Parents Association & Parents Council
The Durham Academy Parents Association supports the school's academic, social, fine arts and athletic objectives. Parents Association encourages volunteerism, raises and disperses funds, promotes communication and cooperation, and provides input to the school on issues of concern and interest to parents. All Durham Academy parents are members of the Parents Association.
The Durham Academy Parents Council is the governing board of the Parents Association. This group comprises members of an executive committee; division representatives; members of schoolwide committees on matters such as diversity, wellness and athletics; and parents who organize both community-building and fundraising events. See a list of the parents who serve on Parents Council.
Parents Bulletin Board
Durham Academy's chess program is so ingrained in the fabric of the school that it can be difficult to fathom a time when it didn't exist. But back in 2003, when coach Craig Jones offered the first organized chess classes at DA, he expected interest to be modest.
Jones quickly learned he was wrong, with hundreds of students having learned the game of pawns, bishops and queens over the years through DA's after-school and summer programs. The last 12 years have seen the rise of new state (and sometimes national) champions and the passing of milestones, and 2015 will go down as the year of two particularly historic moments: the 100th chess tournament hosted by DA, and the crowning of a new school individual rating record-holder, sophomore Eric Bradford.
For Jones, chess is one ingredient in the magic that is the DA experience.
"What I love about DA, what I've noticed for years, is the DA community finds something special in every child and builds upon that, and that's a really special part of being here," he said. "Chess is another of those things that many kids find they are good at."
On Saturday, Dec. 12, Durham Academy will host its 100th consecutive monthly tournament, called Master Trek. The tournament includes not just scholastic-level players, but also adults. The public is welcome, and former players are especially encouraged to attend.
Participation in chess is concentrated in the lower grades, and that's borne out in DA's rankings among North Carolina teams: No. 1 in grades K-1; No. 1 in grades 2-3; No. 1 in grades 4-5; No. 4 in grades 6-8; and No. 6 in grades 9-12. As students grow older, sports, other extracurricular activities and more rigorous academics begin to compete for students' time, and many are unable to devote adequate time to chess, Jones said.
But Bradford, who has played since he was a Lower Schooler, has made chess a priority, and that devotion paid off on Sept. 20, when he passed the rating of alumnus Connor Labean '10. Labean's rating of 1764 stood as DA's all-time individual record for seven years and five months. Bradford's rating now stands at 1790.
"When I was younger, in early Middle School and later Lower School, there was a really good graduating class of Upper Schoolers, which I think was one of the last groups of Upper Schoolers to really play chess a lot," Bradford said. "As a younger kid, I didn't think that I could ever be like them. Breaking [the rating record] was I guess an achievement, but I'm really respectful of those people as well."
Jones notes that Bradford's name doesn't begin to appear on DA's ratings leaderboard until late in Lower School. Over the years, his performance improved steadily — evidence of Bradford's dedication and diligence in practicing and studying the game, he said.
"Eric was little of a late bloomer, and I think that's kind of inspiring," Jones said. "He has passion for chess. He loves chess. He has that desire to want to know, the passion to play. He's done that through hard work."
For Bradford, the benefits of playing chess have been myriad. In his younger years, it was a great outlet for social interaction. And there are academic benefits as well.
"I'd definitely say it's made my mind a lot sharper," he said. "It definitely opens your mind and makes it easier to think about things a lot deeper. Chess really trains your deep-thinking process."
Jones sees additional benefits in the game. There's a certain "harshness" to it that can be beneficial for some kids, he said: "It teaches you very quickly when you make a mistake what happens. You get immediate feedback on your decision-making ability." Chess also hones visualization skills and can bolster students' confidence.
And it's one of the few activities in which boys and girls compete against one another from day one. However, fewer girls than boys generally participate in chess, and that's a national problem, Jones said. It has nothing to do with ability or even student interest, he said; rather, parents usually drive the disproportionality, with moms and dads typically choosing younger students' extracurricular activities.
Learn more about what Jones sees as the benefits of chess in an article Jones penned for the summer 2013 DA magazine.
Bradford attributes his success to Jones, whom he described as one of the best chess coaches in the state: "He's really inspirational to everyone who tries it. You can look up to him, no matter what he's doing, because he's a really good role model. If you just dedicate yourself, he's going to get you there as long as you have the focus."
Jones' former players often approach him to tell him what an impact chess has on their lives. If nothing else, "it's a great memory," he said.
And if one practices enough, "chess is a great skill," Jones said. "Mentally, for most people, it's the hardest thing they're ever going to do, and if they pursue it to a certain level of thinking, they'll realize that."