DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham Public Schools is taking steps to close gaps where they see disparities. Teachers here are undergoing continuous training to keep equity at the forefront of their practice.
Inside the media center of Durham's Fayetteville Street Elementary, equity is in motion.
"Just thinking about the systemic challenges and sometimes it seems really daunting and you wonder how you're going to change it," said Haley Ferreira, media coordinator
Ferreira recently wrapped up the latest round of equity training where educators learned how to become change agents for students. This module includes lessons on empathy and cultural competence.
After training, Ferreira revamped the school library to include books that look like the students at school, removed fines if books came up missing and continuing the conversation on equity among teachers.
"I'm so afraid of confrontation. I just went with the flow. Now, I'm able to address bias, address institutional racism and have those tough conversations," said Ferreira.
Ferreira is one of about 2400 teachers within Durham Public Schools where the demographics show 55 percent of the educators are white, 39 percent are black and 6 percent other. While the student population is 39 percent Black, 34 percent Hispanic, 19 percent white, 4 percent multiracial and 1 percent Asian.
Kelvin Bullock heads up Durham Public Schools Equity Affairs Program. He says there have been many positive outcomes since the start.
"We've seen a general reduction in suspension rates. We've seen an increase in achievement with test scores prior to COVID-19 and an increase in access to advanced academic opportunities with students," said Bullock.
The school district is recognizing teachers' efforts honoring them with the coveted title of Equity Champion of the Month. Mr. Whittaker at Southwest Elementary took home the title for the month of December.
"Everybody wants the belt. Everybody wants to walk around and say they are the champ, but only one person once a month is Durham Public Schools gets to say the champ is here," said Jermaine Porter with Durham Public Schools.
In the media center of Fayetteville Street Elementary, Ferreira continues championing the needs of her students, while working to improve educational outcomes.
"I always feel charged to change. It reminds you that there's still more work to be done and that you need to keep growing," said Ferreira.