No raise, no contract extension for Durham schools' Becoats

jalexander@newsobserver.comNovember 25, 2013 

— Durham Public Schools will pull its remaining credit cards in light of concerns that contributed to the superintendent’s contract not being extended.

At a meeting last week, school board members voted to not give Superintendent Eric Becoats a raise and to not extend his $215,848.56 contract, which runs through June 2016. The superintendent is evaluated annually.

School board Chairwoman Heidi Carter said the board acted unanimously but would not explain its votes. “We just didn’t extend (the contract) beyond that date,” she said.

Vice Chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown said she still believes in Becoats.

“I don’t have any misgivings about his ability to lead,” she said. “I think Dr. Becoats has done a great job.”

Graduation rates are up, and the district is bringing back students who have dropped out of school, Forte-Brown said.

But, she added, “I can’t speak to other board members’ opinions.”

Efforts to reach Becoats for comment Monday were unsuccessful.

Credit-card spending

The superintendent came under fire in October after spending $20,157.86 on his district-issued credit card from July 2012 to June 2013 for out-of-state conferences, dinners and lunches with colleagues, economy-class air travel, hotels, room service, limousines from the airport, meetings, workshop supplies, flowers for recognition of employee achievements and gifts to a host family in Mexico.

Becoats' credit card was one of four district-issued cards. There had been no official policy outlining the use of the credit cards.

The school board canceled his credit card last month and on Monday decided to discontinue the other cards and tighten rules on travel reimbursement and spending.

Becoats was reprimanded by the school board in July after hiring a school activity bus and driver in June to take friends and family members to private events, including a trip to The Streets at Southpoint mall. Becoats paid $726.80 for the services, according to an invoice. The contents of the reprimand were not released to the public, but Becoats was not suspended.

Becoats, a Baltimore native, was one of three finalists in April for a superintendent position for Prince George’s County Schools in Maryland. He later withdrew his name from consideration after saying at a town hall meeting there that he would commit to four years if hired. He did not say why he withdrew his name.

Alexander: 919-932-2008; Twitter: @jonmalexander1

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