‘It’s hard’: Durham parents bracing for another week of woes as walkouts continue | Durham Public Schools

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) — Parents in Durham are preparing for another week of possible turmoil as an ongoing pay dispute between DPS employees and the district enters a second week.

That dispute — caused by accidental overpayments and new criteria for what qualifies as work experience for DPS employees — has led to widespread walkouts, leaving schools understaffed and parents searching for answers.

“A lot of parents are struggling because we don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Emily Coleman, the mother of two students at Mangum Elementary. Emily confirmed to ABC11 that the district sent her a message Sunday referring her to the parent portal app for updates on busing on Monday.

Emily says the whole ordeal’s been confusing and deflating for district parents, but says she’s been spared from the worst because her kids’ bus driver, Crystal Freeman, has continued to show up every morning. She said that gesture moved her to tears last week.

“The fact that she was showing up when no one else was makes me feel like she genuinely cares,” said Emily.

But she also acknowledged the ongoing pay dispute — now entering its second week — has created more questions than answers and makes her nervous about her kids’ future.

“It’s hard, because they’ve already been through a rough time with the pandemic, and we’re just getting back from that and now we’re dealing with this,” she said.

The dispute is also creating new, unforeseen problems. ABC11 obtained a notice sent to parents of Jordan High School students by the Parent Teacher Student Association that asked for volunteers to come collect garbage because no custodians were working. DPS confirmed the communication to ABC11 Sunday night.

DPS employee Valerie McNeil calls the ordeal a mess of the district’s making.

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“A lot of people have literally quit second jobs because they thought they would be making more money,” McNeil said. “They’ve invested in homes and cars and now they don’t know how they’re going to pay for it.”

On Thursday, ABC11 met McNeil, a 14-year DPS employee currently living out of her car due to financial woes she attributes to changes in her check. DPS has not yet responded to our questions about Valerie.

On Sunday, we reconnected with the instructional assistant ahead of Monday’s DPS meeting. She said she’s not optimistic.

“To go to the people who have done this to you and get no resolve, I’m not expecting anything, honestly,” McNeil said.

The DPS Board of Education will hold a special board meeting on Monday morning at 8 a.m. to discuss the salary overpayment issue. The session will be closed to the public and media.

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