Former Durham Public Schools administrator voices concerns over Mubenga resignation

DeJuan Hoggard Image
Wednesday, February 14, 2024
Former DPS administrator voices concerns over Mubenga resignation
Dr. Pascal Mubenga told ABC11 that the decision to leave was ultimately his and that "nobody forced him out."

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Nearly a month and a half ago, Dr. Kelvin Bullock was working as the Executive Director of Equity Affairs and Professional Development for Durham Public Schools. Just days into the new year, however, he left the district to work alongside his wife, Dr. Ronda Taylor Bullock.

The Bullocks are the directors of We Are, a nonprofit organization that provides anti-racism training for children, families, and educators, according to its website.

"It's concerning to see some of the way things have played out in terms of dismissing years of effective leadership here in Durham," Bullock said.

Bullock told ABC11 that he has concerns with how DPS leadership, which includes the Board of Education, went about the resignation of former superintendent Dr. Pascal Mubenga. In a letter last week, the Board wrote that it came to a "mutual understanding" with Mubenga that a resignation was the best way to move forward.

The superintendent's departure came amid an ongoing pay dispute that has disrupted DPS' transportation operations and led to classes being canceled in some cases.

"If we're in a space where we want to ostracize or scapegoat or put someone out as 'oh, this is your issue', Bullock said, "that's not how this works."

However, Mubenga told ABC11 that the decision to leave was ultimately his and that "nobody forced him out."

He also said he plans to "enjoy retirement" with no intentions of returning to education.

The Board gave Mubenga a severance payment of more than $300,000 and later hired former Wake County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Catty Moore at $25,000 per month.

Both Bullocks said they believe the Board of Education, former chief financial officer Paul LaSieur, who also resigned, and Mubenga share responsibility for how DPS' pay crisis and transportation issues have been playing out.

"The next question should have been, how do we work together? How do we present a united front to address this for our workers and our students?" Bullock said. "But that wasn't the approach that was taken."

ALSO SEE: Families of Durham Public Schools students caught up in the ongoing pay crisis: 'It's a lot'

Another round of school shutdowns on Friday left 32,000 Durham Public Schools students with an unexpected three-day weekend.

His wife echoed the same sentiment.

"We have chaos in Durham Public Schools right now," she said. "I believe (Mubenga) wanted to make it right. Were there some missteps along the way? Yes. But I do believe had he stayed, he could have made it right."

The Bullocks said they believe the 10-page report released by the attorneys at Tharrington Smith concerning the salary schedule increase does not tell the entire story.

"From district leadership to the Board of Education, and even beyond played a part in what happened. But ownership of the problem was placed on one person, and two if you count the chief financial officer. I don't think that was right," Bullock said. "And if you're going to place it on (Mubenga), then give him an opportunity to address it. The Board is composed of seven individuals. So I think even within that group there could be nuance in where people stood in terms of supporting the superintendent. But I do think as a whole, the Board positioned Dr. Mubenga to take the fall for the situation when it was bigger than him."

Within the past week, Durham Public Schools has been closed to students twice because of staff callouts within its transportation department. According to DPS, about 75% of its students ride school buses.

"Who are we Durham? What are we doing?" Taylor Bullock said. "We are not the progressive city that we have claimed to be. And we're doing it on the backs of Black and brown children and it's not right."

On Thursday, the BOE and representatives from the North Carolina Association of Educators and Durham Association of Educators will be meeting to discuss steps on how best to move forward.

Schools will operate on a normal schedule Wednesday, DPS said last Tuesday night.