Past President, Seth Jernigan, introduced Dr. Pascal Mubenga, Superintendent of the Durham Public Schools (DPS) as our speaker. Dr. Mubenga, a member of the Rotary Club of Durham, introduced Chip Sudderth, Chief Communications Officer – DPS and Mary Griffith, Director of Marketing and Community Engagement – DPS as his guests.  His presentation occurred almost a year to the day since his first talk to us.

Dr. Mubenga started his tenure with DPS about 14 months ago with a 90 day listening tour. He then worked with a team of 52 people that included Educators, Stakeholders and Students over a period of 6 months to develop a Strategic Plan. The plan sets priorities, goals, detailed strategies for reaching those goals and measurements to track progress along the way. The plan can be found on the DPS website under the tab “About DPS.” The plan deserves a look, not only for the impressive detail of each facet but also for the skill sets of the many people who contributed to the plan.

Already, there have been noticeable improvements. Dr. Mubenga pointed out that when he arrived DPS had 18 schools out of the 53 in the system that were defined as “low performing.” In the past year the number of “low performing” schools has been cut to 13 and he expects that they will cut that number in half next year.

He pointed out that 82% of DPS students are of minorities. Looking at achievement growth through ethnic/racial divisions, he has seen that all groups grew last year except students of Asian background, whose achievement levels stayed the same. He found that White Students achieved above State norms while African – American and Latino students achieved below State norms. He noted that the overall graduation rate for DPS is 81% but for White students it is 91%. He concludes that there is a need to focus on minorities while improving education for all. Dr. Mubenga stated, “We have high expectations. Minority students can learn. We have to believe in them. I’ve seen it!”

Our DPS Superintendent is optimistic because there is a plan in place and it is realistic! But, he said that there is a lot of work to do and DPS cannot do it alone. Durham as a community must have great schools to succeed and in turn, the community has unique resources that are not found in other places.


He pointed out that at the November 2018 NC School Board Association meeting in Greensboro, a group of DPS student instrumentalists performed to very positive comments. He invited all of us to visit and attend school events to experience the excellence to be found around the DPS system. A lively question and answer session that followed, demonstrated the interest and support of club members for this important work.

Submitted by Doug Butler

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