New superintendent returning home
Bert L’Homme is coming home, but he won’t be house hunting.
That’s because the new superintendent of Durham Public Schools never sold the one he owns and lived in during a part of his employment here as an associate superintendent of Durham Public Schools from October 1997 to December 2003.
In an interview last week, a day after his hire was unanimously approved by the school board, L’Homme explained that the family home has been used by an adult child and has served as a weekend and vacation refuge during his current stint as superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington in the nation’s capital.
“We left, but never completely left,” said L’Homme, who is married and has three grown daughters. “That’s always been our home.”
As a part-time Durham resident, L’Homme, who left DPS in 2003 to become superintendent of Franklin County School, kept up with the happenings in the Durham school district.
But he will return with an open mind next month – his starting date is July 14 -- as he embarks on a study of the school district’s successes and its well-discussed challenges.
“A lot of that will be listening, not only to teachers and principals, but also to the community,” L’Homme said.
The one thing that is certain, however, is there will be an intense focus on early childhood literacy under L’Homme’s leadership.
It’s something he believes is critical to improving educational outcomes for children, and the expectation will be that every child is reading by the first-grade.
“Early childhood literacy is still the key to every child’s future, no matter what neighborhood they come from,” L’Homme said.
He said the times demand that all students, regardless of their collegiate or professional aspirations, read, write and do math at a high level.
County Commissioner Chairman Michael Page was a member of the school board when L’Homme was an associate superintendent here.
Page, who was traveling Thursday when the announcement was made, said he was ecstatic about the news that L’Homme had been tapped to lead the school district.
“He’s a proven leader and very committed to the children of Durham Public School,” Page said.
He said L’Homme worked tirelessly on strategies to close the district’s persistent achievement gap and really listened to the “heart” of the Durham community.
“He’s a courageous leader,” Page said. “I know him. I worked with him. I felt his passion. He has a wealth of experience, and he’s the kind of person who has risen through the ranks and is most qualified to lead this school system.”
Eddie Ingram, superintendent of Darlington County Schools in South Carolina, succeeded L’Homme as superintendent of Franklin County Schools and also worked for him as an assistant superintendent.
“Bert is passionate about education and he’s passionate about children,” Ingram said. “I believe he’ll be a good fit in Durham.”
Ingram noted that early college high school in Franklin County was L’Homme’s idea, one which Ingram completed during his tenure as superintendent.
Ingram said he learned a lot working under L’Homme and is implementing some of the programs in Darlington that L’Homme brought to Franklin County.
He said those programs involve strategies to build business partnerships as well as establishing professional learning communities.
Ingram also noted L’Homme’s passion for early childhood literacy.
“It’s something that often reminds me of what’s important,” Ingram said.
In announcing his departure from the Archdiocese, where L’Homme oversaw 96 Catholic schools serving more than 27,000 students in the District of Columbia and five counties in Maryland,
Thomas Burnford, the secretary for education for the Diocese of Washington, said L’Homme had accomplished much in his four year tenure.
“Deacon Bert built and strengthened the structures for ongoing success in Catholic schools, structures and systems that will continue to do well in the future,” Burnford said in a statement. “He has accomplished much in a short time and done so with a love for students and a commitment to Catholic identity and excellence.”
The accomplishments cited by Burnford include development and use of Scantron Performance testing systems, which led to improved instruction, significant enhancements to teacher professional development, the formation of a teacher advisory board and a new “Future Leaders Academy” that helps teachers develop into successful principals.”
On Friday, the school board’s three newly-elected members – Mike Lee, Matt Sears and Sendolo Diaminah -- issued a joint statement congratulating L’Homme on being appointed superintendent.
The three board members-elect, who will be sworn in July 7, participated in the superintendent search process in advisory roles, which caused some contention among current members
“Dr. L’Homme brings a great deal of experience and momentum to DPS and we are excited to have a leader who has deep roots in the community and in Durham Public Schools,” the statement read. “We look forward to working with him for many years to come.”
Ann Rebeck, president of the Durham Council of PTAs, has only been in Durham about nine years and didn’t know L’Homme. But she said L’Homme has received high marks from the folks who did know him.
“I’m enthusiastic because everyone seems enthusiastic,” Rebeck said. “People I respect have said positive things.”
As president of the Durham Council of PTAs, Rebeck said she is focused on parental involvement and leadership and looks forward to working with L’Homme in those areas.
“I’m hoping he’s going to come in and we can partner on those two things,” Rebeck said.