Durham might keep endangered assistants one more year

Apr. 23, 2013 @ 04:11 PM

The 80 teaching assistant positions in Durham Public Schools, threatened recently by cuts proposed to state funding by Gov. Pat McCrory, may be safe for at least the next year.

But Superintendent Eric Becoats can’t make any guarantees beyond that.

“We are working feverishly to find ways to maintain those positions in our schools,” Becoats said on Tuesday during a media briefing at Easley Elementary School.

On Thursday, he said, he’ll present a budget proposal to the DPS Board of Education that will fund the $2.4 million needed for those assistants.

“I can assure you that we have identified some options for the board to maintain these positions for at least one more year,” he said.

Part of the money will come from funds that had been earmarked for textbooks and other school supplies, Becoats said. The rest would be new funds coming from a source that he wouldn’t go into detail about prior to Thursday’s board meeting.

A public hearing and board budget work session is scheduled for May 1. On May 13, the board is expected to adopt the budget, which would go to the Durham County Commission two days later.

In other news from the briefing:

-- Becoats offered a reminder about early release days for students in Durham middle and high schools who are taking the new common exams. Middle school students will leave two hours early on June 5 and 6 so that teachers can score the exams. Release times at high schools will vary depending on each school’s exam schedule.

-- The district has identified more than $325 million in long-range capital improvement needs through 2019-20. County commissioners have proposed a 2015 bond referendum that would include $100 million for schools. That money primarily would be used for improvements and upgrades to existing facilities, Becoats said. Commissioners might revisit the plan if DPS determines a need for a new elementary school, but that’s not on the immediate horizon.

-- Stephanie Ridley, a volunteer at Easley Elementary who championed a science Olympiad, was recognized by Becoats with the 2013 Get Involved! Award.

The superintendent noted that May 6-10 is Teacher Appreciation Week. On May 9, DPS is set to celebrate its 2013 Teacher of the Year.

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