DURHAM, NC (WTVD) -- Facing the prospect of 39 percent of its teaching staff taking a districtwide "personal day" on May 16, the Durham School Board scrambled to debate whether to close all 53 schools that day.
Minutes before the school board meeting began, teachers from the Durham Association of Educators rallied on the steps of DPS headquarters calling on district leaders to cancel classes to mitigate the fallout from their planned protest at the General Assembly in Raleigh when lawmakers reconvene for the legislative short session.
Nearly 800 Durham teachers have pledged not to come to work May 16 and instead travel to the Raleigh to lobby the legislature for what they say are desperately needed new state dollars for an underfunded Durham school system.
There are 2,393 teachers in the Durham public school system.
"The decline in per pupil spending and the decrease in our salaries and our incredibly horrible health care," said Turquoise Lejeune Parker, a second-grade teacher at Eastway Elementary School.
Durham's school board told the teachers they were sympathetic and supportive of the spirit of their call to action. But they would not agree to vote to shut down schools on May 16; not without a contingency plan for the families in need of child care, the thousands of children who count on free or reduced breakfast and lunch, and the hundreds of high schoolers scheduled to take Advanced Placement exams that day.
In the end, the board voted 5 to 2 to force school administrators to devise a contingency plan. They have a week to do it. The board will take up the matter once more when it meets on May 3.
The teachers are not giving up.
"We're going to keep organizing," said DAE President Brian Proffitt. "We got 791 (teachers) to make this commitment in the last two weeks, we'll get more."
800 Durham teachers are taking day off to fight for more funding. What about school?