Program Report: Michael Fuga of Neal Middle School


Michael Fuga sports a buzz cut, or something close to it. He also sports a doctorate in education from UNC, a master’s degree, and this year’s honor as DPS  “Principal of the Year.”

As principal at Neal Middle School serving East Durham, Fuga creates no buzz that we know of about the tight hair. Fuga’s moment in the DPS spotlight stems from a game-changing turnaround in progress at Neal that has taken the school off of the state’s list of low-performing schools.

Fuga, a hard-charging Pittsburgh native, told Rotarians at lunch on Monday that students at Neal have outperformed three other DPS middle schools and are hard on the heels of yet another three. Once-cumbersome staff turnover is dramatically down. An active PTA is at work, Fuga said, a new development. About 300 families showed up for a school multicultural event. A game night drew more than 220 people. An FFA club is looking into environmentally friendly green architecture. Kids are raising 10 chickens on campus, Fuga said (and the birds do get around.) Each day, Fuga encourages staff members to reach out to at least one student directly for support and engagement.

Fuga, a veteran of 14 years in education as teacher, principal and academic, called for more help to increase student-adult interaction. “Let me know how you want to make a difference,” he said. “I’m an e-mail, a phone call or a visit away. Let me know how you want to make a difference.”

Fuga credits increasingly community involvement that exposes students to adults, to potential mentors, to occupations and professions, and to ideas. Speakers, he said, have ranged from professional athletes to the owners of Dames Chicken & Waffles.

As an academic, he depends on data and research. To push back on a trend showing that eight-grade students were not meeting growth expectations, Fuga implemented single-gender teams in eighth grade. During the 2016-17 school year, the all-boys, all-girls and mixed-gender teams showed substantial improvements in academics. Students showed a 10-percent increase in math proficiency, a 2-percent increase in English Language Arts proficiency and a 12-percent increase in science proficiency. Troubling disciplinary trends specific to the eighth-graders dropped dramatically.

Fuga has said it is his role to promote both student feelings of safety and security plus staff performance. He keeps an open line of communication with his staff, maintains an open door and shares his cell phone number so staff can reach him anywhere, anytime.

In two years, 90 percent of staff surveyed rated Neal as a good place to work. That marked an increase of nearly 25 percent compared to a 2015 survey, according to the DPS website.

Fuga was introduced by Rotarian David Reese of EDCI which is one of the community organizations that work with the same population as Neal Middle School.

Submitted by Mark Lazenby

Officer Nominations – Vice President Erik Benson

Club Vice President Erik Benson addressed the Club to solicit nominations for future service in the Club.
Each year we elect 4 officers for one year terms and 3 board members for 3 year terms.
President Nominee. As a Board member, the president nominee is preparing for the role of Club President in the Rotary Year 2021-22, after the terms of  President Brady, Todd Taylor (current president elect) and Emilee Collins (current president nominee).   As Club President, this person provides the annual roadmap for the Club to follow during their Presidential year; interfaces with all Club committee chairs and club officers; runs all weekly Club meetings, coordinates the monthly board meeting agendas; facilitates monthly Board meetings, and potentially represents our club to other parts of Rotary. President is the most demanding of our club’s officer positions, but the Board is there to support members as they prepare for the role, and the Club does provide leadership training and subsidized attendance at the International Rotary Conference as part of preparation for this role. [Read more…]

Bell Ringing for the Salvation Army

Our annual opportunity to spread Christmas Cheer, raise money for another outstanding Durham institution, The Salvation Army, and create or deepen a new Rotary friendship is again upon us.  Ho Ho Ho.

John Cross, banker who advertises all over our meeting venue and Santa’s tallest elf, is running the show again. He persuaded President Brady to set up the Sign-up-Genius. There are ninety slots so you probably won’t deny anyone an opportunity if you grab more than one slot. Link will also be in the sidebar on the right until all the slots are filled.

Tip from another over-sized elf…if you have flexibility in selecting your slot look for the opportunity to join someone you don’t know…there’s a good chance you’ll make a fast friend or a good Rotary connection. Check the picture…our favorite Jewish mother, Meg,  and our favorite tuba player, Vince have been doing it for years. The picture is from 2012 and they’ve been going at it ever since. (It’s a real Tuba in this pic…sometimes he comes with a Sousaphone…he has lots of choices)

Same Walmart Location across 15-501 from Home Depot.

Good cause, friendship opportunity, lots of fun, great people watching, surprising generosity where you’d least expect it.  Red aprons provided…bring your own Santa hat…wear comfortable shoes…layers and gloves if it’s cold ..and a few bucks to add to the kettle yourself.  If it is cold, the cup of coffee that you buy from McDonalds inside Walmart before you leave, will be the best you ever had.

Cure for the Baaaah-hummm-bugs.

Paul Harris Fellow – Joshua Aguiar

Proud parents Ann-Louise and  Newman Aguiar welcomed their son Joshua into the Fellowship of Paul Harris upon the achievement of Eagle Scout status in the Boy Scouts of America.

Dallas Stallings, the current Area Foundation Chair, made the presentation. Both Newman and Dallas are also Eagle Scouts (anybody surprised?) and there were several others in the audience plus a couple of uniformed Scout leaders.

Club members who are fans of the Aguiar family and/or Scouting are invited to join them for Joshua’s Eagle Court of Honor celebration at St. Phillips Episcopal Church at 403 East Main Street on Sunday, November 11 between 2:00 and 4:00 including the reception in the Parish Hall. RSVP at


Polio Movie

A small but interested group of Rotarians gathered on Monday night, November 5, at the Full Frame Theater to view the brand new documentary focused entirely on Rotary’s journey in the eradication of Polio.

“Dare to Dream: How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication” was produced by Rotarians  from the Washington, D. C. area.  This history of Rotary’s journey tells the story of the ups and downs, the difficulties, the personalities in getting R. I. to take on a project of the magnitude of trying to eradicate Polio from all areas of the world.

Rotarians from both sides of the issue, do we go forward or do we reject this opportunity, are featured in the film.  Beginning as a dream of One Rotarian, Dr. John Sever, a past District Governor himself and a little known name in the world of Rotary leadership, the film moves the viewer from the late 1970’s when the whole idea was only a dream to the present day some thirty plus years later. Today there are only 25 live cases of Polio in the world.  We meet the “good guys and the bad guys”, see the conflicts and the roadblocks and the Rotary heroes who took on the challenge. We meet those who have brought us to where we are today in our quest to eradicate this dreaded disease.

We hear about volunteers on the job dispensing the vaccine who lost their lives because some areas in which they went were politically opposed them. For those interested in the scope of Rotary’s effort in eradicating Polio, this is the film you  need to see.

For Rotarians born after the mid 1970’s and who have very little first hand knowledge of friends and relatives whose lives were turned upside down by the crippling disease of Polio, who have known very little about Polio and its distructive powers in many of the worlds most vulnerable, this is an opportunity to learn why this project has been so important not only to Rotary, but to the world as a whole and why it is so important that we complete the task of eradicating Polio from the earth.

It is disappointing that so few took advantage of this opportunity. However the movie can be rented from the Dare To Dream website

Submitted by Dallas Stallings – Area Foundation Chair

London Flag Exchange – Todd Taylor

Editor’s note: This story from President Elect Todd Taylor is a great illustration of how Rotarians are linked around the world and the vistas that can be opened by attending meetings when you are travelling. Here on the website the story has the potential of reaching a far larger audience than just those that might hear about it at a meeting and is a permanent record of the event.

On a recent business trip to London in late October, I lunched at the London Rotary Club, which meets weekly at the posh and formal Chesterfield Hotel.  They currently boast about 80 members and Rotary founded the London club in 1911, just 4 years before ours.  I learned they are part of RIBI (Rotary International Britian and Ireland) essentially the genesis of Districts.

I exchanged flags with President Luis Hui.  I met visiting Rotarians from Hong Kong, Toronto, and  Sun Valley Idaho who joined more than 30 London members.  We enjoyed seafood pie and had a interesting presentation from the former Chief of Detectives in British Hong Kong.  Sporting facial hair that would give union General Ambrose Burnside a run for his money, John Clements shared fascinating stories of crime, infiltrating the Triads, resolving crimes including kidnapping, in a time before data bases, DNA, and other sophisticated foresic methods.

The following day, 23 Oct.,  I went to a presentation put on the London Press Club and Rotary District 1130. This was timed on the day before World Polio Day. I enjoyed meeting Jonathan Cavendish, producer of the film Breathe, a story about his own father who was given 2 weeks to live and lived 36 years, and Para-Olympic wheelchair gold medalist Anne Wafula Strike. They joined  a panel discussion with BBC presenter Samantha Simmonds.  Jonathan and Anne have powerful and moving stories about their experiences with polio. The event received British media coverage.

When new members are inducted, there is a statement in the ceremony that tells the new member that they would be welcome in any club in the world.

Rotary is international. It is welcoming.  Get involved and make some great new friends!