News & Notices

News from the club and its members and notices.

Writing In the Durham Public Schools

MichelTharpWebEditor’s Note: Below is Michel Tharp’s brief presentation to the Club about writing programs in the Durham Public Schools in response to some concern after David Robbins program that Durham’s situation might be similar to what David discovered in Richmond several years ago and led to the founding of Podium in Richmond.

Three weeks ago, we had an inspiring presentation by David Robbins from Richmond. Virginia.  He described a very impressive writing program he has organized through The Podium Foundation. This foundation has done a remarkable job of promoting writing in the public schools.  His foundation serves as wonderful model for private groups to create useful and effective organizations that can make helpful and significant contributions to help improve public schools.

Several times in his presentation, Mr. Robbins mentioned that Durham Public Schools might have many of the same problems that Richmond schools have. While there are many similarities (poverty, low performing populations, high drop out rates among minority males, etc), the one area he focused on is his talk was the fact that Richmond schools did not offer any writing classes and that no school had a newspaper or literary journals.  I was immediately horrified that many people in this room listening to his talk might think that this was also true for Durham Public Schools.   As a 14 year teacher in Durham Public Schools, I know that this is NOT true and I feel that it is absolutely necessary for me to make sure that every one here knows this is not the case.

For the past 10-12 year, all DPS schools have worked with  philosophy called “Writing Across the Curriculum” – this program emphasizes writing in every course – English, history, science, math, arts, health, etc –across the entire curriculum. There are training sessions, in-service workshops and continual support for teachers to incorporate writing in their classrooms.  I’ll admit that even though, I personally felt very comfortable and confident teaching writing, as a mathematics teacher, I did have some trouble justify the time that students spent writing how they would solve an equation instead of just going ahead and solving it. But that’s not the point – the point is that district policy places a high emphasis on student writing

Knowing the things that were happening at my school, I decided to check out the other traditional high schools.  Every one of our schools has a school newspaper as well as a student created yearbook.  Many of the newspapers have ongoing connections with “The independent” and “The Voice.  In addition to the writing that is an integral part of ALL English classes, the district curriculum offers courses in Journalism (Riverside offers 5 different levels of Journalism) as well as courses in Creative writing and Critical writing and even “writing through literature”.  At least three of the high schools have had professional writer come in to work with their students this year.  Hillside’s “Book Club” invites members to bring in and read their own poetry.  Other schools have Creative Writing Clubs and Slam “spoken” poetry club.

For the past 5 or 6 years, DSA has produced a Literary Journal entitled “Portraits in Ink” which last year won a “Superior” rating from the National Council for Teacher of English.  That journal looks just like the ones we saw from Richmond with short stories, poems, essays, commentaries, drawing and other art work.

In Durham, developing writing skill starts long before high school.  As a Reading Ranger, I am lucking that I get to spend an entire morning each week with Ms. Jones’s first grade class. Every week, we work on a writing project. It might be a narrative – “My first day at school”, a critique “My favorite part of the book was..”, opinion “I think we should have more or less recess” or personal feelings” My treasure chest would have …”.  In all this writing, these first graders are encourage to expand and develop their ideas and include more and more details – at least 5 or 6 sentences with 6 words or more. As a reward they get to draw picture about their writing and read them to the other students.  The halls of Y E Smith are full of hundreds of other writings samples from this and other classes.

Yes, DPS is faced with many challenging problems and the school system could definitely use the kind of help and support that a Podium Foundation type organization could provide in many different arenas including reading, writing, science, math and other aspects of student growth and development.  But we all need to know that writing and literacy is not dead and forgotten in Durham Public schools but that it is an important dynamic and integral part of the entire Durham Public school system.

Submitted by Michel Tharp

Program Report: The Last Moderate Muslim – Sam Wazan

SamWazanWebFull disclosure: most Rotarians in our club know that I am an American Jew married to a Catholic Palestinian.  My mother-in-law’s father was killed when she was eight by a bomb blast in an Israeli market. No person I know from the Middle East (and of course I know more than most) didn’t carry a story to the US with them of violence,  sorrow, displacement, and a deep-seated desire for peace.

So it is less than ironic that it was my turn to write the minutes for our speaker for the day, Sam Wazan, author of “The Last Moderate Muslim”. It is a shame our announcements gave Mr. Wazan such a short time to speak, because how can one summarize neatly the path for peace in the Middle East, or for that matter anywhere?

I hesitate to even try to condense his story for you here, because these are stories I know personally: I only remind you that in reading the words “slaughter”, “massacre” or “rape” that they are more than letters on your screen; they are the deepest tragedies human beings can bear. And so Mr. Wazan implored that perhaps all he could do was allow us to see the conflicts through the eyes of those who have lived it, and beg an end to our apathy.

Sam sought out to do four things in his short talk: give us a new lens to see the violence through, share the root causes of conflict, how he believes you can achieve peace where there is a culture of religious violence, and to implore us to do things differently because the United States “inadvertently fuels the fire.”  Here he made reference to changes we can make such as boycotting non-profit organizations which are intent on making their enemy, ours. “The camp that I subscribe to is upholding humanity above all differences in pursuit of peace.”

Raised in a Muslim school, Sam recalls his first identifications for himself: that he was a Sunni Muslim, and that Jews and Americans should die. By the age of ten and a half Sam’s life was torn apart by the Lebanese Civil War, so he was exposed to horrible conditions: snipers, religious massacres and constant bombing. For fifteen years there was no power, water or phones. He witnessed Christians murdered, first systematically tortured to cause as much suffering as possible, and this continued back and forth between the two faiths. By 1982 the country was invaded by the Israelis, and now even trying to buy gasoline he had to maneuver past Christians, Israelis and the PLO, his heroes, who shot at his car, stole his gasoline, and stole his faith in them as well.

He remembers the Israeli army allowing the Christian militants to surround the Palestinian camps (here I believe he is referring to the Sabra and Shatila massacres, which Jean Genet wrote about, but I am certain there were more than just these that he means), and the Muslim militants retaliating against the Christians, the leaflets from the Israelis stating that any males 16-60 years of age would be considered enemies of the State of Israel and their “future was undetermined”. So in the end, he believes Peace can only come if it starts free from ancient grudges, because the damage to the people of the region, especially on their psyches and those of their children is so great, that the starting point must be one of respect. Where each side listens to the other with the intention of finding value in what the other has said.

And so Sam Wazan travels and speaks to Jews, Muslims and Christians, imploring that we forget who is right or wrong, and mostly that we are not cavalier about where our money, support or votes go, and to make certain that these things match what is actually happening on the ground in the Middle East, not just rhetoric for the status quo.

I believe all of us who listened to Mr. Wazan’s story wished we could have heard more. Much of what he said was unbearable to hear, but should be heard for the very reasons he states: our lives, our economy, all that globalization depends on peace in these regions. Or we will all suffer the consequences.

Submitted by Deirdre Haj

Editor’s note: Sam Wazan’s novel, The Last Moderate Muslim can be purchased on Amazon. There is a link on this page to his “author page” as well with some biographical info.  The book is available in paperback as well as for the Amazon Kindle. On the Barnes and Noble site, the book is available at this link as a NookBook

Rotary Minutes: Bob Gutman

BobGutmanRotaryMinuteWI have no doubt that Bob was a passionate physician. But anyone that expected to hear about how he left Duke and founded Durham Nephrology Associates or served on the Board of the Renal Physicians Association, or as President of the Medical Staff and Chief Medical Officer of Durham Regional Hospital, had to be disappointed in his presentation. Forget about the time he served in Vietnam as a Navy Medical Officer.

But anybody could learn that, which I did by googling Bob’s name. What has been so fascinating about these Rotary Minutes is learning things about our members that you seldom learn with a google search; their deep interests, their passions and how they really want to be remembered themselves.

Bob made no bones about it. He is not only passionate about Durham and the Judea Reform Community here, but also about Israel which he had recently returned from. Bob noted that he and his family were supporters of the fabulous Levin Jewish Community Center that we were listening to him in. But most of his time was spent describing Jerusalem and other vibrant and diverse areas of Israel.

Travelogues without pictures can be pretty boring but this was a case where the enthusiasm of the narrator can paint an even more vivid picture than the camera. For me, it certainly shed some light on a fuzzy impression I’ve had of a prosperous but barricaded country in one of the most tortured corners of the world.

As President Don remarked afterwards, anyone visiting Israel would do well to take Bob along as a tour guide.

Submitted by Jay Zenner

Rotary Against Drugs Speech Winner Shaza Gaballah

ShazaWebShaza Gaballah did our club proud by winning the District 7710 Rotary Against Drugs speech contest and then last Sunday winning the multi-district contest.

Thanks to sponsor Melissa Mills, we got to hear the winning speech at last week’s meeting. She proclaimed at the outset that, “This is a generation that has stopped caring.” OK, Shaza, you have our attention. She went on to describe her efforts to combat that trend. She founded a club at the School of Science and Math that tries to help people struggling with substance abuse to get help, raising money to support their treatment.

Our club can’t be accused of apathy, so Shaza’s inspiring proactive response to a problem among her peer group makes her a worthy representative. Her speech got a much-deserved standing ovation, something President Don noted isn’t exactly par for the course: “This is a tough room.”

Program Report: Michael Goodman – The Future of Durham

michaelGoodmanweb.News alert at the Monday lunch:

Expect major announcements “over the next two or three months.”  Yes – that was “announcements” with a very prominent, encouraging and intriguing “S.”

Breaking that welcome tidbit was our featured speaker, Michael Goodman, vice president of real estate for Capitol Broadcasting. Michael and his father, Jim Goodman have make Capital Broadcasting a major player in downtown Durham’s past, present and continuing economic development and cultural renaissance.

“I’m happy,” Goodman told a near full house of Rotarians as he wrapped up an unscripted, far-reaching speech about the future of downtown Durham.  Invited by this week’s Club correspondent to provide added color (within the stringent disclosure constraints that typify all such negotiations and potential announcements) Goodman responded with a flat “no” and chuckled that it was an easy question.

This sounds serious. And encouraging.

In fact, much of Goodman’s presentation was characterized by serious and encouraging facts and opinions about the region’s accomplishments and challenges ahead.

Among his encouraging points:

  • Regional rail is coming to the Triangle region.  “Let’s link it, let’s do it in a really productive way.”
  • American Underground, the Durham incubator to attract, launch and ultimately retain successful entrepreneurial ventures “has really bubbled up.” He described small business start-ups as “a really magical community” that illustrates Durham has “a really good opportunity to keep fostering entrepreneurship.”
  • The RDU region is expected to grow by more than a million people over the next 20 years.

Goodman said he was “distraught as hell” about the serious challenges facing Durham in two areas that our Club and its membership have long worked to improve:  Crime and Education.

“If we can’t get our arms around that we are never going to be the community we can be,” Goodman said, noting discouraging statistics that show widening racial and socioeconomic disparities in educational achievement.

“We should be mad about this,” he said. “We should be working really hard on this.  If we are not working hard on it, we ain’t going to get there.  We have a lot of work to do.  Education is a silver bullet and I truly believe that.”

President Don closed the March 11 meeting by recognizing Goodman’s and his father’s vision, planning and execution reaching back to the earliest days of Durham’s re-emergence.  “You just have to say Wow.”

(Submitted by Mark Lazenby)

 

Rotary Minute: Mark Higgins

MarkHigginswebFrom Animal House to Art Collector.  A good humored delivery has marked many of these Rotary Minutes, so what kind of humor should we expect from the leader of Hall-Wynn Funeral Service and Crematory? Not what you might think. Imagine if you will Mark in an impeccable blue suit and helmet on his motor scooter, Zorro. Or a bunch of college guys making a dorm of the basement of a mortuary. Only once did my eyes catch the eyes of a table mate with the question “what did he mean by that?” when Mark declared that he collected art but mainly he collected people. But he was quick to clarify with a Eudora Welty quote, “I work at keeping my friendships in good repair.”

Mark, we’re glad you chose Durham as a place not to grow up in.

Below is the full text of Mark’s Rotary Minute.

“Where did you grow up?” I am often asked. Answer: I haven’t done that yet. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. Or, to the question, “where are you from?” Answer: My 3 siblings and I were born in Evanston, IL on Chicago’s north shore, where we lived until I was 12, when my father, a Time Magazine exec, was transferred to Pittsburgh, so I was raised in both wonderful cities. Clueless about career, I figured liberal arts were safe, so I went off to Hope College in Holland, Michigan and majored in Communication. Within weeks, I was in the chow line with a fellow student in uniform, and learned he was a paramedic with a local funeral home that ran a sideline ambulance service. They employed college students to man evenings and weekends. With a possible job opening, I was invited to stop by and go on some calls. At 18, lights and sirens sounded like a blast, so by Thanksgiving I took training and was hired, moving into the basement of the funeral parlor with 5 other students (think, Animal House) to the utter horror of my parents, though quickly buffered by the news they’d be saving on dorm cost. Shortly thereafter, I became intrigued by the upstairs activity of the funeral home and thus began my career discernment. By sophomore year, I was settled on coming into this profession, visualizing myself in a human service endeavor where I might make some difference to people in crisis. Upon graduation I sought an internship in Greensboro, as I had a slew of friends down this way from having been a camp counselor below Charlotte through college summers. I then completed studies at Pittsburgh Institute of Funeral Service and re-joined the firm in Greensboro. A year later, I took a position with the leading Int’l trade association in my field, moving back to my native, Evanston, IL. I stayed 10 years as a consultant and Marketing Director, but with a lingering desire to one day have my own business and work again as a practitioner. During that decade I made incredible contacts, covering 46 states and 8 of 10 Canadian provinces. I am blessed to have friends just about everywhere.

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