Strengthening Partnerships between Durham Public Schools and Local Universities (2020-2021)


The Bull City Community Schools Partnership is a grassroots effort to support Durham Public Schools in addressing the challenges surrounding equitable school experiences and outcomes. The group envisions community schools as bringing together academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement under one roof. Local universities are central to this endeavor as part of the University-assisted Community Schools model.

Project Description

This project team will study the benefits and limitations of a University-assisted Community Schools model, focusing on ways that universities can mobilize their resources to support Durham Public Schools.

The 2019-2020 team replicated an internal asset and needs assessment to identify what themes emerged from the most pressing needs of Durham Public Schools partner institutions. The data will inform the development of “goal teams” designed to engage with each theme and assess the impact, feasibility and will for various types of problem-solving.

The Bull City Community Schools Partnership is leading multifaceted problem-solving models through improvement science techniques at four pilot community schools in Durham (E.K. Powe, Lakewood, Southwest and Club Boulevard elementary schools). The project’s goal is to continue replicating this model with a specific orientation toward ways in which local universities can improve on school initiatives with guidance from the previous assessment. The ultimate goal is to foster strong, equitable partnerships between Durham universities and public schools.

The team will review the various types of community schools and University-assisted Community Schools models that exist throughout the country, research the history of universities’ engagement with their local communities and consider the advantages and disadvantages of each model. Team members will refine asset maps of resources that Duke and North Carolina Central University offer community schools in Durham to understand where duplication exists and identify where innovation can take place.

Using the data collected from the asset mapping project, the team will compile a database of relevant resources found at Duke and North Carolina Central. Data analysis will determine the next steps of the project, such as matching the identified needs of the community schools to the identified resources present at each university. Team members will utilize improvement science techniques to design a system that helps schools identify if and where certain resources exist at each respective university.

Anticipated Outputs

Database of resources at Duke and North Carolina Central that can support Durham Public Schools; sharing of research with community stakeholders through a symposium, traveling exhibit and/or other mechanisms


Fall 2020 – Spring 2021

  • Fall 2020: Review history and context of public schools and community schools; complete asset and needs assessments; visit national sites (over fall breaks); create goal teams focused on themes that emerge out of Bull City Community Schools Partnership asset and needs assessment; begin improvement science process addressing collected data
  • Spring 2021: Continue work on goal teams; continue improvement science process; share research with community stakeholders

Team Outputs to Date

Jessica F. Benton, Yolanda L. Dunston, Amy L. Anderson and Alec D. Greenwald. 2020. "#InThisTogether: A Collective Approach to Student Engaged Research and How Two Durham Universities Joined Forces to Defend and Transform Durham Public Schools." Universities and Community Schools 10(1).


Songia Wynn

This Team in the News

How Duke and NC Central University Are #InThisTogether to Support Durham Schools

Duke, NCCU Team Up to Study Engagement with Durham Schools

Three Undergraduates Named Faculty Scholars for Outstanding Records of Research

See related teams, Strengthening Partnerships between Durham Public Schools and Local Universities (2021-2022) and University-assisted Community Schools (2019-2020).


Image courtesy of 2019-2020 project team


Team Leaders

  • Amy Anderson, Arts & Sciences-Program in Education
  • Jessica Benton, UNC-Chapel Hill–Ph.D. Student
  • Yolanda Dunston, School of Education, North Carolina Central University
  • Jamie Eaton, North Carolina Central University
  • Alec Greenwald, Academic Advising Center
  • Lindsey Miller, Office of Civic Engagement
  • Quynh-Chi Vo, Duke Office of Durham and Community Affairs
  • Maranatha Wall, Arts & Sciences-Program in Education

/graduate Team Members

  • Eryn Gorang, Masters of Public Policy
  • Bella Walker, Juris Doctor

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Keyla Bellamy, NCCU Student
  • Jasmine Benner, NCCU Student
  • Nicole Bonna, Public Policy Studies (AB), Cultural Anthropology (AB2)
  • Alex Chao, Computer Science (AB)
  • Seth Duncan, NCCU Student
  • Ce'Ondra Ellison, Psychology (AB), African/African Am St (AB2)
  • Bliss Gordon, Economics (BS), Mathematics (AB2)
  • Catherine McMillan, History (AB)
  • Kari Nimox
  • Madeleine Sparrow, English (AB)
  • Marquay Spencer Gibbs, NCCU Student
  • Yu Sun
  • Rezilience Williamson, Cultural Anthropology (AB)
  • Songia Wynn, African/African Am St (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Deborah Best, School of Medicine-Pediatrics
  • Kisha Daniels, Arts & Sciences-Program in Education
  • Adam Hollowell, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Eliza Mathew, Community Affairs
  • Erica Phillips, Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity
  • Erma Smith-King, North Carolina Central University

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Bull City Community Schools Partnership
  • Durham Public Schools
  • North Carolina Central University (NCCU)-School of Education
  • North Carolina Central University (NCCU) - Department of Nursing
  • North Carolina Central University (NCCU) - Department of Psychology
  • Jonathan Livingston, North Carolina Central University