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Durham school to rally on charter takeover proposal tonight

Protesters gathered in Durham last week to combat N.C.’s charter takeover proposal.

Durham community leaders will once again meet to discuss—and, likely, to protest—North Carolina’s contentious proposal to potentially allow for-profit charter companies to assume control of a struggling local elementary school.

The “Defend Durham Schools” group organized last week’s fiery meeting at Lakewood Elementary, which was removed from the list of eligible schools a day later. Now, they’re scheduled to gather tonight at 6 p.m. at Durham’s Glenn Elementary, one of four remaining schools statewide being mulled for the Innovative School District (ISD).

The Durham elementary received an overall performance score of “F” in 2016-2017 and did not meet growth expectations, according to state records. Yet Glenn Elementary serves predominantly low-income families—approximately 99 percent of students qualified for free and reduced lunch last year—a population that tends to lag their more affluent peers academically.

Critics have been quick to pounce on the charter takeover reform model in recent years, noting lackluster results in states such as Tennessee, Michigan and Louisiana, as well as reports of financial problems.

The other North Carolina schools still in consideration are: Willis Hare Elementary in Northampton County Schools, Williford Elementary in Nash-Rocky Mount Schools and Southside Ashpole Elementary in Robeson County Schools.

Durham leaders have been vocally angry about the takeover proposal in recent weeks, promising to fight state officials if their school is chosen.

“We will not allow this to define what our public schools are about,” Mike Lee, chairman of the Durham Board of Education, said last week. “Get ready, because Durham is ready to fight.”

ISD Superintendent Eric Hall is expected to make formal recommendations for the first two schools tapped for the district next month. Members of the State Board of Education are slated to vote on those proposals in December.

Look for Policy Watch coverage of tonight’s meet and the continuing selection process Wednesday.

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