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Friday Forward News Roundup

Durham Public Schools Superintendent Pascal Mubenga Resigns Amid Ongoing Pay Dispute

Durham Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Pascal Mubenga announced he is resigning. Mubenga's resignation comes two weeks after DPS' Chief Financial Officer Paul LeSieur resigned amid a pay dispute. The dispute started after DPS notified some employees that they had been overpaid due to an accounting error. The school board said it agreed to pay Dr. Mubenga a severance payment of $297,759 and other deductions which was determined by the Interim Finance Officer. (ABC 11)

Durham School Workers Get Higher Pay For One More Month

Durham Public Schools classified staff will keep the higher salaries that they were promised last year for the month of February, but there’s still no decision on what will happen the rest of the academic year. Interim Finance Director Cierra Ojijo has said each month of pay at those higher salaries adds $700,000 to the budget. The board already voted last month to spend $4.5 million of the district’s reserves to pay the higher salaries through Jan. 31, which board member Natalie Beyer said was a concerning decision. The district’s reserve fund now sits at $6.4 million, which is below the $12.7 million that Human Resources Director Alvera Lesane has said is recommended. (News & Observer)

All Durham Public Schools Closed Friday

Durham Public Schools has canceled all classes Friday due to an overwhelming number of staff absences. The decision to close school was announced as the school board debated how to handle classified workers’ pay this school year. Board Chair Bettina Umstead acknowledged that families rely on transportation but said the lack of staff created a safety issue. Educators have been protesting for weeks. Strikes have scrambled bus routes and closed a total of 19 schools over two days after staff called in sick to picket outside the DPS administration building. (News & Observer)

Appeals Court to Hold Oral Arguments in State Senate Redistricting Dispute

The 4th US Circult Court of Appeals will hold oral arguments February 15 in a legal dispute over North Carolina's new state Senate election map. That's the same date plaintiffs in the case had requested an injunction from the 4th Circuit. Critics hope to block at least two Senate districts in northeastern North Carolina. Republican state legislative leaders have defended the Senate map against charges of racial gerrymandering. Gov. Roy Cooper and state Attorney General Josh Stein, both Democrats, filed court documents supporting the map's critics. (Carolina Journal)

About 1,000 North Carolinians Enroll in Expanded Medicaid per Day

About 1,000 people enroll each day in government health insurance under Medicaid expansion, secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services Kody Kinsley told legislators. Nearly 349,000 of the estimated 600,000 people who are eligible for health insurance under Medicaid expansion have come on since the December 1 launch. The day expanded Medicaid launched, nearly 273,000 people were automatically enrolled. These were beneficiaries of family planning Medicaid. (NC Newsline)

Special Counsel's Report Expresses Concerns About Biden's Memory, Concluded No Criminal Charges Over Classified Documents

A special counsel report released Thursday found evidence that President Joe Biden willfully retained and shared highly classified information when he was a private citizen, including about military and foreign policy in Afghanistan, but concluded that criminal charges were not warranted. However, special counsel Robert Hur expressed concerns about the President's memory as “faulty,” “poor" and having “significant limitations.” The investigation into Biden is separate from special counsel Jack Smith’s inquiry into the handling of classified documents by Trump after Trump left the White House. Smith’s team has charged Trump with illegally retaining top secret records at his Mar-a-Lago home and then obstructing government efforts to get them back. Trump has said he did nothing wrong. Hur, in his report, said there were “several material distinctions” between the Trump and Biden cases, noting that Trump refused to return classified documents to the government and allegedly obstructed the investigation, while Biden willfully handed them over. (WRAL)

New Polling Suggest Trump is Likely to Win North Carolina, But Biden May Have A Chance

Recent North Carolina polling continues to give Donald Trump the edge over Joe Biden. New Meredith College Poll has Trump with a five-point advantage. However, Moody’s Analytics has Biden winning NC by three-tenths of a percentage point if both men appear on the fall ballot. (CBS 17)

North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Says No to Industry Plan to Double Rates at Coast

Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey has denied an industry request to raise homeowners' insurance premiums by an average of 42%. The average increases sought by the bureau range from just over 4% in parts of the mountains to 99% in the beach areas within Brunswick, Carteret, New Hanover, Onslow and Pender counties. Proposed increases in the state's largest cities in the Piedmont were roughly 40%. (WCNC)

Asheville, Buncombe Share Initial Recommendations for a Low-Barrier Homeless Shelter

Lacy Hoyle, the county’s Homeless Program Manager, shared the shelter planning team’s latest recommendations with the Homelessness Initiative Advisory Committee (HIAC). The total cost of the project, funding sources and a timeframe are currently unknown. Prior attempts to create a shelter failed after the city said the $24 million renovation project was too costly. The initial recommendations for the shelter are based on the projected number of unhoused and unsheltered residents in the Asheville area, which is expected to reach 212 by 2030. The shelter is part of the city and county’s larger goal of reducing unsheltered homelessness by 50% in the next two years. As proposed, the shelter would be around 50,000 square feet, with 100 non-congregate (private and enclosed) bedrooms and 50 additional congregate beds. The shelter would stay open 24/7, allow pets, serve families, and provide transportation assistance for residents. (WUNC)

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