DPS announces spending plan for $18 million MacKenzie Scott grant

By Hannah Posner, Lucinda Dorrance, Isabelle Abadie, Jaden Butler and Jackie Larios Dominguez

According to the DPS plan to spend MacKenzie Scott’s $18 million grant, Riverside’s clubs and classroom teachers will receive extra funding. 

On Thursday, Feb. 9 the school board approved district leaders’ proposal. The plan targets 5 areas of focus: academics, school support, human resources, operations, and transportation. 

Source: Durham Public Schools

According to the spending proposal published by the district on Feb. 10, there are 30 different initiatives within the five projects that will receive funds. The largest investments will go to professional development for teachers, the Growing Together initiative for redistricting elementary schools, and the Bull City Teaching Scholars program to recruit new teachers.

Source: Durham Public Schools

In a March 3 interview with The Pirates’ Hook, Chief Communications Officer Chip Sudderth said funding for the Growing Together initiative will support the district’s redistricting effort, which was already underway before DPS received Scott’s grant. 

“We’re changing some of the school boundaries, so that students who might have been assigned to one school might be going to a different [elementary] school starting in 2024,” he said. “However, we are allowing fourth and fifth graders to stay at their old school so they don’t have to move.” 

“[The Growing Together Program] is going to strengthen and increase academic programming in all of our elementary schools, as well as starting new year-round schools and dual language immersion schools,” said Sudderth.

Sudderth said the funding for professional development would help teachers receive compensation for the training they receive. 

“We’re going to be doing all kinds of additional professional development for teachers in literacy and math, and systems of support for students who need additional socio-emotional learning,” he said. “We want to be able to pay teachers for professional learning.”

Sudderth explained that the transportation funding is mostly going to be used for the Growing Together Program. 

“We’re going to need additional bus drivers… because people in the same neighborhood might be going to different schools,” he said.

There is also over $1 million allocated to Bull City Teaching Scholars, a partnership with local colleges designed to help DPS students become teachers.  

“[The Bull City Teachers Program] is working with Durham Tech and North Carolina Central… to recruit, identify, and encourage current Durham Public Schools students to go to college to learn how to be teachers and then come back to Durham Public Schools and work as teachers.”

The spending plan also includes $40,000 for “high school student clubs and services” that allocates $5,000 to Riverside.

“We were able to find some additional money and set it aside to support high school clubs and activities,” said Sudderth. “I believe that it is going to be made available for the Student Government Associations to have some input on.” 

As of right now the Durham Public School Board has not given any club advisors information on whether or not they qualify for funding. Mrs. Swain, the faculty advisor for the Destino Success club at Riverside confirmed this saying she has not received any information on if her club gets any funding.

Some of Riverside’s clubs could receive even more funding from the $102,950 designated to equity initiatives including We Are Kings, We Are Queens, We Are Royalty, and Latinx Alliance. Riverside has its own chapters of We are Kings and We are Queens, but not Latinx Alliance, also known as Grupo LEAL. 

Destino Success is a student-led club founded in 2010 that was created as a center of support for the Riverside Latino community specifically but also the entire school as a whole. Latinx Alliance was founded in 2022. It is unclear whether Destino Success qualifies for this funding, and neither the DPS Office of Equity Affairs nor the district’s Latinx Alliance director have provided an update. responded to The Pirates’ Hook’s interview requests.

In addition to student service and equity-minded clubs, the district will also invest $30 thousand in eSports programs. 

Riverside’s eSports team was founded in 2017. The team currently has 17 members.

Credit: Hannah Posner

“In essence, it’s almost like video gaming,” said Quentin Headen, the club’s Coach. “But it’s also electric gaming, like chess, fortnight, Madden FIFA and stuff like that.”

Headen said he’s heard about the funding but doesn’t have any details yet. He was also surprised that esports got funding, but varsity sports didn’t. 

“It’s only right to fight harder for varsity sports – which only get funded 15% of their money from DPS and the rest comes out of the coaches’ pockets,” he said

Assistant athletic director and varsity Basketball coach Bryan Strickland was also disappointed the spending plan does not include funding for athletics. 

“It can be a little disheartening sometimes when such a large portion of money go towards something new rather than the things that are already established,” Stricland said. “With failing fields, facilities, equipment and the up-cost of what it takes to run an athletic department, especially just the maintenance of itself, this kind of hurts.”

Riverside teachers haven’t received information about the spending plan beyond what the district shared with the general public.

“I’m excited that we have some philanthropy pouring into Durham,” said social studies teacher Abigail Wood. “It’s always nice to see when super wealthy people are helping to kind of redistribute some of that wealth, particularly in the spheres of education.” 

But they already have plenty of ideas on how to spend the $200 allocated to teachers for classroom supplies. 

Chemistry teacher McKenzee Chestnut said she would spend the money on calculators. 

“I always don’t have enough calculators,” Chestnut said, “and the ones I do have, they’re the ones that don’t do exponents very easily.”

According to the district’s spending plan, the $200 would be for “each certified DPS educator to select durable instructional resources for individual teacher classrooms.” 

“I assume sustainable school supplies means stuff that doesn’t get used up, like glue or pencils, which are the things that I am always needing in here,” said science teacher Grace Farley. “I guess it would be nice to have more supplies to do things down at the Eno, like nets and containers to hold organisms.”

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