Here’s the ‘secret sauce’ for a great school

By Praycious Wilson-Gay
Teen Editor-in-Chief
the Durham VOICE

On December 1, 2011 parent, educators, students and community members stood before the selected member Board of Education and superintendent Dr. Becoats at Riverside High School in regards to the new student assignment and magnet proposal.

For those who do not know Durham county officials have proposed a plan to shut down Chewning Middle School and W.G. Pearson Middle School, re-assign many students to other schools, alter the transportation plans for magnet students and open new programs and one new school in Northern Durham.

There are other aspects that are just as important in this proposal and to get full grasp on the proposal, you should go to

I originally went to this meeting to support my sister who “wanted her voice to be heard.” The Board summarized the proposal and then asked for feedback and suggestions. With the exception of a few residents, the overall feeling of the meeting was that the public didn’t think the proposal reflected the culture of our city.

As I heard the community discuss the issues at hand, I too realized that I wanted to be heard.

I started my public school education at R.N. Harris elementary, a DPS magnet school, in August of 2000. The facility was dated and the school had trailers as classrooms. My mother who was skeptical of applying to R.N. Harris did so anyway, once she interacted with the staff and the students. She said  the students were confident! Everyone’s work was displayed even if it wasn’t perfect and the staff wanted to teach these students and see them succeed.  She knew that it was the right fit for me. I attended R. N. Harris through the renovation that transitioned the school to what it is today but the renovations didn’t affect the level of education that I received. It seems like the creative resources that were offered to us and the motivation of the teachers had more of an impact. I can remember my second grade teacher sending me and a few others to the third grade teacher during reading time because that’s where we needed to be. The teachers cared for each of us dearly. As the facility and resources were able to support the curriculum it only enhanced my education and it made the test scores increase. My principal and teachers found the resources to meet the needs of all the students, to ensure us the best education. I went on to attend an out of district middle school and then gained entrance to the aggressive early college program where I am in the top five percent of my class.

Upon reflecting about my experience, I think the “secret sauce” of any school includes the following ingredients:

  1. Improve facilities and provide the resources to each school so that it can be successful. Having a space to create art, dance and practice in an arts-based school was valuable.
  2. Give the staff time to learn the community and how to creatively find ways to make their school successful. I can still go back to R.N. Harris today and see many of my teachers, staff and administrators.
  3. Don’t send students to school where it won’t feel like their second home. Kids spend most of their time at school and at home and because of that you would want to feel comfortable in both.
  4. Keep class sizes as small as possible. As I search for colleges, one of the selling points of the college is their student to teacher ratio so why are we more concerned about trying to fill schools to capacity, then giving student’s access to teachers.


If you want the board to hear your opinions, please come out on December 8th at 6:30 to Southern High school or you can put suggestions on the website. This will be the last meeting regarding this proposal before they vote on December 15.