Durham Public Schools Superintendent Pascal Mubenga resigns following weeks of protests over pay cuts

Former Durham Public Schools Superintendent Pascal Mubenga. Courtesy of Durham Public Schools.
Former Durham Public Schools Superintendent Pascal Mubenga. Courtesy of Durham Public Schools.

The Durham Public Schools Board of Education announced Wednesday evening that Superintendent Pascal Mubenga submitted his resignation after weeks of demonstrations by DPS teachers, staff, parents and concerned community members.

The board appointed DPS Deputy Superintendent Nicholas King to assume Mubenga’s duties temporarily until an interim superintendent can be appointed.

Held at the Fuller Administration Building at 511 Cleveland Street, the meeting was scheduled Monday as a special session to address attorney-client privilege and confidential personnel information.

The controversy began when the school district withdrew raises for classified workers upon finding that it accidentally overpaid its workers due to an accounting error. 

The staff shortages from ensuing protests forced several DPS buses to cease operations, as well as the closure of 12 schools on Jan. 31 and seven schools on Feb. 6 after teachers called out of work in solidarity with classified workers. 

Board chair Bettina Umstead delivered the board’s statement following a 3-hour-long closed session. The statement was also delivered in Spanish by board member Alexandra Valladares.

The Board also announced the release of a comprehensive internal review of the errors that led to the pay raises. 

“It will show that implementation of these pay raises was poorly managed and [will] shine the light on two serious issues. There is a lack of clarity and a failure of communication from the finance officer about the true cost of the proposed changes to the salary schedule,” Umstead said.

“The finance officer knew in February 2023 that the cost of pay raises could rise from 10 million to 20 million based on how years of service were calculated,” Umstead said.

Umstead revealed that Mubenga was aware of the inconsistencies on Nov. 8, when he communicated with HIL Consulting, the firm that conducted the salary study, to address the issue.

Mubenga informed the rest of the board about the errors on Jan. 11, the day before DPS staff were informed that their salaries would be revoked.

“When we first initiated this process, our goal was clear — to increase pay for our classified employees, our classified educators — and we remain committed to achieving that goal,” Umstead said. “We understand that our employees need clarity and certainty around their pay moving forward, and we’re working diligently to provide that.”

Umstead expressed the Board’s gratitude for Mubenga’s seven years of service, during which time DPS established the first multilingual resource center in North Carolina and was recognized for its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. During the 2022-23 school year, 88.2% of DPS schools met or exceeded their test score growth goals.

She noted other accomplishments for the district under Mubenga’s leadership, such as its recognition by the N.C. DPI Office of Advanced Learned and Gifted Education for progress on broadening student access and participation in the AP program and partnering with Duke Health and Durham Technical Community College to open a health and science early college in 2025 with funding from a Bloomberg Philanthropies grant.

“At the end of the day, everything we do is focused on our students and how we can best support them,” Umstead said. “That requires our schools to be open and for those to be places where they can learn and thrive.”

The Board will explore potential options for addressing the salary crisis at its Thursday meeting, which will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the Minnie Forte-Brown Staff Development Center at 2107 Hillandale Road.

The Board also announced that a meeting has been scheduled for next week with the Durham Association of Educators, the teachers union that has been the driving force behind recent protests, to “ensure our schools remain places where igniting the limitless potential continues to be possible.”

Zoe Kolenovsky profile
Zoe Kolenovsky | News Editor

Zoe Kolenovsky is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 120th volume.


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