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Durham Public Schools’ board postpones long-term decision on staff pay

Elizabeth Schlemmer
screenshot of board meeting stream on YouTube
A screenshot of the Durham Public Schools Board meeting on Thursday, February 8, 2024, in which the board discussed options for paying the district's classified staff.

The Durham Public Schools’ Board of Education voted unanimously on Thursday night to maintain recent pay raises for 2,200 classified staff through February, but the board is postponing a decision on how to pay staff for the rest of the school year.

The school board will meet again in two weeks to discuss its long-term options for paying staff, after administrators determined that raises the district began paying in October would be $9 million over budget if paid out for the full school year.

The ongoing pay issue has led to staff walkouts that have closed school twice already, and will close all Durham schools again on Friday.

While the school board meeting was in session, but before the pay discussion began, Durham Public Schools alerted parents that all schools would be closed the next day. District administrators said in a statement that transportation staff who conduct daily bus inspections called in absent for Friday.

The Durham Association of Educators, which has organized two “Days of Protest” that closed schools on Monday and last Wednesday, confirmed that it did not organize a walk out for Friday.

The school board also voted to appoint Catty Quiroz Moore – former superintendent of Wake County Schools – as Durham Public Schools’ interim superintendent, following the recent resignation of Pascal Mubenga. The board plans to launch a formal search for a new superintendent this month.

Options to pay staff for the rest of the year

School district administrators presented board members with four options at the Thursday night school board meeting to pay staff for the remainder of the year. Three school board members – Natalie Beyer, Jovonia Lewis and chair Bettina Umstead – voted for “Option 4,” but the motion failed.

This new option unveiled during the board meeting would provide a flat 15 percent pay increase for all classified staff. No board member moved to approve prior options first proposed by the district’s central office administrators at the board’s last meeting.

This slide presented by Durham Public Schools' administrators shows one option for paying classified staff. The board voted 4-to-3 against this option Thursday.
Durham Public Schools' board of education video stream on YouTube
This slide presented by Durham Public Schools' administrators shows one option for paying classified staff. The board voted 4-to-3 against this option Thursday.

After a motion for “Option 4” failed, the board voted to table its discussion on long-term pay until its next regularly scheduled meeting on February 22.

“My desire would be to wait, and to see what our finances look like,” board member Emily Chavez said before voting against Option 4. “We do need to know where our money’s going to come from before we spend it.”

“My concerns are that we still don’t have a good understanding, and we are working – hopefully in the next couple of weeks – of having a clearer picture not only of our financial health, but also what we like and don’t like about [the prior salary study],” said board member Jessica Carda-Auten.

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