2015 Strategic Plan

Durham Academy's 2015 Strategic Plan, more than any other in our history, grows from our shared values rather than pressing financial or physical plant needs. This plan is focused on our mission, the DNA of DA – happy, moral, productive lives.

How do we help our school and our students realize their fullest potential? How do we build a foundation for our students to achieve happiness, morality and productivity, both in their next stage of higher education and throughout their adult lives?

The answer: We strive and we connect. It’s what drives us to reach higher, unite more meaningfully and serve our students more effectively than ever before. Everyone in our community can support making this vision a reality.


Durham Academy has always been firmly grounded in a liberal arts tradition — the strongest foundation for cultivating ethical and intellectual virtue. The liberal arts foster curiosity and creativity, critical thinking and empathetic feeling. And by exposing our students to many different perspectives, cultures and ideas, a liberal arts education widens our perspective and enables us to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world. 

Durham Academy also believes in excellence. We strive both as individuals and as an institution to constantly challenge and improve ourselves, whether by honing our teaching prowess or growing the role of problem solving and critical thinking in our curriculum. Refusing to be comfortable with our accomplishments to date, we will continue to instill in our institution the same spirit of vigorous self-improvement we expect of our students. 

Goal 1: A faculty full of life-changers 

Durham Academy believes educators should foster students’ passions and inspire their futures. We will strive to create a faculty full of “life-changers”:  genuine, curious, passionate, striving, generous and accountable teachers/learners who nurture, inspire, engage and challenge students and model the path to moral, happy, productive lives.

Action Steps

  • Develop a school-wide plan to strengthen the recruiting and mentoring of new faculty.

  • Cultivate and celebrate excellence in the faculty.

  • Reassess, standardize and ensure accountability in the faculty evaluation system and integrate with the professional growth program.

    • Define clear standards of excellence for teachers and administrators.

    • Expand and strategically award professional development and leadership opportunities.

  • Enrich the faculty experience by further connecting teachers to the community, students and each other.

  • Foster a culture and environment that encourages considered experimentation and innovation in classroom teaching and learning approaches in order to help every student reach his or her highest individual potential.

Goal 2: A cohesive, connected and collaborative student learning experience

Durham Academy believes every student’s learning experience should be cohesive, connected and sequential throughout his or her tenure. Our curriculum should also evolve to incorporate more critical thinking and problem solving to meet the demands of today’s world and to vigorously promote innovative teaching and learning as we reinforce core skills.

Action Steps

  • Examine and revise, as needed, scope and sequence in all disciplines.

  • Ensure core academic curriculum incorporates experiential education; critical and creative thinking; team-based projects; character and service learning; and appropriate, responsible use of technology.

  • Maintain curriculum at the vanguard of age-appropriate content and skills.

  • Enhance the culture of intellectual curiosity.

  • Confirm appropriate consistency across key elements of the student experience:
    - Class sections/Grade levels
    - Student assessment
    - Workload

  • Beyond commonly agreed skill and content goals and instructional frameworks, affirm pedagogical autonomy for faculty. 

  • Create more interdisciplinary opportunities across departments and fields of study for faculty and students.

Goal 3: A broader experience of diversity and a renewed commitment to accessibility

Durham Academy believes that diversity enlivens, improves and enriches the school – and the daily experience of every learner. We have long acted to make all kinds of diversity a priority from our boardroom to our classroom. Challenging ourselves even more, we will broaden the conversation about and deepen the experience of diversity at Durham Academy.

Action Steps

  • Evaluate current diversity initiatives and measure progress toward clearly defined objectives.

  • Develop an integrated experiential and curricular program that reinforces an inclusive and supportive environment.

  • Continue to recruit, retain and support students who add diversity in all school divisions, focusing particular recruitment attention on underrepresented populations.

  • Continue to recruit and support a diverse faculty and staff. 

  • Continue to set the financial aid budget as a percentage of gross tuition revenue to meet or exceed the mean of INDEX schools. In addition, increase endowed financial aid.

  • Reassess financial aid award processes to ensure we maximize our potential impact on accessibility to the school, both in terms of socioeconomic diversity and support for individual families.

  • Ensure that faculty and staff are rigorously trained to relate to and support all students, families and colleagues.



Durham Academy recognizes that striving alone does not lead to fulfillment. Our students also need authentic, meaningful connections – with each other and with those beyond our campus – to build happy, moral, productive lives. With this in mind, we seek to deepen relationships in communities both near (among peers, teachers and parents) and far (in Durham, the Triangle and the world).

Goal 4: A unified and welcoming community

Durham Academy believes that a connected school community is unified by common values, linked across divisions and welcoming for every student and every family. We commit to strengthening the Durham Academy community in ways that make all families, students, teachers, alumni and visitors feel welcome, valued, supported and integral.

Action Steps

  • Strengthen our culture of inclusion for every student and family.

  • Establish shared traditions for the entire school community and create more opportunities for cross-divisional experiences, both within the school day and through extracurricular activities.

  • Identify new opportunities for all families to be active in the dynamic culture and well-being of the school.

  • Create new and deeper connections with alumni to ensure life long bonds to DA; recognize and celebrate alumni achievements in the community.

Goal 5: A school connected to Durham, the Triangle and the world

Durham Academy believes acting beyond self-interest (both individually and institutionally) furthers our mission of enabling students to live moral, happy, productive lives. We also believe in expanding the worldview of our students – allowing them to live, learn, lead, and collaborate with teams both near and far. To that end, Durham Academy will increase its commitment to service learning and opportunities for global exposure – propelling students and our institution to see beyond self-interest and participate actively in our communities.

Action Steps

  • Develop a coherent (intentional, continuous, sequential and focused) PK-12 curriculum for service-learning that includes preparation, education, reflection and relationships that deepen over time. Engage community stakeholders to help guide the design effort.

  • Connect DA students to local and global peers using online technologies and creative programming.

  • Develop programming that promotes a culture of broad community participation by engaging students in a dialogue about their roles and responsibilities beyond the boundaries of their education.



To support these goals, Durham Academy must ensure that our enrollment and capital structure enable our ambitions. Securing the school's future includes planning for financial sustainability, anticipating and identifying trends in the marketplace, strengthening the school's financial foundation and ensuring its infrastructure supports current programming as well as initiatives outlined in this plan.

Action Steps

  • Determine the optimal size of the school considering financial, cultural, pedagogical, facility and admissions factors.

  • Develop a comprehensive construction, fundraising and financing plan to support three key facilities projects and the use of land acquisitions:

    • Renovate the Middle School campus.

    • Redesign or rebuild the Upper School science building.

    • Expand facilities available for Extended Day/Aftercare.

  • Enhance Durham Academy’s culture of philanthropy and grow the school’s endowment.