The Durham Public Schools Board of Education agenda for its regular business meeting Thursday, April 27 appears to be light with only a few items for the board to consider.
But a couple of the items are huge for the Durham Public Schools (DPS).
They included “next steps” in the search for a superintendent and the school district’s proposed $430 million operating budget for the 2017-18.
The board will meet beginning at 6:30 p.m., at the Fuller Administration Building, 511 Cleveland St., in downtown Durham.
As far as the budget is concerned, some of the uncertainty surrounding DPS’ budget proposal, as well as the budgets of other publicly funded schools districts across the state, might have been cleared up this week when the State Senate approved a compromise on a new mandate for class size.
A new version of House Bill 13 announced by Senate leader Phil Berger would push back extensive class-size reductions in kindergarten through third grade for a year and save jobs for art, music and physical education teachers.
Under the deal, class sizes in kindergarten through third grade would still be smaller next school year, but not as small as called for in the original plan.
The new version of the bill would lower maximum K-3 class sizes this fall to 23 students.
Aaron Beaulieu, the chief finance officer for DPS, said Wednesday that the compromise measure, if approved by the state House, would mean DPS would only have to absorb the loss of 15 to 20 teachers at a cost of about $1 million.
Under the original class-size mandate, to retain the current level of arts and P.E. teachers, DPS would need $6 million to hire 100 new teachers.
The second big topic is the district’s fledgling search for a new superintendent to replace Bert L’Homme who announced earlier this month that he is retiring from the post in August.
The school board is scheduled to discuss a tentative timeline for hiring a new superintendent and whether it would be possible to hire the next superintendent before L’Homme retires.
Also, the board will consider what sort of superintendent search firm or similar organization might be contracted to help the board select the district’s next superintendent.
In a statement announcing his plans to retire, L’Homme cited the changing “landscape of public education” for his decision to retire before the end of his contract.
“In January, I realized that I likely will not have the physical or mental energy to respond to those challenges, while at the same time dramatically accelerating our academic growth, for the duration of my contract,” L’Homme said.
L’Homme, 67, was hired to lead the school district in June 2014 at a salary of $225,000 a year.
His contract was amended last August to extend through June 2020.