DPS board could ask commissioners for $13 million to save teacher jobs, wants to cut own stipends to set example | News

DPS board could ask commissioners for $13 million to save teacher jobs, wants to cut own stipends to set example

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Click to visit DPS budget website
  • Click to visit Durham Public Schools budget website

For more budget documents, view the Durham Public Schools budget website.

Several members of the Durham school board made it clear Thursday night they saw fit to “share in the spirit of sacrifice” when it comes to the heavy budget cuts and even layoffs that might be looming as they consider next year’s budget, taking on cuts to their own stipends and other gestures of good faith.

The board heard public comments, then decided on five matters to that will help solidify the budget package, and inevitable cuts, they’ll send to county officials next week.

First and foremost, the board approved the cuts of 24 line items (see page 34, 2010 draft budget, PDF) recommended by Interim Superintendent Hank Hurd that trim about $8.3 million from the budget.

The cuts include the elimination of 60 positions in the central services division, a section that includes everything from bus drivers to administrators. The cuts also trim the district’s software portfolio, reduce coaching stipends and eliminate stipends for teachers who take on extra duties at school, such as advising the school newspaper.

Among the other ideas the board agreed on: the possibility they’ll ask county commissioners for $13 million in additional local funding that could help restore the 237 teaching jobs that are on the chopping block due to state and county budget gaps, as well as asking the county commissioners to cut the board members’ stipends by $300 a month, which would give them $500 a month ($550 for board Chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown).

Board members considered also asking the district’s top eight executives (several of whom were sitting in the meeting) to take voluntary pay cuts, but that motion was shot down 3-4, with board members Omega Curtis-Parker, Fredrick Davis, Forte-Brown and Steve Martin voting in opposition.

“I am opposed to making such a request,” said Curtis-Parker, who was re-elected this week to a second four-year term. “I think it’s unfair. These people’s salaries are—their living expenses are based on their salaries.”

The board also voted 5-2 that as the school district renews contracts with those top executives in the coming year, the language of those contracts be changed to offer cost-of-living raises based on performance and travel allowances to be removed in favor of expense reimbursements for business costs like travel mileage. (Davis and Curtis-Parker opposed this change.)

Thursday’s meeting was a work session, and so all of the ideas proposed and approved by vote still could change the board’s next meeting on May 13, Forte-Brown cautioned. The board doesn’t make any final approvals until that day, and then changes may be made again once the budget goes the county.

But from the discussion, it appeared most members of the board heeded the advice of community organizer Sendolo Diaminah, who advised the board during Thursday’s public hearing to be “ferocious.”

“There’s a big difference in not knowing what to do, and not having a fire and energy to make sure that something happens,” Diaminah said. “There’s a ferocity in how you approach this budget. In every step, in every public statement, you’re stepping up and saying, ‘This is not going to happen.’”

Diaminah was one of 28 people who signed up to speak. Among them, teachers shared the struggles their students would face with larger class sizes and diminishing resources. Many urged the board to submit a fully funded budget to the county, asking for that extra $13 million in local funding so that 237 teacher jobs may be saved.

Lowe’s Grove Middle School Principal Kathy Kirkpatrick also suggested the board consider one-percent cuts to supplemental pay the district gives executives, principals and teachers.

“It’s very hard to cut salaries, but it’s even harder to cut people’s positions,” Kirkpatrick said.

School budget experts told the board they could crunch the numbers on how much cuts to these supplements would save. They will share those results at next week’s meeting.

Also among other notable comments brought forward from the public: Kristy Moore, president of the Durham Association of Educators, promoted a march on the county building at 4 p.m. on May 21, beginning at the Durham schools’ headquarters at 511 Cleveland St.

Page McCullough, a member of the Durham People’s Alliance, told board members that that if they took on monetary sacrifices themselves, that the People’s Alliance would lobby the county for a tax increase to support the schools.

What’s next: The school board will meet again on Thursday, May 13 to adopt a proposed budget, which must be sent to county commissioners by May 15. After that, Durham county commissioners will meet in a work session with Durham Public Schools to hash out the budget. The county will adopt its final budget in June.

View a budget timeline at the DPS website >>

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