Feb 8, 2024 - News

Durham Public Schools employees will keep pay raises for one more month

Illustration of an eaten apple with a skin made of a dollar bill

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Durham Public Schools' Board of Education is buying itself more time to solve a wage dispute — but will still be forced to close its schools on Friday as it contends with an "overwhelming number of staff absences."

Why it matters: If DPS had not agreed to a stop gap solution at its Thursday meeting, classified workers were set to see their salaries revert to pre-raise levels in their February paychecks.

  • The school board said it will reconsider its options at its Feb. 22 meeting.

Driving the news: The school system will tap into its financial reserves to keep pay for classified workers untouched for one more month.

  • It's a move the board hopes will calm unrest as it tries to find a long-term solution to overpaying more than a thousand workers due to internal errors.
  • Of note: The Durham Association of Educators, a labor union for school workers, said in an Instagram post that it did not call for a protest on Friday and that it did "not know why district administration has decided to close schools for students."

Catch up quick: The Durham school system has been in disarray since January, when it told its classified workers — a group of around 1,300 people that includes cafeteria workers, nurses and therapists but not teachers and bus drivers — that salary raises that had been given in October were in error and needed to be eliminated.

  • The move angered workers — who had made life choices around the pay increase — and led to schools being closed after worker walk outs and threats of widespread quitting.
  • Both DPS' superintendent and chief financial officer resigned in response to the crisis.

What happened: In an internal report released Wednesday — the first actual accounting of what led to the pay error — the DPS board revealed that its chief financial officer knew since last February that the $10.8 million allocated for pay raises was not enough if they were based on total years of service.

  • However, CFO Paul LeSieur, who resigned last month, did not communicate that to the board that the raises would actually cost around $20 million.
  • The board approved the raises in October without knowing that information.
  • DPS superintendent Pascal Mubenga discovered the error a month later, but then did not communicate that DPS could not afford the raises until January.

State of play: At the Thursday meeting, DPS also appointed Catty Quiroz Moore, previously the superintendent for Wake County Public School System, as its interim superintendent to replace Mubenga.

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