Pascal Mubenga is the new superintendent for Durham Public Schools. Staff writer Rachel McKinney talked with Mubenga about his thoughts on the new job and what Durham residents can expect.
Daily Tar Heel: What previous experience do you have in public school systems and public education?
Pascal Mubenga: I’ll start with my most recent one. I was in Franklin County Schools as superintendent for about two years and three months. I did some great work over there, out of 16 schools they had seven low-performing schools. We were able to do some great work and reduce it to one low-performing school in two years. (I have a) great relationship with the board members and commissioners, as well as making sure to communicate and that pretty much everyone was on board, fixing those schools. I just had a great experience with Franklin County Schools.
DTH: What kind of tactics do you use to help low-performing schools become high-performing schools?
PM: I think it’s in the relationships. Good leaders always make sure that you monopolize all stakeholders. When you are turning around schools you got to make sure that you have good staff that hold your vision, that’s how you make it happen. It’s the people.
DTH: What goals do you have as the new superintendent?
PM: Durham Public Schools has great things that they have done in the past and my charge for the three months is pretty much how to learn more. I’m not going to establish specific goals until I learn what is happening in Durham Public Schools, but there are a lot of things that I have been able to reach already and there is some data that I have been able to view, there are a lot of accomplishments that have been done in the past for Durham Public Schools.
DTH: Do you anticipate facing any challenges and how will you combat them?
PM: I think the challenge is pretty much going to be trying to bring everyone on board toward one vision. I think that is the hardest part I’m going to face. If I can succeed in doing that, I think we are going to have some amazing work for Durham Public Schools. Just be able to bring everyone together to look to one vision.
DTH: What strengths do you possess — what can you bring to Durham Public Schools?
PM: People skills. I know how to navigate, I know how to reach people of different gender and demographics. I’m just good at knowing how to get to people. That’s my strength. I’m going to make sure that I reach out to every facet of Durham County. When I say that, I’m talking about communities, civic organizations, and I’m also referring to politicians, staff, everybody. That’s my strength and I want to take these first 90 days to make sure that I can do that.
DTH: What exactly is your vision for Durham County Schools?
PM: I think the simple vision is going to be I want to make sure we are offering better opportunity for our young folks as we are preparing them for college and careers. That’s the ultimate goal. Give everybody opportunity to be successful in life. That’s my main mission, that’s my main goal.
DTH: Do you think there are any challenges that are specific to Durham Public Schools?
PM: Durham is so unique, it’s a pretty urban setting, and about 80 percent of the students we are serving, they are minority students from different parts of the world and that is a challenge, I am really excited to tackle that specific challenge. Not only that, but as a global person as well, I can really relate to the challenge, and that’s why I really like this job, I’ll be able to accomplish the expectation of this community.
DTH: What have you been doing so far as superintendent?
PM: I met with my cabinet on Monday afternoon, it was a great meeting, I was able to pretty much sense their frustrations and their expectations, and what they would like to see happen so they are ready for the change. I met with press yesterday, great meeting. They are hungry for the change and I think for the past three days it has been very positive.
DTH: What do think of Charter Schools and do they affect public school enrollment at all?
PM: I have 32,000 students here to focus on and making sure that they are given the opportunity to be successful in college and career. Those parents who chose to send their kids to other schools, that’s their challenge, and I’m not going to comment too much on that, I don’t really want my focus to be on the students who are not in our district. I have other students who I need to give opportunity to, and that is my challenge.
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