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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. 


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).


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.

 A Letter from the Head of School

Dear Friends of Durham Academy,

Durham Academy is stronger and healthier now than at any other point in the school’s history. We began the 2014-2015 academic year with a series of extraordinary achievements: the school’s largest enrollment ever, its lowest student attrition ever, its highest number of applications ever, a record fundraising year and the most racially, ethnically and geographically diverse student body ever. 

We didn’t get here by accident. That progress and success grew from decades of dedicated work and a series of ambitious strategic plans. The vision, values and investments of our families, faculty and alumni have taken DA from its humble beginnings in 1933 with seven students and one teacher to one of the best independent schools in the Southeast. We couldn’t have arrived here without the drive and dedication of so many – teachers, students, parents, staff, alumni, grandparents and friends – who all put their trust in the school’s shared vision for success: enabling young men and women to lead happy, moral, productive lives.

It might be tempting to rest on our laurels. But we hold our school to the same high standards that we do our students: stretching forward, challenging ourselves, aspiring to do more, building relationships on and beyond our campus that make tomorrow’s DA even better than it is today.

Since the launch of the strategic planning process in August, we have asked hundreds of DA’s constituents (faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, parents of alumni and community partners) what they valued most about our school. The universal answer was life-changing relationships. These bonds – between students and teachers, between students and their peers, between families and faculty, and between our school community and the community at large – are valued, prioritized and at the very heart of our work.

This 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. 

Since August, we’ve reflected on a series of key questions: 

  • How can we find life-changing teachers and help them learn and grow?
  • How can we hone a learning experience that is continuous, collaborative and cutting-edge?
  • How can we exemplify selflessness and service as core values?
  • How can we make every single student and family feel at home?
  • How can we increase and support cultural diversity?
  • How should we invest to provide future generations the opportunity to enjoy the DA experience? 

In short, 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.  


Michael Ulku-Steiner
Head of School

An independent, coeducational day school,  pre-kindergarten through grade 12.
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