Educators hold 'walk-in' ahead of school board special meeting, superintendent resigns

Thursday, February 8, 2024
Educators picket after school amid Durham Public Schools pay crisis
On the day the Durham Board of Education will hold an emergency meeting, walk-ins took place at more than 30 schools.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Durham Public Schools board held a meeting on Wednesday night to discuss "attorney-client privileged information" and a personnel matter, the Durham Association of Educators (DAE) held two events to put pressure on the school district.

It was later announced that Superintendent Pascal Mubenga had tendered his resignation. Dr. Mubenga joined Durham Public Schools seven years ago. DPS says he leaves a legacy of academic growth and a firm commitment to equity. Deputy Superintendent Dr. Nicholas King has been assigned the duties of superintendent until an interim is named.

The school administration and employees have been in an ongoing pay dispute that has led to some schools having to close due to staffing challenges and parents having to take their children to school because of bus drivers call outs. It's all related to the pay issue.

The staff from across all departments participated in scheduled 'walk-ins.' The first happened Wednesday morning before school: Staffers and educators held a "walk-in" at more than 30 schools across the district.

What's a walk-in? A representative with the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) said it's a show of unity for employees affected by the pay crisis. Classes were not canceled Wednesday, a contrast to Monday when seven schools were forced to close because of staffing shortages.

Durham Public Schools Board of Education scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday to address ongoing pay issues.

The second event organized by DAE is a picket outside Durham Public Schools headquarters.

That picket began after school Wednesday, happening where the special meeting will take place later in the evening.

These latest developments come amid an open and active investigation into the pay dispute that led to the resignation of Durham Public Schools CFO Paul LaSieur.

The school district did not say exactly what would happen at Wednesday night's meeting, but some people have speculated it might have to do with Superintendent Dr. Pascal Mubenga.

Dr. Michael Page, the president of the Durham Interdenominational Minister's Alliance, said several local faith leaders also gathered on Wednesday in support of Durham Public Schools and its employees, including Superintendent Dr. Pascal Mubenga.

"We all have support for Superintendent Mubenga," Page said. "He has done a phenomenal job and my comments today will share what we are extremely proud of where this school system has gone, and we want to maintain some level of stability for the school system."

Meanwhile, some DPS employees are hoping for more accountability as the Durham pay issue persists. Mubenga could be potentially on thin ice as the dispute unfolds, according to a statement from the chair of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People that alluded to his possible removal.

"Many people in Durham are expecting that the board might act precipitously to remove superintendent Dr. Pascal Mubenga from his position as early as in their meeting Wednesday evening," the committee's chair Walter Jackson said in a release, warning district leaders to not act hastily and rush to judgment.

However, there is no indication from DPS as to whether or not that will happen.

"It seems easy to point fingers and place blame while trying to sort out exactly what happened in this complex situation," Jackson said. "Many people in Durham are expecting that the board might act precipitously to remove superintendent Dr. Pascal Mubenga from his position as early as in their meeting Wednesday evening."

Durham Public Schools said it will share new information after Wednesday's meeting.

As for DAE, it said the demands of educators remain the same amid this ongoing pay crisis:

1) Restore steps and commit to no pay cuts for February paychecks

2) Public explanation of why January checks did not look like people expected

3) Schedule a Meet and Confer work session with DAE for the week of Feb. 12.