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Another "Day of Protest" closes seven Durham public schools

Educators at twelve Durham public schools took leave on Wednesday, Jan 31, 2024 to protest changes to pay for classified staff. The Durham Association of Educators has announced a second "day of protest" for Monday, Feb 5.
Liz Schlemmer
File photo of educators from twelve Durham public schools, who took leave on Wednesday, Jan 31, 2024 to protest changes to pay for classified staff. The Durham Association of Educators has announced a second "day of protest" for Monday, February 5.

Durham Public Schools has announced that seven schools will be closed Monday. The closures come after the Durham Association of Educators organized a "Day of Protest." The following schools are closed:

  • Carrington Middle
  • Durham School of the Arts
  • Little River K-8 School
  • Morehead Montessori
  • Sandy Ridge Elementary
  • E.K. Powe Elementary
  • Bethesda Elementary

The latest walkout comes after DAE forced DPS to shut down 12 schools last Wednesday in an on-going pay dispute that affects about 1,300 classified staff. Those staff were promised raises at the beginning of the school year, but those salary increases are now being retracted.

In a letter DAE leaders sent to the school board Saturday, the association said it is calling another protest because some staff, “made life-altering decisions based on those raises that they cannot undo.”

“Some upgraded their apartments or cars or childcare. Some quit second and third jobs. Now, they worry if they will be able to pay their bills and feed their families when they get their February paycheck in a few short weeks,” DAE wrote to the board.

DAE has updated its demands to the school board, as some of their prior demands have already been met.

In the letter, DAE said its organizing committee met Saturday and voted on the following new demands for the school board’s Thursday meeting:

  • For the board to restore steps and commit to no pay cuts in February paychecks.
  • For the board to release a public explanation of why January paychecks for 1,300 classified staff did not look the same as their December checks.
  • For the board to schedule a "meet and confer" work session with DAE for the week of February 12.

At ameeting last Friday evening, the school board voted 4-3 to table a vote on February paychecks. The board also voted unanimously to hire a comptroller to serve the board and assist the school board’s attorney in conducting an investigation to write a public report describing how the school system implemented raises that were over budget. The school board also unanimously moved to start a conversation with DAE to begin the meet and confer process.

On Friday, school board member Emily Chavez asked the district’s new interim CFO Cierra Ojijo if it would be possible for the board to continue recent pay levels through February. Ojijo responded that that action would put the school district an additional $700,000 a month over budget each month that the raises continue.

At their Friday meeting, board chair Bettina Umstead said any options the board considered would need to include a locally-funded raise for classified staff compared to their 2023-2024 salaries.

“It’s a must,” Umstead said. “But we are also saying…we cannot choose an option that's unsustainable, and that would deplete all of our school systems funds.”

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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