Durham County

A new superintendent unlikely by the start of the 2017-18 school year

The Durham Public Schools will likely need an interim leader until a new superintendent can be found to replace Bert L’Homme who will retire August 4.
The Durham Public Schools will likely need an interim leader until a new superintendent can be found to replace Bert L’Homme who will retire August 4.

It appears the Durham Public Schools will not have a new superintendent in place by the start of the new school year.

The Durham Board of Education reached that conclusion Monday, May 15, after meeting with officials from the N.C. School Board Association (NCSBA), which the board hired to conduct the search for a new leader to replace Bert L’Homme who will retire August 4.

Allison Schafer, legal counsel and director of policy for the NCSBA, presented a tentative timeline showing the earliest start date for a new superintendent as Nov. 1.

And while that start date is not set in stone, Schafer made it clear that it will take longer than a couple of months to conduct a thorough search for a quality superintendent.

“I think you’re going to need someone to fill that interim spot under these circumstances,” Schafer said, responding to a question about whether the timeline could be condensed. “I don’t think it’s realistic to get someone in place by August 1.”

School board Chairman Mike Lee has said he wanted to have a new superintendent hired by the time schools on a traditional school calendar start up in August.

He conceded Monday that that is unlikely to happen.

“My goal is to make sure we do what’s best for the school district,” Lee said. “If that means taking our time to get the best person, I’m fine with that.”

Lee also said L’Homme has agreed to stay on as superintendent to the end of September if he is needed to do so.

“He offered it simply to add a little time to the time frame for us to hire a superintendent,” Lee said.

However, Lee said all options, including hiring someone from outside the district to serve as interim superintendent, are on the table.

The last time the board conducted a search, Hugh Osteen, the school district’s deputy superintendent of operations, stepped in to serve in the interim job from January 2014 until L’Homme arrived in July 2014 to assume the post.

Lee said tapping Osteen once again is also one of the options at the board’s disposal.

The board is scheduled to talk more about the options for an interim superintendent at its May 24 regular business meeting.

The only date that is certain on the timeline drafted by the NCSBA is July 10, which has been set as the deadline to receive applications from candidates applying for job of superintendent.

The board voted unanimously to set that date as the deadline so that NCSBA could begin advertising the position as soon as possible.

Tanya Giovanni, a NCSBA staff attorney, said that after tweaking the advertisement as directed by the Durham school board, the NCSBA will begin to advertise the superintendent’s post no later than the end of this week.

School board members asked that the advertisement reflect that the Durham school system is one that embraces racial equity.

The board also agreed to ask candidates for a three-minute video, explaining their philosophy for educating children and why they are interested in the Durham job.

The NCSBA search will cost the district $17,500, plus other expenses that include about $2,100 to advertise the post in professional education publications.

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645