School district leaders want to maintain control

Superintendent reports on trip to Raleigh for legislative meeting
Mar. 01, 2013 @ 08:09 AM

It’s not about jealously protecting turf, Durham Public Schools Board of Education member Leigh Bordley said Thursday night.

“We are in no way trying to protect our turf or fend off challenges to authority,” she said. “We’re interested in doing what we believe is best for our county’s and our state’s school children.”

Her remarks came as the board voted during their regular monthly meeting to pass a resolution opposing a movement among some in the state legislature who want county commissioners to control purchases of land and upkeep of schools. The resolution passed unanimously.

“We aren’t just going off half-cocked, like this is just something Durham’s doing,” said Minnie Forte-Brown, the board’s vice chair. It’s happening in other districts too, she said.

Bordley noted that she also wanted to protect the intent of voters who put the Board of Education in office because of their expertise in dealing with schools.

Board Chair Heidi Carter plans to contact members of the Durham County Commission to ensure that they also support the resolution.

During the meeting, Superintendent Eric Becoats also briefed the board on his trip to Raleigh on Tuesday to join other superintendents from throughout North Carolina to meet with state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg).

Discussion topics ranged from teacher tenure to merit pay to charter schools to budgets, Becoats said.

A bright spot from the meeting: “Things are looking a little bit better than last year” on the fiscal side, he said. That doesn’t necessarily mean DPS can expect more state dollars to flow in, but it could signal a chance of “flat funding” without the significant cuts that were required last year.

A not-so-bright spot: The state is moving ahead with a new letter grade assessment for all public schools, despite efforts by Becoats and other superintendents to head that off. “We’re preparing for the new evaluation,” Becoats said.

The board unanimously approved several items on their consent agenda, including:

  • Spending $4.9 million in bond money at Y.E. Smith Elementary School to build four classrooms, replace the roof and upgrade the air-conditioning system.
  • Suspending the end-of-course score minimums for graduation this year because the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is not providing re-test options during this first year of transition to the new Common Core curriculum.
  • Establishing a connection with the N.C. Department of Public Safety Section of Community Corrections’ School Partnership Program. This program strives to expand participation and involvement in prevention efforts for students who are on probation.
  • Acquiring global positioning system equipment for school buses in the district from Synovia. The leased equipment will cost the district as much as $637,200.
  • Spending $175,000 to install new gas-fired boilers at Holt Elementary School. DPS awarded the contract to Warren Hay Mechanical Contractors, Inc., of Hillsborough.

During public comment, the board heard from citizens on several topics, including concerns about bullying of employees in the DPS central office, school bus drivers who text on smart phones behind the wheel and students who roam the halls with pants sagging to their knees.


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