News & Notices

News from the club and its members and notices.

Program Report: DPS Superintendent Eric Becoats on New Core Standards

becoats and barkerwebGiving away free stuff is cool so I had one of the easier volunteer opportunities at the Battle of the Bands on Sunday evening handing out tee-shirts to VIP ticket holders and later to anyone who wanted one. This year the Battle raised money for the East Durham Children’s Initiative which is, of course, led by Rotarian David Reese and includes our Reading Rangers program. David and a number of the Y.E. Smith teachers were there. My best moment was when Ms. Johnson, whose classroom several of us tutored in, came behind the table and gave me a quick hug, which was something of a surprise because she’s so formal in the classroom. I don’t even know her first name and she knows me only as “Mr. Jay.”

I mention this because watching these folks from Y.E. Smith interact with each other in an informal setting is something we don’t see when inside their classrooms. Their youthful enthusiasm and respect for each other and the commitment we do see in the classrooms added special poignancy to the presentation their boss and our Superintendent and fellow Rotarian, Dr. Eric Becoats gave us at Monday’s meeting.Becoats1web

Dr. Becoats was introduced by Barker French who set up the presentation with a quiz that pointed out several recent achievements of the district including graduation rates of 80% and no under-performing schools in the most recent assessment. That was the good news. The bad news is that we are now implementing new “Core Standards” which are national standards that have been adopted by many states including North Carolina. That itself is not bad news because these emphasize analytical skills and are meant to be more rigorous, integrated and individualized.  Dr. Becoats used one of those text abbreviations, WIIFM or “what’s in it for me” to illustrate the point. Providing context for how knowledge and skills are used in the real world answers this kind of question for students.

What is troubling is that the adoption of these standards comes at a time when resources have been slashed by the General Assembly. Our Senator Mike Woodard squirmed visibly during the presentation even though he was not part of the majority that was responsible. Once again teacher pay was frozen and financial incentives for getting advanced degrees was taken away, hurting the teachers, the school system and the university schools of education.

Dr. Becoats is giving this presentation in a number of venues to alert the community to expect less glowing achievement reports as everybody adjusts to the new standards. More information including Dr. Becoats’ full presentation are on the DPS website at this link: . Dr. Becoats also thanked the club for our leadership in the Reading Rangers program and the Crayons2Calculators school supplies collection efforts.

There are several other take-aways from this and our program last week with speaker Steve Schewel. First, we cannot take for granted the teachers and their leaders in the school system. As Dr. Becoats pointed out, two thirds of the 32,000 +/- kids in our system qualify for free lunches, meaning their households often lack the resources or skills to help with their education.  This forces many teachers to buy supplies out of their own pockets. As the squeeze continues there will be a point when almost every teacher in will be ask the WIIFM question themselves. In fact, I note this morning on Facebook that a statewide teacher walkout is being organized for November 4 to protest the cuts and lack of financial incentives. We can’t expect to keep good personnel on board and motivated without recognition and reward.

Second, all the Reading Rangers we can recruit, all the supplies we can collect and all the businesses that participate in the Battle of the Bands will never be enough without the total support of the community through adequate funding for regular activities. Those struggling kids are not “them,” Dr. Becoats reminded, they are our future citizens, they are our kids.

Finally, as Rotarians in particular, we have to remember that the point of this is Service above Self. It is not just about the warm and fuzzy feeling we get from a hug we might get from a kid occasionally…or a pretty teacher. Those are just an extra bonus and not the main goal.

New Members – More September Inductions

Please welcome these new members to the Durham Rotary.

new member1webCicely Mitchell, President of the Art of Cool non-profit here in Durham with her sponsor Deirdre Haj.

new member2webMartin W. Morris, Attorney and Retired Chief of Staff of US Senator Richard Lugar with his sponsor Bill Stokes.

Progressive Dinner – Save the Date – Sunday October 27


The Fifth Annual Progressive Dinner
This year, we move to a Sunday, change the appetizer location, change the menu and add a great surprise during dessert.  Curious?  Save the date and Sign-Up!

This is our Club’s premier Social/Fellowship event of the year.  Here is your opportunity to bring a spouse, partner or simply come alone to mingle, dine and meet new folks in a casual setting.  We meet up for appetizers, then are given an envelope with the dinner host’s name and address (with

a map) and split up to dine at one of eight catered dinners hosted at the homes of fellow Rotarians (within a ten minute drive of the appetizer location).  Following dinner, every host hands out envelopes giving directions to our dessert location which is always held at a Rotarian’s place of business (also no more than a ten minute drive) where we all meet back up to enjoy delicious goodies and beverages, and wrap up the event.  Starts promptly at 4:30pm and ends at 9pm.

This is a great opportunity for new and ‘seasoned’ members of our Club to meet people and socialize together. $30/person includes scrumptious appetizers, dinner with wine, and lovely dessert treats.

No one knows which home they will be assigned for dinner, but we mix it up annually and everyone has a great time.

No football conflicts (it’s Sunday), so jump on board and save the date.  Sign-ups will begin after Labor Day at our regular meetings and spots fill up quickly as we can only accommodate approximately 65 total guests (including hosts).

Many thanks to House Hosts: Newman & Ann-Louise Aguillar, Arthur & Caroline Rogers, Ellen & Ken Reckhow, Mark Higgins, Shannon & Wil Leskin, Harvey & Calla Sellner, Susan Ross & Tom Hadzor, Vandana Dake & John Warasila…………and Appetizer Host Nancy Gordon.

Questions?  Email Progressive Dinner Chairperson Meg Solera

New Members – September

newmembers2From left to right:

New member Alison Steele with her sponsor, President elect Vandana Dake.

Returning new member, Roz Grace with her sponsor, Meg Solera.

New member Craig Reed with his sponsor, Membership Chair Sheridan van Wagenberg.

Program Report: Donate Life -Tammy Dunne and Karen Devine

DonateLifeWibWe learned Monday that 18 people die every day waiting for an organ transplant.

Karen Devine might have been one of those people. The Durham resident shared her moving story of how the death of someone in Tennessee in January 2007 brought to an end decades of poor health.

She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a child, which didn’t affect her too much until she went to college. During a physical doctors discovered she had dangerously high blood pressure, which later started to affect her eyesight. In fact, it was an eye doctor who told her, “Don’t you ever even think about getting pregnant.”

Karen and her husband moved to Durham in 1989 for his work and she was “thrilled to be this close to Duke.” She got on a blood pressure drug in 1994 that kept her health problems in check. But in 2004 she was told she had two years before she would either need to go on dialysis or get a transplant.

On Jan. 16, 2007, she got a call from Duke saying they had a kidney and pancreas for her. She rushed to the hospital – time is of the essence when it comes to transplants – and heard the helicopter land that brought her new organs from Tennessee.

Karen shared her gratitude and even some conflicting emotions after receiving a kidney and a pancreas from the anonymous person.

“I was completely alone in the pre-op area and for the first time I allowed myself to get excited,” said Karen, the wife and mother of two adopted boys. “But I also realized there was a family in the state of Tennessee that just had one of the most horrific days of their life. It’s a real mix of emotions, but I’m very, very thankful that someone was able to be generous, to see beyond themselves.”

Karen read from a letter – as yet unreturned – to the donor’s family, thanking the person and pledging to be a good steward.

“I want you to know I take this precious gift you’ve given me very seriously, and I’m forever grateful.”

Unfortunately, less than half of drivers in North Carolina are registered organ donors. If any of us are were in that number, I imagine they’ll be giving it a second thought after hearing Karen’s story.

Tammy Dunne, program director for Donate Life NC, told us before introducing Karen that many people worry they’re too old or have had too many health problems.

The truth, according to the Donate Life website, is that “Just about everyone is eligible to donate, regardless of age, medical history or health habits. Newborns as well as senior citizens have been organ donors.”

Go to to register as an organ donor today. You could be a lifesaver.

Submitted by Matt Dees

Todd Taylor in Singapore

P8192039Rotarian of the year, Chief Reading Ranger and Antarctic explorer Todd Taylor has been travelling again. Here’s a picture of him exchanging banners with Singapore’s Ranglin Rotary Club. According to Todd, their district governor spoke and it was an interesting speaker and an interesting meeting. YeeHaw!