L’Homme sworn in
New superintendent Bert L’Homme began his first day on the job Monday emphasizing a district pledge to ensure that every student who graduates from Durham Public Schools is prepared to follow their dream.
L’Homme promised to uphold that pledge while standing on the steps of the successful J.D. Clement Early College High School, which is on the N.C. Central University campus.
“No student should ever have to settle for less,” L’Homme said on a warm, humid July morning with dozens of well-wishers looking on, including Mayor Bill Bell and NCCU Chancellor Deborah Saunders-White.
L’Homme, who took the oath of office from Superior Court Judge Elaine Bushfan, said achieving the district goal must begin in kindergarten where the district will focus on making sure that every child can read by the end of the second grade.
“The focus is on reading because without knowing how to read all of the doors to learning and success are closed, and we know that learning to read is not enough,” L’Homme said. “We can teach children to read the words and understand the words, but without the rich and deep experiences and success in language, and math, science, social studies, physical education, foreign language, music and art, they will not be able to pass the test.”
L’Homme, the former superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, was hired by the school board in June after a nationwide search for a superintendent to replace Eric Becoats, who resigned in December amid criticism of his handling of district resources.
The new superintendent is a former DPS assistant superintendent and a former superintendent of Franklin County Schools.
L’Homme added that there is much work to do on the middle school level.
“We need to teach our middle school students how to study, how to organize their learning, how to conduct research, use language, concepts, constructs and vocabulary that is specific to each academic discipline,” L’Homme said,
And turning to high schools, L’Homme said students must be given the courses, curricula and experiences that will prepare them for success in college.
“This has to happen,” L’Homme said.
School board Chairwoman Heidi Carter noted that L’Homme has to hit the ground running because the district’s year-round schools are set to open next week.
“All of our other schools will follow suit in August,” Carter said. “With some 33,000 students soon to be walking through our halls, this is an exceptionally busy time of year.”
Carter said L’Homme is well-suited to handle the challenges facing the district whether budget scraps with legislators in Raleigh, a stubborn academic achievement gap or disparities in out-of-school suspensions.
“The Board of Education chose Dr. L’Homme as our superintendent for a reason,” Carter said. “We truly believe he is the leader who can face those challenges and move Durham Public Schools into a new era of growth and success.”
In an interview, L’Homme said he had a busy day planned interviewing candidates for the assistant superintendent of high schools vacancy and meeting with DPS staff.
He said his message to staff would be similar to the one he delivered at NCCU.