Durham Parents Feel 'Taken Over' By School Takeover Process

Oct 2, 2017

In a video posted to YouTube, parents from Glenn Elementary School in Durham criticized state officials' handling of a program that may turn over control of their school from the local district to a charter school operator.
Credit Brian Batista / For WUNC

Parents at a Durham school facing possible takeover are criticizing state officials' handling of the process. In a video posted to YouTube, they called state efforts to engage parents inauthentic.

Glenn Elementary is one of two Durham schools that could be handed over to a charter school operator under the state's Innovative School District program, which targets schools with low test scores. The State Board of Education will select two schools for the program by the end of this year, and three additional schools next year.

Some Glenn Elementary parents say they weren't given enough notice about a meeting last week with state officials about the program.

“Even walking out, I said, ‘Hey, is there any reason why this timeline is so tight?” said a man who identifies himself in the video as David, the father of two kindergartners at the school. “I think that's more evidence of lack of actual, authentic concern.”

Related: Durham, Johnston Schools Ask State To Remove Them From Takeover List

The superintendent of the Innovative School District, Eric Hall, has said that he wants to partner with local school districts and parents to improve academics -- and that the program is not a takeover.

But speaking in the video, parents said officials from the Department of Public Instruction had not been forthright about the program and shied away from questions about whether or not it would constitute a takeover of their school.

“It was a takeover,” said a woman who identified herself as Tamara in the video, referring to the parents’ meeting with state officials. “We felt taken over in that room.”

The Durham school board has said it will use every option available to fight the handing over of either school to charter school operators. And parents at Lakewood Elementary, the other Durham school being considered for the program, plan to meet on Tuesday evening to discuss a strategy for “defending Durham schools,” according to a Facebook event page.