Parents weigh in on next Durham Public Schools superintendent

A consulting firm hosted the forum and is helping the district figure out what kind of school leader the community wants.
April 21, 2014 8:22:30 PM PDT
Parents got to have their say in the search for a new superintendent for Durham Public Schools Monday evening at the first of two scheduled public forums in downtown Durham.

A consulting firm hosted the forum and is helping the district figure out what kind of school leader the community wants, and, because of the last superintendent's tenure, integrity topped the list.

"I think it's important," said parent Sharron Hunter-Rainey.

Integrity tops Hunter-Rainey's list of must-haves for Durham Public Schools' next superintendent. She and a small group shared big ideas with a consultant the district hired to lead the search.

"What we're trying to do is build a profile," said Gary Ray, of Ray and Associates.

Among the traits in that profile is a keen ability to communicate.

"They have to go into these communities. They have to talk," said parent Sheldon Lennon. "They have to welcome feedback whether it's positive or negative."

Another trait is to have the courage to evaluate the staff and make revolutionary changes.

"Somebody willing to upset the status quo, because we've had the status quo," said parent Stephen Bumgardner.

Last year, former Superintendent Eric Becoats resigned after an audit showed the district had $15 million more in unassigned funds that he had originally reported.

"It was the money issue -- with the credit card," said Hunter-Rainey.

Becoats' troubles began last summer when the school board learned he used a district-issued credit card to spend more than $20,000 on questionable items.

Before that, Becoats came under fire for using a school activity bus to transport his family to the Streets at Southpoint mall. All of it led to his resignation last December.

"The straw that broke the camel's back for me was the bus, because that exposed the school system to liability and risks that I thought were just unnecessary," said Hunter-Rainey. "The bus just did it for me."

Another open forum for parents is scheduled for Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the Fuller Building, at 511 Cleveland Street.

By then, the consultant will have met with more than 20 different groups that include clergy and business leaders. They hope to start recruiting candidates by the end of this month.

A hire date is still in the works.


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