$12 million projected deficit looms for Durham schools

Feb. 12, 2013 @ 03:46 PM

Durham Public Schools faces a projected budget deficit of about $12 million this year, said Superintendent Eric Becoats during a media briefing on Tuesday.
That shortfall might get better or worse, depending on state funding and the looming threat of federal sequestration cuts.
“We are seriously looking at programming and central office operations” to make sure the district is getting the most benefit for the money it spends, Becoats said.
He wants to stop short of eliminating classroom positions.
“Our goal is to make sure we protect classrooms as much as possible,” he said.
The federal government’s deadline to impose sequestration cuts to military and education spending could come as soon as March 1, although some agencies have sought a further delay.
Becoats is expected to present a budget to the DPS Board of Education on April 21. On May 1, the board hosts a public hearing and work session on the budget. They’re scheduled to adopt the budget on May 13 before sending it to the Durham County Board of Commissioners two days later.
Sometime in late May or early June, the DPS budget will be reviewed in a joint meeting of commissioners and the education board.
During the media briefing at Shepard Middle School, Becoats also gave an update on the success of the Magic Johnson Bridgescape program at Performance Learning Center. He said four former high school dropouts graduated from the program in January and that as many as 70 are expected to graduate this summer.
“That will be the highest number graduated from PLC,” Becoats said. “Part of that is attributed to the Bridgescape program.”
Bridgescape, a partnership between DPS and EdisonLearning, started last fall as an outreach effort to bring dropouts back to school to earn diplomas.
In other news from the briefing:
--More than 6,000 applicants have signed up for the DPS magnet school and career technical education pathway lottery. Application deadline is Feb. 20. It’s an online-only process now. Don’t have a computer with Internet access at home? DPS recommends visiting Durham’s libraries, the Durham Housing Authority, the DPS Staff Development Center on Hillandale Road, El Centro Hispano, any DPS magnet school or use the district’s smartphone Web application.
--Carrington Middle School has been recognized as a “School to Watch” as part of an initiative by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. It recognizes schools with academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, social equity and organizational support and processes.
--It’s School Bus Driver Appreciation Week. The district has 330 yellow buses that serve 18,000 students and cover 3 million miles per year.
“That’s no small feat,” Becoats said.
He encouraged people to make a point of thanking their bus drivers during the week. “This is the first person most of our students see before they even get to school,” he said.
--DPS board member Nancy Cox shared the district’s legislative agenda, which includes the pursuit of restored state funding for public schools and pre-K programs, improved charter school legislation, safe schools investment and better pay for teachers.
“It’s really important that we count you as advocates on these issues,” Cox said of Durham’s citizens.

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