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. 

Anticipated Outputs

Research symposium; publications; literature review; presentations

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this team will be comprised of 2 graduate students and 10 undergraduate students from various backgrounds, including education, sociology, social work and nursing. Team members, who will be from both Duke and NCCU, should have a goal of learning more about DPS and university engagement in local schools. All applicants should have a passion for public schools, a desire to work on their leadership skills and a willingness to develop new assessment and evaluation skills. 

All students will develop skills in broad areas related to public schools, civic engagement, community-engaged research, social science inquiry and oral and written presentation of findings. Specifically, undergraduate students will have the opportunity to conduct site visits and interviews among university peers, faculty and staff, as well as public school parents and teachers; content analysis of resource websites and printed materials from comparable universities and University-Assisted Community Schools; a literature review on strategic frameworks for social change. Students will also have the chance to increase research translation and communication skills for publicly accessible presentation of research findings.

Graduate students will develop skills in organization and team management and facilitating techniques for collective and individual processing of student assignments. 

Team members will attend weekly meetings alternating between university campuses and communicate via group email and an online learning platform. In Fall 2022, the team will meet on Fridays from 2:00-5:00 p.m. The project manager will facilitate weekly reflection assignments among team members. 

All students will have the opportunity to travel to school sites across the U.S. during breaks in the academic year.

A graduate student will be selected to serve as project manager.

See the related Data+ project for Summer 2022; there is a separate application process for students who are interested in this optional component.


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 


Academic credit available for fall and spring semesters 

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
  • 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
  • Quynh-Chi Vo, Duke Office of Durham and Community Affairs
  • Maranatha Wall, Arts & Sciences-Program in Education

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Deonna Moore, NCCU Student
  • Melanie Moseley, NCCU Student
  • Fredrick Sessoms, NCCU Student
  • Brianna Spruill, NCCU Student
  • Ashanti Sutton, NCCU Student

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Bull City Community Schools Partnership
  • Durham Association of Educators
  • Durham Public Schools
  • Durham Public Schools Foundation