Auster, principal of the Durham School of Arts, tears supporters and critics

Tensions increased at Durham’s school board on Thursday night. The board has not renewed the principal’s contractt.

Earlier this week, David Hawks, principal of the Durham School of the Arts, notified PTSA that his 14 years at the Magnet School of Visual and Performing Arts will end on June 30th.

Occupying about three blocks on North Duke Street near downtown, the school has about 1,750 students in grades 6-12.

Over 30 people signed up to speak during Thursday’s public comment period, which lasted nearly an hour.

DSA teacher Matthew Thompson said the staff sobbed “for days” and thanked the Hawks for their leadership.

He paid particular attention to how the Hawks ensured access to technology for DSA students and staff during the pandemic.

He also pointed out the Hawks’ guidance in the deadly 2019 gas explosion Go down the street from school.

Another DSA teacher, Anthony Amos, told the school board, “I’m worried that you made a serious mistake.

Up-and-coming Elizabeth Clamling said the school prospered with the support of the Hawks art.

“He was there for us, but I was disappointed that you took him away,” she said.

Others expressed similar views and urged the board to reconsider their decisions.

Others tell another story

Ronda Taylor Brock, a former DPS teacher and now chair of the Durham Black Affairs Committee, said there was no doubt about the success stories shared by families and educators.

However, she said, the experiences of black and brown students and students with disabilities are different.

“If you don’t know, that’s because you don’t want to know. You were under a rock,” said Taylor Brock.

Rev. Fatimah Salleh, who transferred her two sons from DSA, said it was possible to hold multiple truths at once about the success of the school and the traumatic experience of some students.

“Mr. Hawks’ success doesn’t have to sacrifice a brown or black body,” she cried at the meeting. “No, it’s.”

Jay Rahim, who graduated from DSA last week, said he was upset to hear white students, teachers and parents praise the Hawks’ success on a quantitative scale.

“It’s as if our story, our experience doesn’t mean anything,” Rahim said in a post-meeting interview.

Hawks said the board’s decision was made not to offer him another contract, even though director Pascal Hubenga recommended that he continue at school.

DSA’s parent, Cathi Sanders, said the school board needs to be transparent about its decisions in order to reach the root of the DSA’s racial equality problem.

Sanders said there was a disconnect between school district-level leadership and what was happening at school-level.

“What’s the process? As we at PTSA, we on the school improvement team, people at these levels involved in the school, haven’t heard about these things,” she said.

At this time, DPS spokesman Chip Sadders said the board will not comment further on personnel issues.

This story will be updated with more information than it is today. Please come back for a more detailed report.

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