractors with better parity and an ability to get paid when working for larger firms on state contracts.

Sweepstakes Ban Enforcement Pause: Law enforcement agents are waiting for court battles over the Dec. 1 ban of sweepstakes cafes before moving forward with shutting them down; some outlets claim they've adjusted their gaming software to comport with the new law. (Herald-Sun)



As usual, perfect DOT planning. Let's tear up one of the most heavily traveled roads right in the middle of when it gets the most traffic (football & hoops seasons). Yeah, yeah. That's perfect--we'll tear it up just in time for work to grind to a weather-related halt (as if we couldn't predict winter's arrival--having never experienced it before). And once we've so thoroughly screwed it up, people can just live with it and curse us every time they wreck their suspensions driving over it. And there's not a damn thing they can do about it. To paraphrase Lily Tomlin/Ernestine: We don't care. We don't have to. We're the DOT.

Todd P

As easy as it to blame NCDOT, it is their contractor - Triangle Grading and Paving - that has screwed up. The contract was awarded in January and work was to have begun in April. Someone certainly did a poor job of estimating when it would get too cold for them to put down new pavement.




Before we create more magnet schools can we make sure we can fund the ones we currently have? The upcoming budget year is going to be ugly and I'm not convinced the district is doing a very good job of funding the current art magnet schools.

I guess by making the new elementary school a magnet the district avoids the issues that are involved with redistricting students. But possible at the expense of other programs and other schools.

Michael Oehler

First, I think Becoats idea is a good one.

Any new school zone should at least meet the following four criteria:

1) No school should have over 50% Free/Reduced Price lunch.
2) No school zone should favor one group or school over another.
3) Schools and student enrollement should be balanced so that schools are not overcrowded/underenrolled year after year
4) Children should be placed in schools within a reasonable distance from their home to keep transportation time and money at a minimum.

Second, I'm with Tina. What is the purpose of an arts magnet if there aren't going to be any art teachers or money to support art programs? What good are magnets if the creativity of their teachers is stifled under the constraints of curriculums like Reading Street.

Magnets in Durham were created to try and get middle class parents to buy back into DPS after many left after the merger. I guess it worked. Now it is time to modernize our magnet concept to help ALL Durham's schools.

We need to eliminate ALL high poverty schools in Durham. Durham is a very small county both in area and school population. With some creative thinking, we could easily redistrict and eliminate almost all the high poverty schools.

For example:

Why should Watts, Morehead, or Club (or for that matter the new elementary school) have a 1/2 mile walkzone? Do people who live in million dollar homes on Watts Street really need this kind of charity? Ditto with Forest Hills and Duke Park/Northgate Park. I'm all for magnets done right. Simply alleviate the walk zone favoritism.

What if Glenn became the humanities magnet that Club is and Club became a neighborhood school? All the teachers and students in the magnet at Club, would move to Glenn. The students at Glenn come to Club. What would this do? It is just what Becoats is proposing. Do you think all the people that complain that they can't get into Club would still complain? Would Duke Parkers want to go to Club if it wasn't a magnet? I think this is one worthwhile experiment.

Why is Eno Valley a high poverty school? Why do students who live all the way south of Eno Vally on Old Oxford Highway attend Eno Valley? Hillandale is much closer. Easley is closer. Heck, even Little River is just as close. But, all these school districts have been gerrymandered to favor those with strong political power in Durham. There are many reasons why Durham does not have a published map of the school zones for each elementary school easily accessible on its website, but tops among them is that they are drawn to favor some and keep others out of certain schools.

Why are the schools of Little River and Mangum so lilly white? What skeletons were asked to be left in the closet when Durham County and City merged so that these two schools were left alone? IMHO, it looks like Becoats is beginning to open the door to that closet. I'm hoping he is courageous enough and that we in Durham are brave enough to support him as we begin to look inside.

Michael Oehler

Ed Harrison

Issues with the NC 751 resurfacing have been coming up at every monthly meeting of the Transportation Advisory Committee this Fall, starting with the discombobulated signal light that stayed green for all of 2 seconds. (It was City of Durham staff who figured out that the hardware in the pavement had been destroyed). I'm one of three members (Lydia Lavelle of Carrboro, Ellen Reckhow of Durham Co.) who use this stretch of road, in my case to reach my Former Campus. Realized tonight that the small number of us driving the posted 35 MPH limit weren't so distressed by the ghastly pavement quality. But it took slowing down from the usual speed to do so.


Million dollar homes within the walk zone of club in Duke Park/Northgate Park???? I Stopped reading anything you wrote after that bit of hyperbolic nonsense. Besides, the walk zones apparently don't mean squat anyway as many of us in that zone who have been told we are not "on the list" know all too well.


I know this might be a silly question, but what about math/science magnet elementary schools?

Michael Oehler


Point taken on Northgate park/Duke Park neighborhood. Due to the shitty economy, I guess full scale RE gentrification will have to wait in those neighborhoods... But I'm willing to bet it won't be long before that statement is true. (However it is all too true in TP.)

Incidentally, do you think the proximity of one's house should entitle them to attend a magnet school? I'd suspect you to be in favor of policies that create diversity, not hinder it.




Michael, where on the DPS website does it indicate that the walk zone is meant to create diversity in schools? I was under the impression that one goal was to reduce the amount of traffic and need for buses for those who could walk. Isn't that why they had the "walk to school day"? Are you suggesting that these walk zones hinder diversity? do you have any proof of that? Otherwise its just random speculation. There are plenty of ways to maintain diversity and have a walk zone. Regardless, my point is that the walk zones are a joke, having nothing to do with geogrpahy and everything to do with favoritism (such as who gets to be on the "list"), in which case I'm all for getting rid of them. So on that point, I guess we're in agreement.

Oh, and if you really believe that "gentrification" is going to lead to the value of my house multiplying by a factor of 10 in my lifetime, I've got several bridges you might want to take a look at.


Out of curiosity, are you aware that as of 10/31/2010 60%+ of students in DPS benefit from the free/reduced lunch program? Exactly how, given that fact, did you arrive at the conclusion that "No school should have over 50% Free/Reduced Price lunch"?


Please let's not make any suggestions to remove the magnet curriculum from Club elementary even if its only for the sake of argument. Northgate Park is far from gentrified, but it is becoming a more desireable place to live due to good schools and an active neighborhood association. The park is wonderfulfor people with children, dogs or anyone looking for a walk and comraderie. We also benefit from proximity to Central Park and downtown. I personally love it and wouldn't mind if it did one day become "gentrified".

Michael Oehler


Great point. I derived the 50% figure off the cuff. I guess the figure should be 60% in Durham.


No, the DPS website doesn't say anything about why the walkzones exist. I also know that many people inside DPS read this blog. Strange that no one is jummping to defend the walkzones.

As to your statement that "there are plenty of ways to maintain diversity and walkzones", I think you're wrong. Wake County School's public relations nightmare has occurred just because this is such a thorny issue. James Ryan, a University of Virginia Law Professor, has written an excellent book on this subject titled Five Miles Away, A World Apart. In it he examines two Richmond, VA schools, one suburban and one in the city, and the causes of their continued segregation. Wake County was on the forefront of the educational movement: they believed that diversity WAS A REASON to be considered when creating school zones. Now, sadly, they are in the midst of destroying what was a very progressive policy.

I wish that here in Durham we were willing to have this discussion about the importance of diversity in ALL our schools.



You said the RFL population for the district is 60%?

Here's the thing about the walk or priority zones:

with the current policy for Club and Watts,

Club's RFL population is 63.14%

Watt's RFL population is 62.02%

Seems like they are doing something right and more schools should switch to this policy.

Moorhead's is 39%, but it's a smaller school and I believe it has a smaller hispanic population which is probably enough to skew the numbers.


Bravo to all of you for starting this conversation. I hope that DPS considers taking it up.

In terms of the new arts school I do wonder why arts - science, foreign language, math, international...there are plenty of other choices. I think folks at RN Harris and Club (and all the schools for that matter) would like more funding for their arts. It's feels like a parent who has neglected his own children but is now trying to adopt another child.

Is the neighbor that is primarily low-income included in this new school zone? Why is Holt mostly AA and Easly mostly white? How were these decisions made and when?


Michael Oehler


You are right that Club and Watts hit my FRL numbers, however students at Watts get priority to get into the newly created Lakewood Montessori MS... which, by the way, is already OVERBUDGET! Anyway, take a look at the entire list.

It is available here: www.dpsnc.net/images/pdf/lunch-data-menus/lunchstats/Free%20and%20Reduced%20October%202010.pdf.

2 of the 3 year round elementary schools are on the list for low FRL numbers, and two of the other 6 schools of choice are Montessori Schools and get priority at Lakewood MS. If you add Club to the list (which is right at 60%), half these schools have an SES unbalanced student body.

Ask yourself these questions:

Given that there are MANY schools of choice in Durham, what separates the low FRL Schools of Choice from the others? Does the magical 1/2 mile walk zone have anything to do with it? What role does race play in determining these numbers? Look especially at Peasontown Year Round. It has a high percentage of African American students, but in general, they are NOT on FRL. Do people of means, those living within a half mile of Watts Elementary, have a better choice of schools because of where they live? What role did the Durham City/County merger have in shaping these numbers? Why are we building schools on the fringe of Durham when we have plenty of empty seats in urban buildings?

Now that Wake has dropped the ball on school diversity, Durham should take the lead in this area. Much of the discussion on this blog is spent considering how future streets and buildings will look, and how development will impact the streetscape. I want us to consider how we want our schools to look. How does that impact our development? Do we want to be just another American town where the wealthy either send there kids to private schools or move to the suburbs? Or, do we want to be a NEW type of city? We could be a town with diverse, challenging schools for ALL students... no matter where they live... no matter how wealthy their parents. I would love to see this happen. Our School Board should make a statement saying they will consider socio economic diversity in any future redistricting with the goal to balance ALL schools equitably.


For those of you two lazy to look at the list, here some of the numbers:

Creekside-- 42%
Easley-- 19% (School of Choice with a select geographic area given priority.)
Forest View-- 53%
Hope Valley--53
Little River--30
Morehead--39 (Magnet with 1/2 mile walk zone)
Peasontown--32 (School of Choice with select geographic area given priority.)
Meanwhile: Bethseda, Burton, Eastway, Eno Valley, Fayettville St., Glenn, Harris, Holt, Lakewood, Merrit Moore, Pearson, Powe, Smith, and Spaulding are ALL over 75% FRL, many well over 80% and four over 90%!

Middle Schools

Carrington 53%
Lakewood Montessori 43%
Rogers Herr 41%

High Schools

Durham School of the Arts-- 38
Early College 46
Jordan 31
Hillside New Tech 50


Michael, I understand the point that you are trying to make but when I see school's such as Lakewood Elem with 98% FRL more questions come to mind.

Lakewood is surrounded by apartments and several neighborhoods that I would describe as middle class. In this case, I would assume that most of the kids from these families are going to other schools (private or magnet) or no new families (w/ kids) are moving to these neighborhoods. I say this because people will vote with their feet. They will either put their kids in private school or move to a "desired" school.

You mention that a lot of focus on this blog is on buildings and environment which I agree. These are key components to creating an atmosphere where people will choose to call Durham home.

In my opinion, the FRL percentages are indicative of how healthy a neighborhood is. A healthy neighborhood has new families that move in to replace those moving for various reasons. Many of the schools that have high FRL's also have high degrees of concentrated subsidized housing.

If we stop giving lip service to mixed-income neighborhoods and also realize that a person's income doesn't determine whether or not they are good people, we will have more socio-economically diverse schools. And everybody will benefit...even the upper income students.

We have inclusionary housing as part of the development ordinances but it is an option and an option that has incentives that are not really enticing to a developer. In other words, "Why bother?"

The reason that I mention these is because I'm not sure busing would work for previously stated reasons (flight). With inclusive housing, people are choosing to live in these particular neighborhoods and are more likely to be active in their schools.

Kevin Davis

@Michael -- to the point Khalid makes on "flight," here are the numbers on white enrollment in DPS:

1998-1999: 10,229 white pupils (28,888 total)
2008-2009: 7,052 white pupils (32,296 total)

The NC DPI web site doesn't have information dating back past the late 1990s, so it's impossible for me right now to judge how these compare to pre- and post-merger. The number I've heard bandied about was 10,000 white pupils exiting the system.

Charters get some of the blame, and you might be inclined to say that white students are leaving for taxpayer-funded education elsewhere. But looking at the DPI numbers on that, charters are still a very small part of education here, in general and for white students:

Carter Community -- 189 (almost all Af-Am)
Central Park -- 179 (62% white, 38% non-white)
Healthy Start -- 354 (almost all Af-Am)
Kestrel Heights -- 468 (38% white, 62% non-white)
Maureen Joy -- 283 (almost all Af-Am)
Research Triangle Charter -- 674 (almost all Af-Am)
Voyager -- 439 (79% white)

(Regretfully, charter schools in the abstract are not broken out by F&R status, which would be interesting.)

Still, looking at the numbers above, there's no way charters account for more than about 650 of the 3,000 students who departed DPS. The rest went to private or, I suspect, essentially exited the system as new parents chose not to live in Durham vs. Wake/Orange County.

Unfortunately, Michael, I think when you attack systems like Watts and Morehead's walk zones -- which don't create super-high-wealth schools, merely schools that approximate the district's diversity -- you're essentially telling higher-income parents of all races who send their kids there that they're part of the problem.

When, in reality, they've bucked the trend and chosen to stay in DPS.

Mind you, I share vigorously your desire to see more SES diversity in how DPS allocates students to districts. I've harped here before on the cautious nature of the new high school site search (for fear, it seemed, of straying too far outside Riverside/Jordan lines.) And I've noted here the built-in school failure of places like Glenn, causing such demand in Duke Park/NG Park for walk zone eligibility.

I actually give Becoats a lot of credit for looking to find a unique solution in school assignment to try to address this -- though I understand the concern of some board members, too, about what impact this has on stability for other Durham schools.

Michael, the problem for those of us like me who share your interest in school diversity, is that we have to find a way to accomplish it without seeing parents of means exit the system. If we do, we lose the fundamental community nature of a school system and we undermine future broad-based support for funding teachers, facilities, and programs.

Michael Oehler


I agree very strongly with your point about the need to provide inclusionary housing.


Don't get me wrong, I said I liked Becoats idea. Also, I know I often come across as on the attack, but I'm not really trying to criticize those parents who live in the walk zone and choose to send their children to Watts. I'm just trying to get them to recognize the inequality of that walk zone. Heck, criticize me for living in WHH and sending my kids to Powe if you want. If I was such a saint, I could choose to send my kids to Glenn. On to the topic at hand...

I am happy that you, like me and unlike gaylib, are upfront in acknowledging the reason for Watts 1/2 mile walk zone. It is a carrot intended to get wealthy white parents to buy into DPS by giving them what the want... a small montessori neighborhood school with 60% FRL... and now, to get these parents of means to buy into DPS middle school, we've also given them an easy channel into a small montessori middle school with even lower 43% FRL. Am I to believe that this is why Durham voters have approved one of the highest County allotments in the state? I'm pretty confident that in my well connected Durham neighborhood, many voters also support the local schools, but rest assured, not many of them send their kids to DPS schools, if they even have children.

No, personally, I don't buy this argument. It is just this type of mythmaking that perpetuates Durham's racial divide. Our School Board was created to have a white majority. Fact. There never would have been a merger had these school board districts not been drawn this way. Another fact: most Durham parents who vote send there children to public school. (Something the downtown chattering politicos frequently forget because their own children go to private schools or the "safe" DPS schools). IMO, all the buy in we need should come at the ballot box.

The County Commissioners are already reminding us that 70% of our funding comes from the state. The Title I schools in Durham get more and more of their funding from the Feds, and now, RTTT has added another source of funding for our neediest schools. No one, not the southern Durham parents or the inner city parents want teachers laid off.

The more I consider things, funding isn't the number one problem in Durham. (Did I just say that?) IM not so humble O, school failure in Durham is caused by the historic problems of poverty, race, and priveledge in America. If the wealthy liberals of Durham don't really support the creation equitable school zones and equitable School Board Districts, what hope is there?


Todd P

Kevin - The enrollment in Durham's charter schools is smaller than I expected. Are enrollment numbers for Durham's private schools available anywhere?

If you compare the US Census Bureau numbers for school-age kids (41,535) with the DPS enrollment (about 31,500), there are 10,000 or so kids missing. Those kids are either at private schools, charter schools, home school, or drop outs.

Maybe putting an arts focus on the new elementary is an effort to draw some of those families back to DPS.

2009 Population Estimate: 269,706
Persons under 18 years old: 23.5%
Persons under 5 years old: 8.1%
School age: 15.4%, or 41,535


Michael, it is a stretch to compare walk zones to the idea of "neighborhood" schools in Wake Co. The walk zones extend (in theory) .5 miles from the schools. That is an icredibly short distance. I'd be surprised if walk zone students made up mare than 5% of total enrollment (and despite your claims of gentrification, many of those students would represent a very diverse background--a quick stroll through the neighborhood should confirm that for you). To compare this to what is going on in Wake is just a little bit disingenous.


I believe walk zones and priority zones are two different things.

A walk zone - no bus service; kids must walk or the parents drive their lazy butts to school

priority zone - probably what Michael & others are referring to; neighborhoods that are given preference to attend a particular school

It seemed like the loose terminology was clouding the discussion.

Michael Oehler


Fact-- Durham has nieghborhood schools just like Wake County wants. In Durham, the school you attend is based on the neighborhood where you live. That is it. This why schools like Little River, Mangum, and Jordan are overwhelmingly poverty free. The reason that Club is not Northgate Park's neighborhood school is because it is a magnet with a 1/2 mile walkzone. The reason students at Glenn come from so far away than what some consider the immediate neighborhood is because the student population in the urban core neighborhoods is so low. Most of the student population is on the fringe of Durham.

Once again, Khalid is almost right.

Read the DPS website-- Schools of Choice. Some schools like Easely have priority zones. Students from these select elementary schools get first dibs-- again, the priority zones are determined by the neighborhood in which you live. Every student in Durham is zoned for one neighborhood elementary school and one neighborhood year round school. If it is not full it is open to other areas. Students in the 1/2 mile walk zone get priority, then it is open up to others. Other than that, there is no difference.

Hey, I'm not shocked that many people don't understand this. DPS has tried to keep this stuff on the DL. As Wake County has demonstrated school rezoning is the third rail of local school politics.



Michael since you are drawing comparisons between Durham and Wake's school systems I think it's important to point out that in Wake your number of 60% would be considered high poverty and not "socio-economically" balanced as you infer. The old goal to WCPSS was to have no more than 40% FRL at any one school. Research shows FRL numbers beyond 40% is the tipping point. Gerald Grant discussed this in "Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There are No Bad Schools in Raleigh."

While you can argue some success of schools like Club and Watts with 60% FRL lunch, keep in mind there are specialized programs that attract parents to those schools. Neighborhood schools with 60% plus FRL don't have this luxury.

And as for why schools are built on the fringes while urban schools are not full, it's because houses are being built on the fringes. Durham County is a long narrow county. It's takes 25 mins via car for many folks to get to downtown Durham. That translate into a bus ride of over an hour. 2 plus hours a day of just sitting on a fume filled bus. That's not exactly going to encourage families to flock to DPS. Also, their aren't enough empty seats in the urban areas for all the students in trailers on the fringes.

Kevin, just a quick point about Charter Schools. They are open to any NC resident. Some of those Charter School Students will be residents from other counties. And some Durham County residents attend Charter schools outside of Durham County. But I don't know where you find those numbers.

Michael Oehler


You're definately right about the development and shape of the county, but you're not taking into account where the large portion of the poorest students live... Right in the central core. In fact, look at Eno Valley's numbers. They have almost 80% FRL and they are located way up north. I contend that by changing the location of the magnets to the periphery of the county and taking SES into account, we could have very balanced (for Durham) schools. Would many of the wealthy parents at Morehead and Watts complain about the long drive? Yes, but who is more able to drive the long distances, those wealthy parents that are attracted to the Montessori idea or children of poverty.

Tina, let's be real. Do you think most parents choose Watts and Morehead magnets for the curriculum or because these are the schools with the least amount of poverty?



Michael, can you define "we could have very balanced (for Durham) schools"? Are you talking 60% FRL? Have you read any of the research that talks about the idea that much over 40% FRL being a tipping point towards decline? Maybe, there is research that shows 60% FRL across the board would work. I'm not aware of it. But if you are, I'd love to read it.

One other thing to keep in mind. Percentages do not tell the whole story. While EK Powe is 83% FRL that is a total of 313 FRL. Creekside is currently 42% FRL which is 361 FRL students.

Todd p

The Census Bureau has released new county-level maps based on the 2005-2009 ACS 5-year estimates. All of the topics also have Census 2000 maps and data to determine statistical significance.

This is a great place to see poverty, income, education levels, and other data about our community.


Janice McCarthy

This is probably too late to be read by anyone, but I just looked at this page today in response to a prompt from the DARE listserve.

I live in Trinity Park, and I have two kids at Watts. The comments you make regarding the priority zone and the wealth of the families that attend Watts are just plain wrong.

Yes, the priority zone includes 'million dollar homes on Watts St', but it also includes several multi-unit rental properties on Watts (one is located directly across from the school and several of our families live there). It also includes the area to the north of Trinity Heights which is part of Walltown. Definitely no million dollar homes there. Additionally, the priority zone features duplexes on Gregson, the two large apartment complexes on Duke St, and a large part of the area to the east of Duke, north of Trinity Ave.

The demographics of the school (2010) are: 33% white, 20% african american and 40% latino. Overall, the DPS population is 21% white, 52% african american and 21% latino. So, while the racial distribution is uneven (given the overall percentages), Watts has a latino population that is double the district average. Most of those students are first-generation Americans, living in Spanish-speaking (non-million dollar) homes.

As pointed out in a previous comment, the percentage free and reduced-price lunch is 62%, directly in line with the district average of 60%.

Watts is most definitely not a school full of 'rich kids from Trinity Park'. That said, it is striking that EK Powe is at 84% FRRPL - but before Watts became a magnet, it was at upwards of 90% FRRPL.

In short, the changeover of Watts worked. There is a diverse and thriving community growing in that school. Walking down the halls, visiting classrooms, working with students in the 'Living Classroom', I observe a group of kids who are respectful of one another and who work hard to perform academically. I see great teachers working to support an atmosphere of peace and academic excellence. I see administrators committed to the achievement of every child. And I see parents doing everything they can to support their kids. All of this with nearly two-thirds of the population struggling to get by and almost 40% learning English as a second language.

It's not perfect. There are conflicts, controversies and issues - as always. Test scores need to improve (and they have been improving). But overall, it has the makings of a great school.

To respond to your question to Tina:

“Tina, let's be real. Do you think most parents choose Watts and Morehead magnets for the curriculum or because these are the schools with the least amount of poverty?”

Clearly 'most' of the parents who chose Watts (62%) are near the poverty level, so I'd say that 'most' did not choose the school to get away from poor people. As part of the other 38%, I'll give you my motivation:

1.)Montessori philosophy and curriculum. I've been a strong believer that it is the best learning environment for children since my oldest was enrolled at Montessori Community School. He spent 3 years there before transferring to Watts.
2.)Walking distance to our house. Our family tries to spend as little time in our car as possible. When it came time to move out of our bungalow on Duke St, staying close to Watts was the number one priority in buying our current home.
3.)We believe in and strongly value public education.

I do believe that Durham needs to resolve the issue of imbalance. 98% FRRPL is unacceptable. But please do not throw schools like Watts out with the bathwater, especially without considering all the facts. And I just don't see how busing kids to the outskirts of the city makes any sense at all. As we can see with the Watts priority zone, 'rich' and 'poor' neighborhoods are not so distinct in the central part of the city, so it is possible to draw zones to make the schools more diverse and still keep kids close to home.

More than my 2 cents.

Janice McCarthy
Mom to a Watts first grader and a fourth grader.

Michael Oehler


I'm not disagreeing that Watts has a very equitable student body. Kudos. What I'm disagreeing with is the way it is created... the 1/2 mile Walkzone. (Which by the way is only visible on the DPS website after clicking on each Magnet's individual application critieria.)

Clearly, the 1/2 mile walkzone gives an unfair advantage to those wealthy TP'ers who live within a 1/2 of the school. Their proximity to a magnet school gives them priority over other students in Durham. I realize that TP contains a number of less than stellar housing options, but TP is no Morning Glory or Edgemont. The 1/2 zone around Watts has one of the highest, if not the highest concentrations of property values of any urban core areas that is benefitting so greatly from Downtown Durham's renewal. All this centers conviently around Watts. And, only a small portion of Walltown is in the 1/2 walkzone. Most is in the Powe area.

As if this wasn't enough, Watts and Morehead students are going to get priority of getting into Lakewood Montessori MS. Have you looked at the FRL numbers of that school? They are around 43%.

Lakewood MS is already overbudget and going to cost taxpayers $9.8 million. This is the equivalent of a one cent property tax hike. Last year, I was out in the trenches lobbying for a tax increase to save our teachers. The CC gave us a 2.2$ tax increase. One whole cent of that equals a new botique MS? In this tough econonic budget, where are our values? We'll be giving a new MS to a few priveledged few while cuts will be hitting those that don't live within a 1/2 of Watts.

And Janice, the one reason you came up with why this walkzone should remain is so that your kids can walk to a good school (which Watts is.) Are you serious? Well, better your children should get to walk to school than those poor people that have to ride buses to Glenn or EK Powe (which is TPs neighborhood school if you live outside the 1/2 mile radius which many kids in TP do.) What about those impoverished kids that have to ride a bus all the way up Roxboro Rd. from Oxford Commons to attend Eno Valley so that Hillandale, Easely, Little River, and Mangum can maintain low FRL numbers? Look outside your community. This isn't about TP or Watts-Hillandale. This is about all those other kids in Durham that are and have historically gotten screwed by neighborhood schools.

Or, you mentioned that before Watts became a magnet that FRL numbers were 90%. Again, are you serious? Should Powe become a magnet? Draw a 1/2 circle around it, and give those kids priority. Let the other parents who are educated and willing to learn about the magnet process have a lottery to get in. That would certainly mean good things for Powe. The next closest school for us would be Hillandale.

To anyone that has read this far--

Here's the test question:

What would happen Eno Valley was to become a magnet with a 1/2 mile walk zone? Would this create a school that people like Janice would want to send their kids? Why or why not?

Bonus question:

Would this magnet concept with a 1/2 walkzone work at Burton and Holt? (Please keep in mind that these schools are already magnets with FRL levels higher than 85% and low test scores.) Explain.

And Tina,

I can't point to research that says 60% FRL will make a difference. However, I can give you a lot of anecdotal evidence about how hard it is as the PTA President to get parent volunteers at Powe which has an enrollment of about 400 and a FRL above 80%. I can also tell you how hard it is as a parent to get teachers to understand that even though your child reads on grade level at the beginning of the year, it is still important for him to be challenged in school. The simple fact is that there just aren't that many parents at Powe who have the time/money to volunteer. We canceled walk to school day on Wednesday because many, many kids do not have coats.

Balancing the schools FRL numbers is the right thing to do.

We mus look outside the bubble in which we live.
What makes the "good" schools in good in Durham isn't magical.
The School Board should end the geographic favoritism of the 1/2 mile walk zone and do the right thing and strive for SES equity in ALL schools.


Michael Oehler


Maybe this is easier to understand:

I have friends who live off of 98 in NE Durham. They are both UNC grduates who work for the city. They have one child. They are African American. Their neighborhood school is Glenn which needless to say is not within walking distance even if there were sidewalks. They applied for the Club and Watts lotteries. They got into neither. Their son went to Cardinal Gibbons. Why should someone living within a 1/2 of Watts have a better chance at getting into the school than them?



Micheal, I do agree that FRL averages at some DPS schools need to be brought down to a manageable level. But I disagree with your unfounded methods. (BUT if you find research that shows that schools in a district with across the board 60% FRL works, I would LOVE to discuss that.)

One interesting article: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/sarameads_policy_notebook/2010/10/the_limits_of_socioeconomic_integration.html
In particular this quote: "Consider: In the recent Century Foundation study* that touched off this whole discussion, low-income children reaped the benefits of improve educational outcomes when they attended schools in which no more than 20% of students qualified for free and reduced-price lunch (FRPL).** Children in the study who attended schools with greater than 35% of children eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch reaped no benefits, compared to children who attended schools with much higher rates of low-income students."

This is why the old WCPSS used the numbers 20 to 40% as their max threshold for FRL. In Durham to reach that 40% we need to attract about 7K to 9K more kids who do not qualify for FRL.

When people relocate to The Triangle if they have school aged children, fewer of them research sending their kids to DPS schools than Wake or CH/C. Watts was part of a downtown improvement that attracted more people to look at living in Durham and sending their kids to DPS schools. These people equalized FRL numbers some.

Others that post here have experience with urban planning and renewal so they may have other ideas that would attract families with children to Durham. In my personal experience it seems that either an area gentrifies and attracts more young families who then enroll their kids to public schools helping to turn them around. Or as in the case of San Francisco urban renewal prices families out and only those without children and the very poor who can't afford to move, end up staying. Of the 2, I'll take the model that helped Watts and probably renewal in your own neighborhood.

I can relate to your frustration regarding your on grade level child being challenged. I too have personal experience with this, even though our school FRL numbers are about 1/2 of Powe, but still enough to qualify for Title 1. I blame this on the extremely stringent pacing guide that DPS admins have created for teachers. I also blame it on federal legislation created by Bush and still supported by Obama. NCLB encourages teachers to focus primarily on students who are below grade level based on a test. (Yes, those kids need to be brought up, but the solution won't be found with NCBL.) I worry most about those kids who are grossly below grade level. It seems to me that NCLB restrictions and money & time restrictions force teachers to target their efforts where they think they will have the greatest success of bringing kids up to grade level. The kids at the bottom are eventually forced into EC and kids on grade level will only stay on grade level unless they either have the self motivation to bring themselves up or if they have driven parents (with the means) to work extra with them outside of school.

Schools in Durham do need to have balanced FRL numbers. But just mass reassignment is only going to drive away the middle class making that balance even more difficult.

Michael Oehler


We agree. I do not think there needs to be a "mass reassignment". All I'm saying is get rid of the 1/2 mile favoritism in magnets. I don't think that will change the FRL numbers at Watts. If anything, I think it might lower them. Then, support what Becoats is doing with the new MS. Finally, when designing new schools and new school zones, take into account SES. As everyone has already pointed out, most Durham schools are already near the 60% level...

Do you think we should not have integrated the schools because it drove many whites out of the school system? That is all I'm saying. We need equity in school zones.

And as to your belief that that study applies to Durham, I don't believe it. Has anyone studied FRL levels in Durham schools? Has anyone studied the difference between Durham's schools and FRL levels as it relates to race? Has anyone studied DPS post merger and seen how FRL levels reflect school board attitudes? Education is not science.

Again, I don't buy that argument that we can pull middle class families back to DPS. If anything, the modern move of young people back to urban areas, is further eroding the public school systems of those areas. What happened in SF is a good example. What happened in Pitt. is another. As we renew Durham, let's also renew the schools.

Finally, I'm alreading fielding calls from friends of friends that are questioning my sanity. They seem to wonder why I would want to "destroy" Watts. Let me reiterate... if the cutlure of Watts would change because the 1/2 mile walk zone was removed, what is the value of a magnet or a monterssori?

And Tina, what say you about the Lakeview MS perk?
And I haven't even mentioned how those 1/2 Watts street residents get free PreK?


Kevin Davis

"Again, I don't buy that argument that we can pull middle class families back to DPS. If anything, the modern move of young people back to urban areas, is further eroding the public school systems of those areas."

Michael, I'm having a hard time understanding what you're getting at here. If anything, the younger adults moving back into urban areas will -- hopefully -- end up sticking around once they have kids and will be willing to enter their kids into the school system, bringing balance to the system.

If we don't believe we can pull middle class families back into DPS or any school system, that means to me we are saying, we can't make the schools good enough for those who have a choice in their education. Well, why is that? Why can't we make schools good enough that all parents would want to send their kids there?


Yup, what Kevin said.

Lakeview MS, I do have concerns that it was created to appeal to vocal, middle class families (mostly from neighborhoods you have mentioned. BUT, the FRL numbers could very well end up looking like Watts which I think we agree does not have problems in terms of having too many "rich" kids, since 60% of the school qualifies for FRL.

Lakeview currently has 65 students in one grade. I don't think we will know what that school is going to look like in terms of demographics for another 3 to 5 years.

"Do you think we should not have integrated the schools because it drove many whites out of the school system? That is all I'm saying. We need equity in school zones."

No, that is not what I think. But as you pointed out the current school system is driving away many middle class African American Families too.

There are no easy answers. BUT there are many stake holders with a variety of needs. The district has to figure out a way to balance the needs of those stake holders.

Janice McCarthy

"And Janice, the one reason you came up with why this walkzone should remain is so that your kids can walk to a good school (which Watts is.) Are you serious? Well, better your children should get to walk to school than those poor people that have to ride buses to Glenn or EK Powe (which is TPs neighborhood school if you live outside the 1/2 mile radius which many kids in TP do.) What about those impoverished kids that have to ride a bus all the way up Roxboro Rd. from Oxford Commons to attend Eno Valley so that Hillandale, Easely, Little River, and Mangum can maintain low FRL numbers? Look outside your community. This isn't about TP or Watts-Hillandale. This is about all those other kids in Durham that are and have historically gotten screwed by neighborhood schools."

Michael, I said that being able to walk to school was the reason we chose Watts. Even if you remove the walk zone now (it's a 'priority zone', actually), my kids will still walk to school - they are already in.

We chose to leave the *private* Montessori, because there was a Montessori within walking distance from us. If I had to choose to drive 20 minutes each way to take my kids to school (or send them on a bus) I would have just kept them at MCS. Yes, it would cost us. I would need to work rather than stay at home and spend all of my spare time volunteering for the PTA, the school and the neighborhood. But least then we wouldn't have to contend with endless hours of EOGs. We put up with the public school issues because it gives us back a sense of community.

As a parent, I believe it is my duty to do the best I can for my children. If Watts did not exist, we would go private. As much as I believe in the importance of public education, I would not make my children pawns in a political process and send them to a school that offered them less than what I am able to provide.

I think all children should have the opportunity to walk to school. It is unfortunate that here in the south, the concept of 'neighborhood schools' is seen as synonymous with segregation (I'm originally from the North East). It shouldn't be. When will we spend the time, energy and resources to *integrate our neighborhoods*? That is the real solution. Busing kids all over the county to obtain 'equity' is a band-aid solution on a mortal wound.

I said this before, but it's worth repeating: Watts has a socio-economic distribution that reflects DPS as a whole. That is because the school is in an economically diverse neighborhood.

It's funny that everyone from outside Trinity Park thinks it is a 'rich neighborhood'. I have the impression that people walk through TP and they only see the huge 1910 and 1920s homes with beautiful front porches and lovely gardens. Doesn't anyone see the 1960s and 1970s brick ranches that have been subdivided into 3 or 4 low rent apartments? What about the duplexes? The apartment complexes that are missing parts of roof (replaced with tarp - nice.). They are right there in between! People live in them and their children walk to Watts too.



"people walk through TP and they only see the huge 1910 and 1920s homes with beautiful front porches and lovely gardens."

And I'd venture to guess that if those households have children, they ain't walking to a public school.

Janice McCarthy

Actually, a few of them are - because they value community and public education and they were presented with an option that didn't require them to sacrifice their kids.

Janice McCarthy

I just realized that my last comment may be interpreted to mean that going to Powe would be a sacrifice. I did not mean to imply that at all. The only reason I did not consider Powe for our family is that I so strongly believe in Montessori. I think that Powe and Watts have some very similar challenges, especially in terms of poverty and 'special' services such as ESL and AIG. We should work together more!

Michael Oehler


I'm so glad you are devoting your time to your community at Watts. I hope you realize that your community extends beyond the borders of TP and that decisions that are made at Watts impact all of Durham. A quick look at the numbers seems to indicate that blacks, hispanics, and those students on FRL at Watts are doing horribly. Middle Class whites seem to be doing fine. (The same is true at Powe, but is has no special magnet status.)

I'll challenge you to drive down Trinity into East Durham. If you don't want to, I'll give you a guided tour myself. Hang a right and get lost. Volunteer in some of the other elementary schools. Especially those in East Durham. Think about the communities your driving through as you get to these school. Ask yourself how many of these homes are valued above 155,000 (the median home price in Durham), and then ask yourself why some would consider TP the place where the wealthy live. Read Gary's blog, Endangered Durham, and learn what happened to the communities of Hayti and Morning Glory and why they ended up this way. Head up Roxboro Road and keep going. Go on through Braggtown, past West Point on the Eno and go in the doors of Eno Valley Elementary School where we can visit my old friend and former team teacher, Tonya Williams, the young and energetic principal at Eno Valley. We can chat with her about what it is like to lead a school with almost 80% FRL and how she has just gotten the PTA started.

We'll drive north on Old Oxford highway and right down the road from the Bennehan's still standing slave quarters is the low income housing where students take a 20 minute bus ride all the way up Roxboro to attend Eno Valley. Drive west on Umstead and then down Cole Mill Road and head back to Durham. Ask yourself where these kids attend school and why? Ask yourself how all those FRL kids ended up at Eno Valley? Our next trip could be a journey out to Treyburn and Little River Elementary. We'll stop by Lack Michie and visit Mangum, a quaint school. It looks right out of Mayberry as if students could what right up from the farm... problem is... there are fewer and fewer farmers in N. Durham every year as suburban sprawl, motivated by white flight from the "bad" schools moves out of the city center.

You said:

"I think all children should have the opportunity to walk to school. It is unfortunate that here in the south, the concept of 'neighborhood schools' is seen as synonymous with segregation (I'm originally from the North East). It shouldn't be. When will we spend the time, energy and resources to *integrate our neighborhoods*? That is the real solution. Busing kids all over the county to obtain 'equity' is a band-aid solution on a mortal wound."

I'm glad you shared this. I can tell you have the best interest of the kids at heart. However, to me it seems you feel entitled to have your child walk to school? Regardless, why do you feel it would be a sacrifice if your child did not have public access to Montessori schools. You've already stated that you have the ability to pay for private school. Why do you think the public should pay for this type of specialized education for your priveledged kid while the test scores show that the blacks, latinos, and low SES kids are not succeeding? I've always admired Quakers who believe so strongly in their faith that they want to raise their child in a school that follows those strict guidelines. No problem. They send their kids to private Friends schools. But, you feel that the public owes you a walkable Montessori school?

Do you feel neighborhood schools are a right because you went to a neighborhood school. Me, I grew up in the sprawl of the new South. There were no "neighborhoods" like TP or Watts Hillandale. Just track homes and rapidly bulldozed trees. We went to a school that was close, but it wasn't walkable any more than all suburban neighborhoods are walkable. The streets have no sidewalks. They were designed around the station wagon, then the mini van, and now the SUV. Maybe that is the difference.

Finally, the concept of neighborhood schools is not only synonymous with segregation in the South, but across America.

Some of the ugliest incidents in the history of school integration and busing happened in the Northeast. The NE is one quagmire of disfunctional racially divided school systems... see NYC, Philly, and New Haven, to nam a few. White flight does not belong solely to the South. White Irish Boston residents literally fought to keep blacks out of their neighborhoods. Real estate agents would not show blacks available houses for sale in white neighborhoods. When the courts ruled that the schools must integrate, the whites fought like mad to keep blacks out of their schools. The situation was only alleviated due to white flight. Whites left the school system. The same was true to some extent all across America in our cities. In NYC, parents, teachers, and students fought for control of the local school system. Meanwhile, whites fled to suburban areas. In the NE, whites could flee to the suburbs of large NE cities and not be under the jurisdiction of the busing law-- various townships had their own schools, taxation, and school boards. By and large, whites in the South could not flee their small communities where they lived. The far off suburbs were still years away. If you lived in Boston and you were wealthy and white, you could have moved to the wealthy suburb and not have to worry about busing or integration.

If you haven't already, please read the book, Five Mile Away, a World Apart by Jack Ryan. Also, watch the PBS series Eyes on the Prize, specifically episode 21 about school integration in Boston. Two more good books about race and schools are Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and Can We Talk About Race by Daniel Tatum. Visit the website www.highschoolequity.org. to learn what is being done to correct this problem in towns all across America. Google Michael Alves and read anything about his school choice program for the Cambridge Public Schools. Read this article about Wake's problem, and keep in mind that Durham has only 35,000 students: http://www.indyweek.com/citizen/archives/2010/07/28/what-does-the-wake-school-board-majority-intend-as-michael-alves-says-well-know-very-soon

Again, thanks for your willingness to converse in such a public forum. It is just this type of discussion that I believe is needed. I, too, hope that Watts, Powe and all the other Durham PTAs can work to support each other more often.


Michael Oehler


I didn't mean to leave you out. You're welcome to come along on our trip, too.



oh please. you can take your patronizing condescension and stuff it. Some of us actually come from those kinds of neighborhoods and don't need a self important know it all with a penchant for dramatic hyperbole to teach us about equality and justice for our children. What a jerk.

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