It's official: new superintendent announcement tonight
15-501, get ready to get your chain restaurants on

WTVD: Greensboro's Eric Becoats the new superintendent

Eric_becoats WTVD ABC 11 is reporting that Eric Becoats is the new Durham Public Schools superintendent selectee, replacing Carl Harris in the role.

Becoats is currently the chief administrative officer in the Guilford County (Greensboro) system, and has told press outlets in the past of his desire to become an urban superintendent. The Greensboro N&R reports he had previously been a finalist for the St. Louis superintendent job.

From our far-less reportage -- Becoats resembles to a tee the candidate we spotted while hanging out in the Millenium Hotel lobby, the one who was whisked away by a nervous-looking DPS official a few months ago. So, there's, er, that.

If it's true, one thing's for sure: Becoats may set a record for drawing at least one resident's flak before his appointment, if he is to so be designated. 

Former school board member Jackie Wagstaff remarked to us and to school board candidate Christine Baker that Becoats had a spotty track record from his time in Charlotte -- including accusations of conducting personal business on government time, a charge related to the accusation of resale of Char-Meck school data through a consulting business he ran.

(For the record, not everyone saw the matter as one in which there was a conflict of interest, but the N&R reports that Becoats did resign from CMS in 2004 after the matter, and that he's been in Greensboro since.)

More as we've got it. Right now, the meeting room at Fuller is filled with the media, elected officials, and school board candidates, with everyone waiting to see the outcome of tonight's discussion.

Comments

Concerned Durham Voter

This is crazy! It took me 10 seconds to find the following quote on Google about Dr. Becoats's time in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district: "CMS has an assistant superintendent who has been caught red-handed conducting private business while on the CMS time clock, using school material for personal gain – to the tune of close to $4,000 – and lying about it to the public. For his misdeeds, Eric Becoats was suspended for one day and required to repay money that was never rightfully his to take in the first place. He was also given a written reprimand from CMS Superintendent James Pughsley."

Given the county commissioners' recent fracas over Darius Little and his legal and moral issues, you'd think the school board would be a little more discerning.

I'm also stunned that the incumbents would have the nerve to release the name of this guy less than a week away from the election. What a gift to the challengers!

El Justiciero

Eric Becoats is the best candidate the School Board could find?

1) Eric Becoats, while serving in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools was accused of making over $4,000 while using school resources for his own consulting business! He was admonished and then resigned. He was forced to return the money. What in the world is our Board thinking?

2) He's never been a teacher! He's an accountant with a doctorate in educational leadership which means absolutely nothing if you've never been in a classroom!

3)He's the Chief Administrative Officer and Co-Interim Superintendent for Guilford County Schools. That's the same county that's been dragged in front of a judge because of its low performing status. We don't need another bureaucrat to further drive our school system into the ground.

No wonder the School Board kept their search secret and hidden from the public. They were getting ready to hire the bottom of the NC barrel of possible candidates.

This is yet another reason why elections matter. If you're sick and tired of a School Board that's tone deaf to the needs of teachers and concerns of parents then it's time to vote them out! Starting with Stephen Marti, the perfect poster boy of self importance signifying nothing who thinks he's way too important to campaign and actually take the time to visit the schools.

It's time for Durham parents to send a message and elect a Board that will be open and transparent and will listen. Down with the incumbents! We need change.

Andrew

The hearings before Judge Manning have been happening for a long time and date back to the Leandro cases from the NC Supreme Court in 1997 and 2004.

They are basically progress reports to see how several districts (including Durham), have implemented changes at underperforming schools.

Guilford has actually been quite proactive in reforming underperforming schools, going so far as firing the principal and making all teachers reapply for their positions at an underperforming school.

Incidentally, Guilford also has the highest ranked public school in NC, ranked nationally at #18.

Tyler

Just out of curiosity and somewhat of a tangent: Andrew: when you talk about the "highest ranked public school in NC" which rankings are you referring to and how are they determined? The most common ranking only looks at how many AP courses are offered in a school, which I don't see as a good measurement tool.

Kevin Davis

@El Justiciero: In re your point #3, I'm hearing similar complaints on the parents listserv that formed out of the Reading Street opposition.

Just curious: wouldn't folks who are opposed to a curriculum perceived to be inflexible and to be test outcome-driven be less likely to fret about whether a school district is "low performing," since that is driven to a large extent by SES and resultant test score challenges?

I do think DPS has a PR challenge on its hands with point #1, if only because it will always be out there as Becourt establishes himself. As to point #2, I think that's likely to be a hot-button for many.

joteacher

Andrew: I guess so long as Guilford has a presumably high ranking it doesn't matter how unethical or stupid one may be.
I'd like to see all those bad teachers who were fired from that underperforming school. Where did they all come from in the first place? It's easier to fire teachers than fire poverty, that's for sure. Makes a lot of people feel better.

El Justiciero

It's very simple Andrew:

The Board and DPS have been caught in this delusion that statistics and testing patterns coupled with top down management style that suppresses the individual creativity of teacher in favor of a mandated cookie cutter model is the answer to poverty, bad parenting and misdirected resources.

Take the example of Glenn Elementary with an average of 30 kids per classroom! If you add that many of those kids have special needs, come from broken homes with barely a parent and you have a CHRONIC situation where learning is almost impossible. Firing over worked teachers or worse, taking high performing teachers from better schools to place them at a "failing" school is not the answer.

It seems to be that the Board had a chance to prove that they are not incompetent and are actually debating and struggling with these complex issues in a dynamic way.

This nomination only reinforces what many of us already knew: DPS and the Board are part of the problem and "staying the course" on the Titanic is not the way to go.

Tina

The one think I find the most troubling is that Dr. Kirsten Kainz (the only board member who holds a Ph.D in education AND conducts research on literacy for children who are at risk) voted against Becoats. The ONE school board member who has the most credentials to determine what our children need did not want Becoats as our superintendent.

I really want to hear Dr. Kainz side of the story. I hope she feels she can tell it.


Michael Oehler

@Tina,

I agree with you. I, too, really hope she shares her reasoning behind her dissenting vote... BEFORE the elections... not that I see much choice... but that is another issue.

@El Justiciero,

I almost agree with you on this one; however, I don't want this to be an indictment against Dr. Becoats. I don't know much about him, and from what is available online, I don't think I can learn too much about him. I guess I'll give him the benefit of the doubt until I see him in action.

However, I agree with you 100% that this process stunk.
1) The whole "we must do this in secret so that people will apply" thing? What about the hiring of a Police Chief? What about the hiring of the City Manager? Didn't we have somewhat of a public search for these positions?

2) The fact that a NATIONAL search turned up a guy in Greensboro who has NEVER been a teacher and has at least one very public reprimand on his record is simply startling. This is the DPS struggle in a nutshell. Advocates of closing schools and firing teachers take note-- Dr. Becoats was being paid almost six figures by the CMS and whatever he did was enough to deserve a public reprimand... supposedly over $4000. They couldn't FIRE him. The leader of the teachers, but they want to FIRE the teachers? If he made an honest mistake at a 90,000 a year salary $90,000 a year? A guy making $90,000 a year has a private consulting company making $4000? Are you serious?

3) Imagine if the Generals at the Pentagon had never served in the military leading patrols? Would we hire a guy who never served in the military to lead our troops into battle? Why is it a good idea to hire a leader of teachers who has never been one? Simply stunning... but not suprising, given the current educational climate in DPS.

Well, there certainly is never a dull day for DPS.

Michael Oehler
www.supportdurhamschools.blogspot.com

Rob Gillespie

@Michael-
The last City Manager search did have a public search. Unfortunately, no one on the Council and in the Dept Manager positions liked the candidates we had to choose from. So, the city did a second round of recruitment, this time in private, and we got TomBon. So far, he's been an excellent city manager.

There is nothing that prevents a private search from yielding a good employee. Of course, when the search lacks outside input, then you really need to trust the folks doing the picking. These are elected officials. If you don't like them, then you can go ahead and get rid of them at early voting now.

T

What I find interesting is that the e-mail announcement today to school system employees says the board unanimously approved the decision, which seems to be a false statement, unless I am missing some subtle semantics.

El Justiciero

Michael,

Yes. I agree with you, Eric Becoats should be given a chance. I am merely raising the kind of red flags that any reasonable parent should. As you know, if the Board had conducted the search in a open and transparent way - the way we did for our Police Chief (!) then I wouldn't be here typing away my dismay at the choice. If the Board conducted its business in a open way and listened, yes truly listened to their critics I wouldn't be forced to shout from the rooftops.

We have to give Eric Becoats a chance. Sure. I just want to make sure he knows that there is a great many deal of parents who believe that staying the course is suicidal. Since he is now beholden to a Board that apparently want to ram our school district into an iceberg, I can't say I'm happy to just sit down and wait for that happen.

El Justiciero

@Bull City Rising,

Yes. I am aware of the contradiction of, on the one hand criticizing the way "performance" is measured and on the other turn around and use that argument against someone. I mean, when my daughter scores well in a test, I pay attention because unfortunately she is embedded in a culture that promotes a very narrow and small minded conception of "success". So, yes, I take your point seriously.

Nonetheless, my intention is to say: look, even by your standards it's not a pretty sight. So, let's add other ways of measuring success. Does the school have quiet hallways where children respect each other? Does it have a community garden? A strong PTA?

DPS has forgotten the meaning of "qualitative" data... they've been sold the snake oil of data graphics and expensive number crunchers like David Sneed - who, as you know, has quit DPS and started his own consulting firm and has received a lucrative DPS contract. I mean, can we get more Banana Republic? I'm afraid we can.

JAP

On a MUCH lighter note:

I just invited Dr. Becoats to our school carnival which is this Saturday from 3-6. His office responded quickly and graciously declined for him due to a prior engagement.

Oh, Well. Everyone else is invited and encouraged to attend The Club Boulevard Humanities Magnet School MANATEE MAYFAIR. We are raising $$ for teacher grants and program enhancements .25 at a time. Saturday is going to be a beautiful day and we make this a very special carnival event with games, cakewalk, maypole, dunking booth, hula hooping, crafts, klezmer accordion player -Phil Blank, pretty balloons and banners and FOOD. We have the Indian/Mexican red food bus as well as a hot dog stand and locopops.

School board candidate Natalie Beyer will be there helping the kids toss ping pong balls to win a fish.

Justin B Clark

A public search would automatically disqualify a number of qualified candidates who currently hold superintendent positions, in that if they don't get the job they don't want their home districts knowing that they were looking to leave and actually interviewed for another job. Theres a reason that the public search for the city manager went to crap and didn't bring us Tom.

Yes, Mr. Beacoats past is troubling. But the point of the matter is, 6 arguably intelligent people whom we elected to represent us feel that he is the best man to lead Durham Public Schools. I would hope that the public would give him a chance. If he is the crook that he is accused of being, we can take steps to correct it and end his time with DPS as well as making sure to oust those who put him in place. But lets be slow to gather the pitchforks and torches and give the man a chance to breathe.

El Justiciero

I believe that Justin Clark misses the point of many of these posts. There is nothing to indicate in the choice of this candidate that the Board is willing to make bold new creative decisions as to the direction our schools should go into.
Nobody is calling Mr. Beacoats a "crook", I am calling the Board "incompetent" and "narrow minded", "mediocre" and every other term that best describes a a group of people steering a car over a cliff. Unfortunately, that car is filled with children.

Ultimately, this is not about Beacoats. This is about policy.

Derek

I hope that Becoats is better than he appears. Anybody wonder if this is the BEST we could do because the better candidates are not interested in coming here? As a parent of kids approaching DPS, I hope not.

Edusane

Watch your pennies Durham! This man plays the race card like a Las Vegas poker pro (which you will see when he tries to bring his cronies, and only works for certain school children.) Have fun with his ex wife- the most hated employee of GCS...and exactly why did they get a divorce????

JC

I personally know one of the candidates who was in the final pool, and that person would have changed public education in Durham for the better. I do not know anything about Becoats and will reserve judgement, but I have to say this is not inspiring. The last thing DPS needs is a career bureaucrat who left CMS amid scandal just as a terrific administration was being installed. Hopefully Becoats will prove to be a courageous leader willing to put thoughtful principals and administrators in positions of authority with power and responsibility, and hold those same accountable. We will soon see.

From what I understand about the board's process, it must end up unanimous, but I also know firsthand that the positions of the board members was very much polarized. So that means that someone must have given in. I do not who were Becoats main supporters, but I think we all probably have a pretty good guess how it fell out. Certain board members certainly gave in and now we're left with this person. I imagine that the announcement was very much intentional in timing, and those who championed Becoats feel that this announcement strengthens their chances for reelection.

Khalid

@ Rob G. - I agree that a private process can work. We did vote for these people for a reason.

Sometimes Durham in its efforts to be active in the process can be become a hindrance. If we have to micromanage our Council and/or Boards then we should elect some new people.

There should be transparency but some situations such as executive searches almost require some privacy to protect potential candidates. How many people tell their boss that they are looking for a job? Especially right now...It would make it easier for your boss to add you to the 10% unemployment numbers.

El Justiciero

Those who trumpet the virtues of a secret search miss one major point:

If a candidate is good - great - as in indispensable - then he or she has nothing to worry about - and actually may wind up playing the search a means to get a better contract with their current employer. On the other hand if a candidate is the type that would wind up in the 10% unemployed - then Durham doesn't need him or her.

We're not micromanaging the Board - it's called civic oversight - the third leg in the stool of society.

I'll say it once again: OUR POLICE CHIEF SEARCH WAS PUBLIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kevin Davis

@EJ: Yes, but our City Manager search was not. I think you may be oversimplifying this one. A public search is not always superior to a private one.  Which is not to say that this search was better as a private one.  But I am 100% convinced we have a better City Manager thanks to a closed search.  Then again -- my trust level in that elected body (City Council) is stronger too.

El Justiciero

@ Bull City Rising - OK, I'll give you the City Manager search. In that case a private search was probably the best path. But, here we are talking about a different type of administrator. We need someone who is going to be (one would hope) directly engaged with the community. So, it demands that the community have a say in the process. I attended the only meeting DPS had with the community and the number one demand from all those gathered was the we wanted a candidate who would bring the community together. To me, right now, it does not look like Becoats is that kind of candidate. A believe a public search would have yielded a different candidate. Only time will tell - but for now - I am can't say I'm jumping for joy!

One Teacher

Yet another slap in the face for educators...

Broad and others want to make schools a business.
Are we doing well in business?
Now school kids are widgets...

Let's stress out kids with test so bullies will not matter because their self-concept will be shot already. Two birds and one stone. How productive is that? Go productivity. Somebody make a progress chart. How many lost kids can we calculate? Fewer kids will save us money! Schools will be productive! We will shine and get a federal grant to pay for useless positions!

The best teachers in Durham ponder how much more robbing of their souls they can stand. Or is the correct term embezzlement?

How many shoes can continue to drop? 12+ hour days. Thousands of our own dollars to make our classroom run. Cuts that only teachers can understand. Children no longer get services and as a result...

It is called Public Education.
Wake up Durham.
Wake up Wake.

Vote for our children. All of our children!

John John

Becoats has never taught, never been an assistant principal and never been a principal. Therefore, how can he lead when he has never followed. He can not relate to any teacher or building level administrator. Add the fact that he has worked with Terri Mozingo and you will find that she will be running the academics into the ground and he'll make sure the budget stays in the "black" as a finance guy. This is about money. He is not an instructional leader. He is a coroporate CEO businessman. He has been brought in to rescue DPS during this tough financial crisis they are facing. As soon as they get a large enough reserve, he'll be popular for doing so and he will make his tenure throughout the state of North Carolina rescueing school districts who are in financial trouble. Don't you just love politics?

Edusane

He was FIRED for lying about finances. He's even worse with the district's money. If Durham hired him as a "finance guy", y'all are worse off than I first thought.....

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