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New Durham schools chief says he's 'listening and learning' about district

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Durham Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Pascal Mubenga

Durham Public Schools superintendent Pascal Mubenga smiled as friends and supporters gave him a standing ovation Monday morning. They filled all available seats to witness his swearing in ceremony inside the room where Durham's school board meets.

School board member Bettina Umstead said she is looking forward to working with Dr. Mubenga. "He has experience as a principal, he has experience as a teacher, he's worked for DPI (NC Department of Public Instruction)...He's ready to work, and that's what we need in Durham. Someone who's going to hit the ground running."

The superintendent said before Monday's ceremony, he spent a lot of time speaking with parents and other stakeholders who are interested in making Durham one of the best school systems.

"They say we have a lot of resources, and we have some challenges as well. But if we can match both together, I think DPS is gonna be a good place for parents as well as students," he explained.

Mubenga, who worked as a teacher in Durham and a superintendent for the Franklin County schools before returning as the man in charge at DPS, told us it's too early to get specific about those challenges. Instead, he says, he'll spend the next ninety days "listening and learning" while executing his 90 day plan for the district. That plan, distributed to supporters and reporters in the room before his swearing in, includes filling school administrator vacancies, understanding the school board's priorities and the DPS weaknesses as well as its strengths.

He was candid about the legacy schools in the system and the competition posed by charter schools, which some parents opt for when dissatisfied with DPS.

"I think charter schools are really doing a better job of going after those students," he told us on Monday morning. "Going after those parents, and we're taking those kids for granted. I think we need to be more proactive going after those kids, and showing them what we can offer."

He says by next March, he's scheduled development of a strategic plan for DPS. We'll update you on that work as the superintendent and administrators move forward with his agenda.

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