DPS board selects veteran educator to lead system

Schools superintendent for Washington Archdiocese once assistant here
Jun. 05, 2014 @ 07:11 PM

After a national search that spanned several months, the school board Thursday named veteran educator Bert L’Homme superintendent of Durham Public Schools.

L’Homme, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, will begin work here July 14. His contract extends to June 30, 2018.

He replaces Eric Becoats, who resigned under pressure in December amid criticism of his management of district resources.

The school board, which had split over accepting Becoats’ resignation and over procedural steps in the search process, was unanimous in hiring L’Homme Thursday. His appointment was approved on a 7-0 vote.

L’Homme will earn $225,000 annually as superintendent. 

“Dr. L’Homme has the experiences, training and passion that make him particularly well-suited for Durham Public Schools,” said school board Chairwoman Heidi Carter. Those experiences include special education teacher, principal, assistant superintendent of instructional services for Durham Public Schools and superintendent of Franklin County Schools, in addition to his current role in Washington.

L’Homme has also served as interim chief operating officer and director of education policy and coordinator of the Cradle to Prison Pipeline campaign for Marian Wright Edleman and the Children’s Defense Fund.

“For more than 35 years, Dr. L’Homme has been a constant champion for children with a special focus on our most troubled youth,” Carter said. “Dr. L’Homme has a reputation for integrity and trustworthiness that cannot be overstated.”

She said he brings expertise in curriculum and proven success with early literacy initiatives.

 L’Homme did not attend Thursday’s board meeting because he was busy officiating a graduation at one of the schools he currently oversees and also has a full schedule today, including a meeting with the Consortium of Catholic Academies’ Board of Directors.

Carter said L’Homme, chosen from two finalists for the post, wasn’t told he had been selected for the job until late Wednesday.

As superintendent for the Archdiocese of Washington (ADW), L’Homme is responsible for oversight of 64 archdiocesan pre-school, elementary and secondary schools and coordination with nearly three dozen independent Catholic schools in Washington and suburban and southern Maryland.

The schools serve 29,000 students from diverse backgrounds, according to the ADW website.  DPS enrolls about 32,000 students.

School board members said they think L’Homme’s experience and wisdom, particularly his expertise in the area of exceptional children, will serve the school district well.

“He has a strong background in exceptional children programs and that will help us in that area,” said board member Omega Parker. “He brings a lot of knowledge as well as wisdom.”

Parker remembered L’Homme as a passionate educator who was supportive of school programs.

“I’m very pleased with the selection,” Parker said. “I think he will do well.”

School board member Nancy Cox said she was excited about L’Homme’s exceptional-children background.

“That’s a challenge that all school system’s face,” Cox said. “I’m looking forward to him bringing his expertise to our school district.”

Board member Natalie Beyer said L’Homme is the consummate “teacher-leader.”

“I’m excited about the teacher-leader Dr. L’Homme will be for our school district,” Beyer said. “He is an inspirational leader.”

School board member Leigh Bordley said the board’s unanimous vote sends a strong message.

“This board did a great job,” Bordley said. “The fact that the vote was unanimous is a tribute to Dr. L’Homme and shows our commitment to the children of this school district.”

Newly elected school board member Mike Lee, who will be sworn in next month, congratulated the board on reaching a unanimous decision.

“I’m very excited and I look forward to working with” L’Homme, Lee said.

L’Homme holds a doctorate in special education/school administration and bachelor’s degrees in secondary education/psychology and history/secondary education from the University of Maryland in College Park, as well as a master’s of education in special education/emotional disturbance from American University.