Bert L'Homme has been chosen as Durham Public Schools' next superintendent after a six-month search by the DPS Board of Education.
L'Homme currently serves as superintendent of Catholic Schools at the Archdiocese of Washington. He will replace Eric Becoats, who resigned from the position last December amid criticism for misusing his school district-issued credit card. Colleagues noted that L'Homme brings a valuable perspective to the job, stemming from his experience in both the public and private sectors of education.
"Students are now expected to perform higher than they were yesterday, and that’s where the work has happened," L'Homme said. "DPS as a community of educators needs to focus on these areas, and if we are successful, preparation for college and adult life will come naturally."
The job will not be L'Homme's first in the region—prior to his current position, he had served as the assistant superintendent of instructional services for DPS and as the superintendent for neighboring Franklin County Public Schools. He has also worked as a special education teacher and as an elementary school principal.
"I know the Durham parents and I know what they dream for their children. Knowing that they are as determined as I am to teach them is a huge help. No matter where the children are, they need the skills to be successful in life," said L'Homme.
Among his many goals, L'Homme said that early childhood literacy was the most important.
"In order to excel in a number of other subjects, they need to know how to read, said L'Homme. "[The children] have to start early. Early literacy is critically important. None of the other skills are possible if this isn’t met."
Alongside literacy, math will also be a strong area of focus for L'Homme. Strengthening these core concepts can lead to an increase in a student's preparation for the future, he added.
Tom Burnford, secretary for education for the Archdiocese of Washington, noted that L'Homme's skill set transcends the difference between public and private schooling.
"[L'Homme] was a tremendous leader and brings experience, professionalism and at the same time a passion towards the student," Burnford said.
L'Homme's contract is worth $225,000 a year and begins July 14, lasting through June 2018. He noted that one of the unique aspects of public school leadership is the breadth of responsibility he now has.
"The biggest shift [from private school to public school], and the one that I look forward to, is that no matter who comes to the front door, we’re responsible for their education," L'Homme said. "The responsibility is enormous. Durham parents can expect to bring their children to schools in their neighborhood and have them receive world-class education."
Mary Jones, a Durham resident and parent of students attending a DPS elementary school, said she is looking forward to the new superintendent.
"I've met with him previously at school meetings, and he seems kind, focused and determined to bring our students world-class education," she said.