Durham School of the Arts names new principal for void created by racial-treatment controversy

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Durham Public School Board of Education has named longtime City of Medicine Academy principal Dr. L. Jackie Tobias as the new principal of Durham School of the Arts.

Tobas will fill a void created by the controversial decision not to retain Principal David Hawks in June.

Some parents complained that Hawks helped foster a cultural climate that treated minority students differently in regard to disciplining at the school.

The board decided not to renew his contract.

Hawks denied having different standards toward students.

"We are following, we were following the Durham Public School discipline code of conduct. We only hold children accountable irregardless (sic) of race, gender, everything," Hawks told ABC11 in June. "It's not the percentage but our Black and brown children are all 30 points higher so I would say we're providing educational equity. Is there still a gap? Yeah, there's still a gap. But there's less of one than there is at all Durham Public Schools."

DSA saw tremendous success during Hawks' 14 years at the helm: U.S. News and World Report ranked the magnet school as one of the best in the nation.

School leaders got an earful after the decision from parents who spoke in support and in opposition of the move to let Hawks go.

His successor, Tobias, was the 2020 Principal of the Year for DPS, having achieved a 100 percent on-time graduation rate at CMA every single year since 2013. Under her leadership, CMA has achieved outstanding academic performance and year-to-year growth at a specialty high school with an intentional focus on serving students from underrepresented populations, the school district said.

Tobias became principal of Riverside High School in 2011, then took over at CMA in 2013. She began working in education as a school counselor and earned her doctorate in education from Gardner Webb University.

Dr. Renita Griffin-Jordan will serve as interim principal at City of Medicine Academy. She has been an assistant principal at CMA since 2018.

The board also announced that Pearsontown Elementary School assistant principal Michael Mattia will take over as principal at E.K. Powe Elementary School.
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