Empty Classroom (Image used under license from Shutterstock.com)
Turmoil has surrounded Durham Public Schools for over a month after the district announced it would withdraw raises it had initially promised to school employees. There have been protests, sickouts that have closed some schools, and high-profile resignations.
Durham Public Schools had to cancel classes on Friday due to staff absences. Now, Durham Public Schools has announced that they will be closed to students again Monday.
In a statement on their Facebook page, the district announced, “Durham Public Schools will be closed for students on Monday, February 12, due to absences within our transportation department that will prevent us from operating buses tomorrow.”
Sue Simms, an instructional assistant with Durham Public Schools, discussed the situation with Jeff Hamlin on the WPTF Afternoon News last week. She called the situation a “disgrace.”
“When I saw what it was supposed to be after the raise, and what it is now, what they are … giving us, giving me, it is basically a disgrace. It’s a disgrace.”
On Wednesday, Durham Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Pascal Mubenga resigned, following Chief Financial Officer Paul LeSieur’s resignation last month.
During Thursday’s meeting, the board named Catty Moore as the interim superintendent. Moore, who previously served as superintendent at Wake County Public Schools from 2018-2023 and is currently a member of the North Carolina State Board of Education, will take over Feb. 12. She is expected to serve until Sept. 30, and earn $25,000 per month. Durham Public Schools announced the board will initiate a formal search for a new superintendent this month.
Durham Public Schools also unanimously voted Thursday night to continue paying classified staff the higher salaries they were promised last year for the month of February. However, Bettina Umstead, the board chair, mentioned that the current raises are not sustainable long term, and she views a new salary option as progress.
“It’s important for us to make a step. We know we have more questions, and we will continue to do more studies.”
Interim Finance Director Cierra Ojijo said that each month of pay at those higher salaries adds $700,000 to the budget. The uncertainty of what will happen for the rest of the school year is affecting school employees.
At the meeting on Thursday, the public comment section began with several Durham Public Schools workers, such as Transportation Manager Tammy Phillips, expressing their views on the ongoing pay dispute. “I worked my way up from a bus driver to area manager. I feel as though all the hard work and sacrifices I’ve made, and my years of dedication mean nothing to Durham Public Schools.”