Principal Crystal Taylor-Simon leads the Durham Public Schools Middle College with the belief that a rising tide lifts all boats. Middle College is an application school that serves students from across the district. When those students apply and are chosen for Middle College, Taylor-Simon considers it a win for Durham Public Schools. Having and electing the option to dual-enroll in DPS and Durham Technical Community College gives students an opportunity to begin earning college credit before high school graduation.
The school’s six teachers and Principal Taylor-Simon are dispersed throughout the Durham Technical Community College campus. The largest class has less than 20 students, and diversity is evident. “Teachers maximize on the diversity of the classroom,” says Taylor-Simon, who can be seen walking throughout the campus observing and lending expertise.
Although the term “college” is in the name of the school, Taylor-Simon knows that her students still need TLC. “Students are the same everywhere.” To let them know that their success is important, Middle College employs a College Liaison Magnet Coordinator that creates programming that onboards students and parents for success, and every student has an advisor. “We talk about the fact that individual motivation is what it will take to be successful,” she says. There are random, personal calls to students from the Principal just to check in, and Wellness Wednesdays during the shutdown featured workshops and resources for mindfulness and physical self-care.
The school hosts a MavCon (Maverick Conference) day-long event that brings in parents and the students before school opens. MavCon is a full day of classes with an introduction to the technology students will need to use, the campus, and the school’s core values. It also features interactive hands-on events and meet-and-greets.