A new superintendent has the stated objective of keeping students in school and out of trouble. According to Bert L’Homme newly installed as Durham Public Schools superintendent, raising standards includes lowering suspensions and dropout rates, while improving student achievement.
L’Homme is succeeding Eric Becoats Jr. Last year Becoats resigned after the school board voted not to extend his contract when it expired in 2016. L’Homme’s contract runs through June 30 2018.
His previous experience includes being superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Washington. He has served as interim chief operating officer, director of education policy and coordinator of the Cradle to Prison Pipeline Campaign for Marian Wright Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund.
One of L’Homme’s main goals is breaking the school-to-prison pipeline. The phrase was coined by activists to describe what they view as a pattern of pushing disadvantaged students to leave school and into the criminal justice system.
“That is probably the goal that is closest to my heart,” L’Homme said. “There is no need for that many men – talented, smart men – to end up in prison.
“We have to make sure we have schools and curriculum that engages in their learning so that they can have the hope of doing something better than they are doing today,” he continued. “Only that will prevent them from choosing other paths.”
The Durham Public Schools district has 33,400 students in 56 schools and faces increasing challenges from private and charter schools.
“The goal is for every student who walks across the stage at graduation (to be) prepared to follow their dream,” L’Homme said. “No student should ever have to settle for less.”
L’Homme said achieving that goal will not be easy but that the district has the necessary tools.
“We have a community that will make it happen,” he said.