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Durham Public Schools to give classified staff an 11% raise after more than a month of unrest

Durham Public Schools Protest -- Margie Wescott
Liz Schlemmer
Margie Wescott, a teacher at Jordan High School, was among those protesting at the Minnie Forte-Brown Staff Development Center on Hillandale Road in Durham on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024.

Durham Public Schools will reduce raises given to some staff. In its place, all classified staff – nearly 1,900 employees – will get an 11% raise.

The Durham Board of Education came to that decision Thursday night after hours of debate. Some staff, including cafeteria workers and bus mechanics, had received larger raises last year. But DPS later said those came in error.

Board member Jessica Carda-Auten said she wanted to be fair to all staff.

“My concern is that if we move forward with paying some staff at higher than market rates, we are hurting other staff,” she said.

DPS staff told the board the 11% raise was the highest that the system could afford.

The decision from the Durham Board of Education comes after nearly a month of protests and coordinated responses from staff across DPS, including bus drivers and teachers. It began when hundreds of classified support staff received emails in January from the district saying their pay would be significantly demoted due to an "error." In response to that, some bus drivers elected not to work on Jan. 17, leaving administrators scrambling.

At a town hall the next day – attended by hundreds of staff members – administrators said they made an error calculating years of state service for about 1,300 employees, including many instructional assistants, cafeteria workers, physical therapists, transportation managers and maintenance staff.

In a tense meeting the next week, the Board of Education approved a budget amendment that allows classified staff to continue receiving recent raises through the end of January. But on Jan. 31, 12 schools in the system had to close due to mass “sick-outs” staged by school teachers and staff. Another day of protest on Feb. 4 forced seven schools to close. On Feb. 8, DPS superintendent Pascal Mubenga resigned. On Feb. 14, interim superintendent Catty Moore threatened that students would have to make-up days later in the year if teachers and staff staged another sick-out.

Education reporter Liz Schlemmer contributed to this report.

Jason deBruyn is WUNC's Supervising Editor for Digital News, a position he took in 2024. He has been in the WUNC newsroom since 2016 as a reporter.
Mitchell Northam is a Digital Producer for WUNC. His past work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SB Nation, the Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and is also a voter in the AP Top 25 poll for women's college basketball.
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