Convention Center one step closer to management change; future of Marriott "flag" unclear
Ground control to Major Paul -- who's watching what Sheriff's Martin is saying?

DPS settlement: $590,000 to three charter schools; Healthy Start, Kestrel Heights apparently still pending

Durham Public Schools-watchers have been wondering what's going on with a series of lawsuits against the district from five local charter schools over the level of funding passed along from school districts to their publicly-funded, state-chartered competitors.

As an Associated Press article noted over a year ago:

The state Supreme Court this month refused to review an appeals court ruling that said the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system undercounted how much it owed charter schools. School districts with charter schools are supposed to pass along a per student share of local education money to the independent public schools.

"The money that is going to be taken from them should have gone to the charter schools in the first place," said Richard Vinroot, the lawyer who represented five charter schools that successfully sued the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system. The former Charlotte mayor and Republican candidate for governor sits on the board of a charter school, The News Observer of Raleigh reported.

Vinroot said other charter schools in the state could ask for three years' worth of money from public schools.

Well, Vinroot's lawsuit precedent has taken away some more public schools dollars -- this time bound for three Durham charter schools, whose lawsuits against DPS over the matter were detailed in a fall 2010 story by the Herald-Sun's Matt Milliken.

A public records request by Bull City Rising education correspondent Sharon McCloskey has unearthed the settlement documents between the district and the Carter Community School, Central Park School for Children and Maureen Joy Charter School. (Download the PDF: Download R0615873)

The school district agreed in November to settle with the three charters for $590,000, about half of what the three schools asked for (per the H-S) in their lawsuit -- but more than five times DPS' initial claim of funds owed to the schools.

DPS had initially offered between $29,000 and $42,000 to the three schools, according to Milliken's reporting. The settlement documents note a more significant payday to the schools:
  • $212,400 to the Central Park School for Children
  • $224,200 to the Maureen Joy Charter School
  • $153,400 to the Carter Community Charter School

The executed settlement documents note that the payments release DPS from any and all liability to the charters for monies dating to or before July 2010, and stressing the settlelment "does not constitute an agreement about or recognition of any particular methodology, schedule, or formula through which the [School] Board or any other entity must or should calculate sums owed to the Charter Schools or any other charter school at any time -- present, past or future," and that the settlement figure "has no bearing upon anything beyond this particular case.'

No surprise to see that language in this settlement.

Keep in mind that Healthy Start Academy and Kestrel Heights still have a lawsuit outstanding, according to attorney Deborah Stagner with local education law firm Tharrington Smith. 

Those two schools were offered about $176,000 in the district's voluntary offer of funds owed to the charters. The settlement's warning about precedent aside, a settlement offered to HSA and Kestrel Heights on similar terms could stretch to nearly another $1 million -- assuming, of course, that the lawsuit doesn't come to conclusion that's even less favorable to Durham Public Schools.

Speaking of folks making money off the suit -- presumably that applies to Vinroot, too; the Herald-Sun noted in their fall story he was representing the three Durham charter schools that settled.


Rodrigo "El Justiciero" Dorfman

Charter Schools are appealing on the surface and are increasingly played out in a racial/class ideological field of dreams and they may not be all that they seem or advertise to be. Basically your tax dollars are funding private schools that are slowly de-funding our public schools and creating a two tear system of education.

Read this for a serious discussion.

The Myth of Charter Schools
NOVEMBER 11, 2010
Diane Ravitch


Now that DPS is $590,000 poorer I'm wondering if Sharon can do a little more digging.

It's my understanding that after the 20th day of school charter schools conduct their student counts and get their financial allotments.

What happens when a child (say one who needs specials services or transportation to school that isn't provided at the charters) transfers back into a DPS school? Let's say this child transfers back in January. Does the charter then get less money for the rest of the year? Does the money follow-that child BACK into the DPS system? Does anyone know the answer?

Seems like that could be a lot of money.

I heart Durham

I don't understand how Charter schools don't have to offer transportation. Can someone explain that? It seems like that would exclude a large group of people who depend on buses to get their children to school.

I'm undecided about charters at this point, but they do seem like subsidized private schools to me, but I have to add that I don't know much about them. People seem to think that tax dollars are just for their own children's education, but shouldn't the thinking be that to have a strong society, we need to give all children the best education possible with tax dollars? Vouchers and charters don't seem like a viable option for a lot of people.

On another note, I read in Monday's HS that the strategic plan will be streamed live on the DPS website and also published on the site shortly before tonight's meeting.


"What happens when a child (say one who needs specials services or transportation to school that isn't provided at the charters) transfers back into a DPS school?"

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think funding is pegged to each individual student which then follows that student accordingly. That would seem to be incredibly difficult to do and a substantial waste of resources. Schools are funded, I would imagine, based on population estimates. Durham Charter schools admit students through a lottery process until their population limit is met. After that, students are placed on a waiting list. If a student transfers out of a charter school into a public school, presumably a student on the waiting list would take their place. And most likely that student would come from a DPS school, making it an even trade off. Any special needs which may add to cost are irrelevant. My guess is that it is already part of the equation when determining per student funding. Obviously parents of special needs students do not pay higher taxes or fees for their children to attend public schools. I would imagine that funding is calculated through estimates of special needs children in a given district and distributed amongst all students in the district, not a customized funding of actual individual students. To put it another way, you don't see schools in the DPS system writing checks to each other when a student moves from one school to another. Regardless of your opinion of charter schools (and I personally don't think they address the systemic problems of eduation in this country), the children who attend them do deserve to receive the same funding as other children in the district.


It's my understanding that children in charter schools can come from any community in the state. I know some charter schools in Durham serve students from surrounding communities. Do those surrounding communities pay or just DPS?


@Rodrigo: a superficial ideological analysis fails to illuminate this discussion. Even though some may think of charter schools as "private", they are funded by the public, are open to all students, and in many ways operate in a more open, democratic way than do traditional public schools.

One key advantage of a well-run charter school (emphasis on well-run) is that the locus of control regarding curriculum, teaching methods, and budget allocation decisions is local. Here is a specific example from Central Park School for Children (I have two kids there). This year, the school administrators, in consultation with the democratically elected school council, implemented a new physical education program. Quoting from a communication sent home to parents, the goals are "to engage in professional development to connect the cognitive principles and strategies of aikido, yoga and dance to everyday problem solving and critical thinking situations. These strategies will assist our students develop empathy while avoiding aggression, one of the goals of our Peaceful Schools program. As the year progresses, every student will have one quarter of dance, yoga and aikido." This innovative program would have been difficult, if not impossible, to initiate within the institutional confines of DPS.

As these types of programs are proven in the charter school setting, I hope that traditional public schools will take the opportunity to incorporate new ideas into their thinking.

Public school advocate

Charter schools can claim that they're open to all students, but unless they provide services to exceptional children (learning, physically, and/or emotionally disabled) and transportation, they're not. Who is left? Middle class families that can afford to drive their children to school. (Note: Some charters in Durham, such as Maureen Joy, do provide transportation.)

Rudolph the Red

Don't forget lunch. If a charter school does not offer lunch to any student, then they do not have to offer it to those who qualify for free and reduced status. This is an easy way to cater to a specific demographic.

No transportation and no free/reduced lunch...I wonder who will attend that school.

I am a firm supporter of reform in public education and charter schools when ran effectively. Unfortunately these are the exception not the rule.

Rodrigo "El Justiciero" Dorfman

@Toby - Sorry to correct you but I was not making a "superficial ideological analysis" - I'm just pointing to the mine fields that surround it and directing folks to read the article by Diane Ravitch The Myth of Charter Schools

A "well run" charter school I am sure is a wonderful place to be. I would love for my kids to get Spanish and Yoga at EKPOWE. And I can see how Charter schools offer different perspectives and possibilities that can enlighten other schools. We just have to see the whole political context - not just the needs of a few students.


I support charter schools in general and have a child attending one of the schools on this list. I have been very pleased my experience. For one thing, a parent in a charter school actually seems to have a voice and can access the administration if necessary. School strategies for the year are at least disclosed/discussed with parents and feedback is encouraged, unlike "invitation-only" closed sessions for VIPs. (hint, hint)

Also, our traditional public schools have a serious lack of time spent for physical activity, to the severe detriment of our children. This is the result of a systematic approach of a teaching to the test, EOG / metrics-driven environment where children have no time to run. Its a shame that the people who design traditional public school curriculumns do not seem to keep up with research in neurological & physical development in children. Play and recess are absolutley necessary in healthy child development. Our trad. public schools place the highest priority on metrics and "results" (i.e. test scores) and as such do not seem to design curriculumns that are based in research.

Charter schools give parents a choice. They are not limited to only certain demographics, either, enrollment are done by random lottery. Any parent can enroll in the lottery if they choose.

So yeah, go charter schools.

I heart Durham

A charter school that does not offer transportation is not an option for a parents who need a school bus to get their children to school, so yes they are offered by random lottery, but be realistic and admit some people are excluded.

As far as the "invitation" only event that you are referring to, there where about five listening sessions around town (open to all and well publicized) this past fall and input from these sessions was used to create the plan.


@ Ann, gaylib, JCV: State funding is allocated on a per student basis, and can be re-allocated up to 60 days into the school year if a student transfers to/from a charter. Local funding per student is provided by student's home district.

From the NC General Statutes:

§ 115C‑238.29H. State and local funds for a charter school.

(a) The State Board of Education shall allocate to each charter school:
(1) An amount equal to the average per pupil allocation for average daily membership from the local school administrative unit allotments in which the charter school is located for each child attending the charter school except for the allocation for children with disabilities and for the allocation for children with limited English proficiency;
(2) An additional amount for each child attending the charter school who is a child with disabilities; and
(3) An additional amount for children with limited English proficiency attending the charter school, based on a formula adopted by the State Board.

In accordance with G.S. 115C‑238.29D(d), the State Board shall allow for annual adjustments to the amount allocated to a charter school based on its enrollment growth in school years subsequent to the initial year of operation.

In the event a child with disabilities leaves the charter school and enrolls in a public school during the first 60 school days in the school year, the charter school shall return a pro rata amount of funds allocated for that child to the State Board, and the State Board shall reallocate those funds to the local school administrative unit in which the public school is located. In the event a child with disabilities enrolls in a charter school during the first 60 school days in the school year, the State Board shall allocate to the charter school the pro rata amount of additional funds for children with disabilities.

(b) If a student attends a charter school, the local school administrative unit in which the child resides shall transfer to the charter school an amount equal to the per pupil local current expense appropriation to the local school administrative unit for the fiscal year. The amount transferred under this subsection that consists of revenue derived from supplemental taxes shall be transferred only to a charter school located in the tax district for which these taxes are levied and in which the student resides. (1995 (Reg. Sess., 1996), c. 731, s. 2; 1997‑430, s. 7; 1998‑212, s. 9.20(f); 2003‑423, s. 3.1; 2006‑69, s. 3(f).)

Michael Oehler


The idea that Central Park School for Children is anything but a private school being funded by taxpayer dollars is ridiculous. The parents at CPS can participate in a democratic sit down Kumbaya session about there child's education precisely because CPS has almost no children of poverty. If we increased the percentage of poor children at Central Park to 80%, what it is in many Durham elementary schools, or the district average of 60%, do you honestly expect that these children's parents would have time to sit around and lament the lack of physical activity in today's schools or the value of Yoga? Good grief. The only reason CPS for children succeeds is because of the socio-economic make up of the students pleases their middle class parents. As Rodrigo has already pointed out children of poverty would need transportation, ESL intepreters, services for language, EC, and more counseling than a small private school could provide. But heck, why don't we just send all those kids to "special" schools. Charters for EC kids, charters for ESL kids, charters for dummies, charters for poor kids... I'm channeling Stephen Colbert on Wake County here... here a poor, there a poor, everywhere a poor, poor... but in my nice, "public" charter school.

To allow these few priveledged, well off winners of the lottery to recieve an exlusive education on the backs of the less fortunate is decidely NOT democratic.

*Just in case you still don't get it... allowing those with the most to opt out of public schools will leave those with the least options once again getting the short end of the stick.

**Won't someone make the argument about vouchers? I could almost be convinced at this point... especially funding for schools is slashed. Create a trully open market. Give each family $17,000, the cost of a quality private school education, and let them go at it. Then, I would love to see the lawsuits fly when some students are denied their NC constitutional right to an "adequate" education. What will happen when a child gets expelled and no school will take that child? What will happen when a child is admitted to a school but later qualifies for EC services the school doesn't offer and can't get into another school? I mean, please... someone... bring that argument.

***I am growing SO TIRED of the uneducated and poorly informed argument for charters coming from this supposedly LIBERAL town. I expect this sort of thing from a certain type of person; namely, one who doesn't base decisions on a careful observation and study of data, but instead bases their decisions on emotion. Please, someone, anyone, show me how charter schools are performing better than the public schools given the same demographic data.

Michael Oehler

Doug Roach

With lawsuits by such as those fomented by Ms. Stagner and Mr. Vinroot, is it any wonder that public education in Durham County lags behind?
When either of these two contribute a single idea or solution to the public discourse or when they don't cash an enormous check from the public trough, only then will I respect their standing in the education forum.
Until then, they're simply sharks and charlatans who don't chase ambulances but private school buses.

Doug Roach

My bad... Ms. Stagner was actually representing DPS in these cases, a point not quite clearly made in the post.
My apologies to her but my finger of shame nonetheless remains pointed at Mr. Vinroot.

It's called negotiation, counselor. Lawsuits quite simply enrich lawyers and as in this case, do little to resolve the underlying issues.


Question for the critics: Do you also consider public magnet schools that are done by lottery as exclusive?


I believe most would agree that there IS a place for charter schools in our public school systems. Maureen Joy is a great example: that school is able to bring innovation and nimbleness into its curriculum that the constraints of DPS beauracracy simply would not allow.

How charter school perform compared to other public schools is not the point (although I think you would find that, on average, they perform about the same). Charter schools are meant to be centers of innovation, free of the constraints that hinder the traditional public schools. No one argues that charter schools are the answer; we must improve all our public schools. But the hope is that tools and approaches shown to be effective in charter schools can be adopted by other public schools.

Now, regarding this vitriolic focus on CPSC -- what is that all about? Michael Oehler, have you ever had an open-minded discussion (i.e. a flame war doesn't count) with the CPSC administration and tried to understand the goals and mission and efforts of that school, or tried to understand how the administration and parents feel about diversity and public education? Your comments suggest an extremely judgemental and self-righteous and ill-informed opinion.

I heart Durham

As long as the public magnet schools done via lottery offer transportation and free/reduced lunch, then I would not consider them exclusive, if there are some that don't, then yes, I would also consider them exclusive.

Rob Gillespie

I'm not taking a side in this one, but as an observer I would assume that they do not view magnets as exclusive.

The criticisms I see in this thread are:
1) Charter schools do not [have to] provide transportation
2) Charter schools do not [have to] provide F&R lunch
3) Charter schools do not [have to] provide special education services

DPS's magnet schools provide all three. Of course, there's been a lot of controversy surrounding the walk zones in DPS magnet schools.

I'll re-iterate that I'm just trying to remain an observer in this one.


It has been suggested that charter schools don't have to provide special education services.

We have a special needs child at Central Park. He was suspended from Kindergarten at Hope Valley because they got all authoritarian with him when what he needed was a little time-out and quiet space to sort his thoughts out and communicate his needs. Their too-large classrooms and regimented way of teaching were totally incompatible with his learning style.

(I don't understand how any kid can learn productively in that kind of environment; it's a testament to the resiliency of children that, apparently, many of them do.)

CPS's smaller class size and more flexible teaching methods made an immediate difference.

At CPS, they have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help him be a productive student and an active learner. Unlike the regular public schools, which always seemed to think of him as a "problem", CPS has always responded to his issues as challenges that it is their job to help him overcome so he can become a happy and productive member of society.

I can't speak highly enough about them. We would have been in very bad shape otherwise.

Bob Chapman

I have the privilege of serving as a volunteer board member at Central Park School for Children and as chair of its facilities committee.

Michael Ohler asked "Please, someone, anyone, show me how charter schools are performing better than the public schools given the same demographic data."
The NC Department of Public Instruction publishes the 2010 End of Grade Performance Composite for every school in the state on its website The "performance composite" score for each school is the percentage of students at that school who test at or above their grade level (also referred to as the percentage who are "proficient"). I downloaded the published results into Excel and here's what I found: In last spring's tests, the median percentage of students at grade level in Durham's 49 district public schools was 62.7%. (Median in this case meant that at 23 schools more than 62.7% of students were proficient and at 24 schools less than 62.7% were proficient. Two schools scored at the median.) For Durham's 7 charters the median was 71.1%. Two of the charters and twenty-seven district schools tested below the all school median. Statewide the charter school median was 83.4% proficient and the district school median was 77.3%. I have not yet compared demographic statistics, but it would not surprise me to learn that Durham's charters do, in fact, fairly reflect the racial and economic diversity of Durham County.

Unlike private schools, public charter schools charge no tuition.

Admission to charters is by random lottery, with two exceptions: siblings and children of faculty and staff. Sadly, charters in Durham often see 10 or even 20 children enter the lottery for every available space.

Please keep in mind that Charter schools receive substantially less funding than district schools: No education lottery funds, no funds for school buses, and, amazingly, no funds at all for construction of schools. By way of comparison, publicly funded debt service payments for each child attending Durham district schools appears to exceed $1,200 per year. Charters do not receive any capital funding. Lottery payments are about $140 per year per child in district schools, but zero in charter schools. The public school bus system is not available to students attending charter schools.

Over the past couple of years, charter schools began to realize that local districts were not, as required by law, providing each student attending a charter school the same funding they would receive if they attended a district-run school. In lawsuits across the state, charters have presented evidence that local school boards have diverted funds that were, by law, owed to the charters. When these cases have been tried, the charters have been awarded substantial funds that the courts have determined were unlawfully withheld. In Durham, three cases have been settled out of court and the charters have recovered some of the funds they believed they were owed. However, the statute of limitations prevented the charters from recovering funds withheld more than three years ago.

I am a strong supporter of public education, both district and charter. I want all schools in Durham to be stellar. I think charter schools can help lead and show the way for all public education through research-based best practices, site-based governance, and enthusiasm.

I think charters are earning their place in the public school mix by delivering more and doing it for substantially less.

Kirsten Kainz

Mr. Chapman,

Will you please clarify the proportion of English Language Learning and Economically Disadvantaged 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders that scored at or above grade level in math and/or reading at Central Park last year.

Thank you,

Kirsten Kainz

I heart Durham


Here is the link for CPSC test results, see test results by data group. If a category has less than 5 students, an n/a is entered. Central park score for overall school stats and for NED match, leading one to conclude there are no ED students in the school (or less than 5)


@I heart Durham: I can assure you that magnet schools in Durham offer both free/reduced price lunches and bus transportation.

Bob Chapman

Ms. Kainz,

I don't know the answer to your question, but the answer can probably be found in the comprehensive data on the EOG scores of every public school, including charter schools, available at

I do know that CPSC works hard to recruit children from minority families, economically disadvantaged families, and children who are English learners. One of the downsides of high demand is that those recruited still have to get past the 1 in 10 (or worse) odds of the admission lottery.

Several times over the years we have asked our representatives in Raleigh to consider sponsoring special legislation allowing CPSC to have a one-mile walk-zone. That would give children in our economically and ethnically diverse neighborhood first dibs on spaces. We've also considered proposing that members of underrepresented groups receive multiple entries in the lottery. So far no traction with Raleigh on these changes, but we keep trying.

Best regards,

Bob Chapman

dps teacher

The Race To Nowhere gives a voice to what I witness daily as a public school teacher. I have 20 years of experience.

GREAT teachers will have no choice but to leave their honorable profession if the current trend continues. How many hours have been spent on assessment the past few weeks, rather than teaching project based units for your kids? I am ashamed to note the percentage of time I have been forced to complete one-on-one assessment. I teach 6 and 7 year olds. Given the new "assessments", the percentage of time testing, has increased.

I have a strong commitment to public education. While I ponder how long I can survive the inane trends, I know I will NEVER teach at a charter or private school.


I am a fan of Diane Ravitch. But I also know that you can not always compare the national norm with a the norm of a district or a school. Also there is a difference between Corporate Owned Charters (most of which Ravitch speaks of) and non-profit charters. In NC on non-profit charters are allowed.

Carter Community Charter, Maureen Joy, and Healthy Start are ALL Title 1 schools, meaning that at LEAST 40% (maybe more) are children who qualify for Free & Reduced lunch. To recieve that money the schools must meet certain Federal Requirements (ie LOTS of paper work). For some schools the paperwork is not worth it so even though they are above that 40% mark they do not apply for Title 1 money.

The 3 schools mentioned above are NOT "publically funded private schools" if by which you mean middle case families opting out of county run schools for charters.

While I could not find numbers for Kestrel's SES, here are their racial demographics: Latino 10.3%, White 38%, Black 45.7%, Asian 5.8%. Given the demos at other DPS middle and high schools I find these numbers to be racial diverse and somewhat balanced.

In terms of funding, if the district is going to say charter students who enter DPS mid year cost the district X dollars, THEN they must break down ALL the categories. How much does out of district transfers (students move all the time) cost the district? How much does mid year transfers into DPS from homeschooled or private schooled families cost DPS? How much does DPS SAVE a year when mid year transfer happen OUT of district, or TO a private school, or when parents pull a child out of DPS mid year to homeschool.
I have no idea what the balance ledger would look like. But you can't look at any one of these categories in a vacuum.

Bottom line is this: if a school district is repsonsive to the needs of ALL students, listens to parents, AND supports teachers and school administrators THEN parents want their children to be part of the public school system. But when the central administration (often whom make over 100K, live in other districts, and send their own children to schools not associated with DPS) force top down mandates, don't listen to teachers or parents, view students as a test score THEN parents want other options.

And then of course, there is all the over-testing (multiple hours spent on benchmark testing and prepping for EOGs) that several charter schools don't adhere too.

IF DPS did a better job on these things THEN there would not be so many middle class families opting for private school, charter schools, homeschooling, or flat leaving Durham. And DPS would not be so worried about loosing $s or middle class families to other places.

Michael Oehler


1)Answer Ms. Kainz's question.

2) You can't be serious? You haven't had the time or interest to look at the data pulled out by ethnicity or SES?

Here it is again:
1) Central Park does not provide transportation.
2) Central Park does not provide lunch.
3) Central Park has almost no ESL students.

This prevents many, many of Durham's neediest students from enrolling. Oh, I get it... they should go to a separate school charter school or maybe even the public school... but it will be an equally funded school... yeah... for those students who can't provide transportation, whose parents don't have enough money to provide them an organic lunch, or for those students who can't even read enough English to even know how to enter the lottery... yeah, Bob, those kids go to "Separate But Equal" schools.

Charter schools have been around since the '80s, Bob. They were nothing special, UNTIL, upper middle class people, mostly white, started moving back into the cities. Then, and only then, did this movement gain traction, because as we all know, upper middle class kids should be able to go to school without having to be around poor people... cue Stephen Colbert. At least in the 80s charters trotted out a well respected academic to make their argument... not a developer like you, Bob. Seriously, what are your credentials? If I were cynical, I'd begin to question why business people who own property near the school are some of the FIRST people to start defending it. If I wanted to be constructive, I might ask you to get involved in changing DPS curriculum and instruction strategies to the strategies you've so carefully developed, modeled and tested at CPS? Do you have the aswers Bob? How do we stop drop outs? How do we retain teachers? How do we feed healthy meals? How do we lobby the state legislature to maintain funding?

@For those of you who don't understand my vilification of such a wonderful school,

You can't be serious? Can you point me in the direction of that program that is being tested at Central Park that if implemented by DPS would radically transform that school? (And simply lumping all the well off kids and those kids who have parents motivated well enough to enter them in a lottery doesn't count.)

I taught in Chapel Hill. My kids scored 95% on the state tests. The entire school average was above 90%. According to Bob's in depth analysis, Chapel Hill must have better teachers and strategies and more charters than Durham. We all know why CHCC scores are so high and Durham's aren't. It is called poverty. What charter schools do is suck attempt to suck the last remaining life out of the public school system so that middle class parents, no matter where they live, can send their kids to school with as few poor kids as possible.

Finally, I strongly believe that DPS should have a diversity policy much like the one that Wake had. (I mean, I can't tell you how surreal it seems to here all these Durham parents laughing at Wake's troubles when we have the exact system of neighborhood schools, magnets, and charters that Wake wants.)

I believe in the ability of each child to go to a quality school, no matter where they live. It is a shame that due to a court case in the 70s that school systems have shied away from integration across district lines. I mean seriously. Aren't the Chapel Hill Carrboro Schools essentially private? If you can't afford to buy a house in Chapel Hill, you can't go to school there? If you live closer to East Chapel Hill HS than Jordan, isn't East really your neighborhood school? Why should where you live determine where you go to school?

Pre integration, no one in Durham went to their neighborhood school. You went to the Black School or the White School. It didn't matter which one was closest. In fact, people made an argument much like the charter advocates make today... as long as schools are funded equal it is okay for the races to go to school separately.

Luckily, today, things aren't as grim as they were in the Jim Crow South. Unfortunately, today, because so many people are ignorant of history, we are once again institutionalizing a two tier system that will be equally funded, but forever unequal.

dps teacher

Thank you Oehler!

one very tired teacher

Michael Oehler


I hear you about your concerns with DPS. I went to the unvieling of the DPS 4 year plan, and I was extremely underwhelmed. However, charters are not the solution. At best, they do no harm, Kestrel, MJ, etc., but worst case scenario, CPSC, they cater to urban dwellers who feel entitled to a suburban education free of poor people.


Rodrigo "El Justiciero" Dorfman

Michael! That second post truly finds the right balance between outrage and a steady hand.


Michael -
Do your kids go to Eastway Elementary school? If not, want to use my address so they can have that experience and be the beacon of middle class hope in an impoverished school?

You don't get to have it both ways , critising the administration of DPS, being underwhelmed by their plans, stating that they don't listen to teachers or have nimble educational strats and then demonize anyone who looks for a better opportunity for their child or enrolls them in a school that is trying to be the solution to the problems you so readily point to in DPS.

Todd P

Comparing the performance of students in charters to students in DPS schools is a apples/oranges comparison.

Despite the claim of 'being open to everyone through a lottery', the reality is that without transportation and without a free/reduced lunch option, the vast majority of DPS students are excluded from charters. 60.8% of DPS students get a free/reduced lunch this year.

The result is the economic segregation of Durham students, with 'haves' able to choose charters and 'have-nots' left in an even higher concentration in DPS.

Want another indication of charters striving to be more like exclusive private schools than public schools? Look at who Voyager Academy's sports teams play:

Vance Charter, Triangle Day School, Endeavor Charter, Montessori School of Raleigh, Carolina Friends School, Roxboro Community School, Magellan Charter, Duke School, Durham Academy, Emerson Waldorf, Pre-Eminent Charter, East Wake Academy, Trinity School.

DPS middle schools never leave the county to play an opponent. But Voyager, which largely pulls students from Brogden MS and Carrington MS, travels to Wake, Orange, and Person counties rather than playing either Brogden or Carrington that are less than 3 miles away. As Stephen Colbert would say, they wouldn't want to get poor poor poor on their kids with exposure to DPS.


Michael O,

You need to take a deep breath and calm down with all your judgements and high-horse nonsense. I'm assuming that you yourself live in an ED section of Durham and have your kids in an high % ED school, otherwise you really have no business calling out other people for sending their own kids somewhere else. Really, don't pat yourself on the back for your social-conscious. As several others have stated, there are some valid reasons to enroll in Charters that have nothing to do with classism.
Instead of actually acknowledging any of those valid reasons, you're just playing Durham race and class politics to make emotionally-charged points at people you don't like.


I just want to add that I think there is a valid discussion to be had about the inclusiveness of charter schools and their context in the broader DPS, but mudslinging with classism is cheap, easy, and unproductive.

Rob Gillespie

@Bob Chapman-
You mentioned lobbying for a one-mile walk zone for CPSC. Don't you own a lot of property in that one-mile walk zone, and aren't you looking to develop it?

What effect would the walk zone have on the property you own in the Central Park district?

I heart Durham

Inclusiveness is the moat major issue and should have been successfully addressed by now by all the charters. It seems like that is what most people are concerned about. When tax dollars are use, it is everyone's business, regardless of where their children go to school or if they have children in school at all for that matter. My retired neighbors could care less if a lucky few win a lottery at the expense of DPS. Tax dollars are for the good of the entire society, not just people with children and an viable alternative.


If the problem with Charters is reduced accessibility for underprivileged kids due to the lack of (1) transportation, (2) free/reduced lunches, (3) ESL, why not argue for a requirement that charter schools also provide these things, rather than arguing against charter schools in general?

My take is that there should be more smaller schools in the DPS system, with more flexibility to set their own rules -- as opposed to the small number of increasingly gi-normous schools we have now.

Charter schools are a step in that direction, so they seem to me like a good idea and I'd like to see DPS offloading more kids onto a larger number of charter schools. Are the accessibility problems really so insurmountable?


The DPS system has a racial breakdown of 78.65% non-white and 21.35% White

Durham County Charter Schools have a racial breakdown of 68.71% non-white and 31.29% white.

Data link:

another DPS parent

@Natalie and justadurhamite,

Michael Oehler can surely speak for himself, but he doesn't need to be the only one leading the charge on this issue. My child attends school with Micheal's children, so I can attest that he does, in fact, have 2 lovely children enrolled in a Title 1, low income, traditionally underperforming school in Durham. I can also attest that he is an active parent who is in the trenches on nearly every initiative to improve his neighborhood school, regardless of whether his children directly benefit from his efforts. Hats off to him for doing so.

Despite the belief of parents who send their children to charter schools without any direct experience of DPS schools, a core group of motivated parents can make a public school "nimble" and engaging for students. In just the past two years, Michael's school has managed to fund an afterschool tutoring and enrichment program for underperforming students, a Responsive Classroom initiative, a salad bar for the lunchroom, new garden spaces with composting, and a burgeoning exercise program. That spans a pretty diverse range of interests, and those are just a few examples.

So, I just don't get this idea that you can't get the change you want from a public school. What it takes is commitment of a small group parents at the grassroots level to enact the changes they believe in. This is where the frustration comes in for an invested DPS parent. We find ourselves asking why parents are willing to invest themselves so fully in a charter school, but not in their neighborhood school? We don't understand why there a belief that your children will somehow lose every advantage you've presumably imparted to him or her and fail to thrive in a school where some of the kids are impoverished. What exactly makes some of you fear the public school?

It is not hard to understand why charter schools are frustrating to those of us in traditional DPS schools. We know what a few additional hours of parental investment and a few additional dollars can do to support an initiative to improve a school, but we see the potential of that financial and human capital leave our neighborhood for a charter school. We know that our children are happy and in school, but we are also disappointed that they don't get to be classmates with their buddies who live next door or down the block who go to charter or private school (or frankly, to a DPS magnet). We know our children are doing well in school, and we don't care to have them labor under the stigma that their school is somehow inferior due to test scores that do not effectively account for the individual demographics of each school (such as inclusion of EC scores for schools that take EC children from across the district).

I might have a little bit less disdain for charter schools that Michael. I have visited them, have gotten into them, and ultimately our family decided that our neighborhood school was a better fit overall. For the most part, I favor a traditional classroom education supplemented with fresh approaches where they fit best. Although I understand the valid reasons to enroll in charters, I also find it difficult to ignore the class-based elements in the system. It is not cheap, or easy, or unproductive to question where the charter system might lead, and what effect it will have on Durham's children. Will it be a tiered system where largely white affluent northern Durham dominates a few charter schools, and less affluent children dominate others? I can't predict the future, but the possibility certainly exists in the make-up of the current charters, so what would happen if the system expands at the expense of traditional DPS?

For my money, DPS is the most democratic and socially just option for education in Durham, flaws and all. In addition to neighborhood schools, there are magnets, year-round program, and other schools of choice. Sometimes it takes work, no doubt about it. It is just too bad more people in Durham are not committed to making it work.

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