Strengthening Partnerships Between Durham Public Schools and Local Universities (2022-2023)


Durham Public Schools and its stakeholders address many challenges surrounding equitable school experiences and outcomes. In response, the Bull City Community Schools Partnership was formed as a grassroots effort to transform public schools. 

Community Schools aim to serve as centers of the community, bringing together academics, health and social services, youth and community development, and community engagement under one roof. They ask stakeholders to leave silos and form coalitions, developing innovative curricula and teaching practices grounded in social justice and local leadership. Premised on a comprehensive asset and needs assessment, strategic planning, continuous improvement science practices, partner engagement and dedicated coordinators, Community Schools use culturally sustaining practices and stakeholder leadership to reduce barriers to success and offer school communities a chance for renewal.

Local universities are central to this endeavor as part of the University-Assisted Community Schools model. 

Project Description

Building on of the work of previous teams, this project team will study how universities can better prepare their students for engagement with public schools, paying particular attention to equity, diversity and anti-racist education. The ultimate goal is to establish more equitable and responsible partnerships between Duke, North Carolina Central University and Durham Public Schools (DPS).

Using three years of data focused on identifying best practices in preparing university students for engagement with public schools, the 2022-2023 team will focus on small-scale implementation of the orientation module and related curriculum items. Team members will create anti-racist curriculum modules specifically geared toward university-public school partnerships. These items will potentially be used by both campuses and ultimately other community members interested in engaging with DPS, to enter the spaces respectfully and responsibly and with a commitment to supporting the schools’ and communities’ self-determined needs. The team will evaluate the curriculum and explore sustainability on both campuses.

To meet the goal of a more equitable and responsible partnership between Durham universities and DPS, the team will practice Bull City Community Schools Partnership models by initiating vital continuous improvement science techniques to investigate diverse intersectional research tasks. 

Team Outputs to Date

Community Schooling. Issue 3: Fall 2022. UCLA Center for Community Schooling.

Blue Miller, Drew Greene, Michelle Qiou, Sabrena Carver-Tchagna. "Ecosystems of Change: University-Assisted Community Schools Research in Durham, North Carolina." Podcast. 2022. Community Schooling 3.

Charity Watkins, Xavier Cason, Alec Greenwald, Yolanda Dunston, Quynh-Chi Vo. Applying an Ecological Systems Framework: How an Historically Black University, a Predominately White Institution, and a Public School System Created a Collaborative Undergraduate Research Experience. 2022. Children & Schools.

Yolanda Dunston, Alec Greenwald. Building Systems for Participatory Research with Community Schools. Zoom webinar with the Community Schools Research Practice Network hosted by the Coalition for Community Schools and the Institute for Educational Leadership. November 30, 2022.


Fall 2022 – Spring 2023

  • Fall 2022: Start data analysis; conduct national university site visits; conduct interviews; develop curriculum modules and content recommendations 
  • Spring 2023: Pilot curriculum; co-host symposium 

This Team in the News

Duke Public School Collaboration Published in Journal

See Data+ summer project, Visualizing Durham Public School Communities (2022), and earlier related team, Strengthening Partnerships between Durham Public Schools and Local Universities (2021-2022).


Image: Mural created by John Fleissner, photo courtesy of Yolanda Dunston

Public Education Mural

Team Leaders

  • Amy Anderson, Arts & Sciences-Program in Education
  • Mirlesna Azor, Director of Nursing Student Services at NCCU
  • Jasmine Benner, North Carolina Central University - Master's in Psychology Student
  • Xavier Cason, Durham Public Schools Foundation
  • Yolanda Dunston, School of Education, North Carolina Central University
  • Jamie Eaton, North Carolina Central University
  • Alec Greenwald, Arts & Sciences
  • Lindsey Miller-Furiness, Duke Office of Civic Engagement

/graduate Team Members

  • Michelle Qiou, Continuing Education

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Lucy Colangelo
  • Chloe Decker
  • Alvaro Fernandez da Ponte, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Andrew Greene, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Staci Grimes, Sociology (AB)
  • Talia Hayes, NCCU Student
  • Kaylin Hernandez, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Ifidon Ikharo, NCCU Student
  • Rheyann Kirby, NCCU Student
  • Kennedy Lightfoot, NCCU Student
  • Lauren McReynolds
  • Melanie Moseley, NCCU Student
  • Lauren Relaford
  • Marcus Roberts
  • Brianna Spruill, NCCU Student
  • Ashanti Sutton, NCCU Student

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Durham Association of Educators
  • Durham Public Schools
  • Durham Public Schools Foundation
  • North Carolina Central University