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New faces, department changes to mark the launch of the next DPS school year

The Durham Public Schools Board of Education has approved Superintendent Pascal Mubenga’s appointments of new senior leadership for DPS departments and schools to build momentum for the 2023-24 school year.


“We are recognizing some of our strongest leaders for the expanded roles they have taken on, as well as bringing in new leaders for fresh ideas and continuous improvement,” said Dr. Mubenga. “I am excited to have them on the team to serve our students.”


Among the appointments are a new school principal and two new members of the Superintendent’s Cabinet.

Y.E. Smith Elementary will have a new principal in Otis Maben, who comes to the school from Rogers-Herr Middle where he has been an assistant principal and athletic director since July 2020. He also served as assistant principal at Fayetteville St. Elementary and previously taught in the Wake County Public School System. Maben succeeds outgoing principal Dr. Joi Gibson-Robinson. Retired veteran principal Alexis Spann will serve as interim principal from May 22 until Maben’s arrival on June 19.

The Operational Services division will be led by Larry Johnson, who comes to DPS as its new chief operating officer, a Cabinet position. Johnson has served as assistant superintendent of administration and operations for Darlington (SC) County Schools since 2018. Previously he led auxiliary services and human resources departments in Scotland County Schools and Beaufort County Schools; he has also been an assistant principal and counselor/social worker in North Carolina school districts. He holds an education specialist degree in educational leadership from Wingate University. He will join Durham Public Schools on July 1; as previously announced, Dr. Todd LoFrese will serve as interim chief operating officer following the departure of Dr. Julius Monk.


Two of Johnson’s department leaders will receive promotions reflecting their expanded scope of work and/or earned credentials effective July 1.

Fredrick Davis II has been named senior executive director of building services, overseeing construction, maintenance, and environmental services. He rejoined DPS as executive director of building services in 2020 after previously serving as a project manager and lead planner in DPS’s construction and capital planning department. He has also served as senior director of property and facilities for YMCA of the Triangle. Davis became a licensed registered architect for the state of North Carolina in 2023, and is a LEED Accredited Professional in building design and construction. He earned his Master of Arts in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

W. Mathew Palmer has been named senior executive director of school planning, overseeing planning, transportation, and school nutrition. He joined DPS in 2019 as director of strategic planning initiatives, later adding operational oversight of key departments to his portfolio. Palmer came to DPS from the NCSU Institute for Transportation Research and Education; he has also been a transportation researcher and manager for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an environmental projects coordinator for Los Angeles County. He holds a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and is a doctoral candidate in City and Regional Planning from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Also effective July 1, the Office of Public Affairs will receive new leadership when Sheena J. Cooper becomes senior executive director of public affairs, a Cabinet position. Cooper joined DPS in July 2020 as director of marketing and strategic communication, supporting district marketing programs, outreach, and brand awareness. She previously served as marketing manager for the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club and J.B. Duke Hotel, and as director of communications and marketing for the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from North Carolina Central University.

As part of a reorganization of the Office of Public Affairs, communications specialist Crystal Kimpson Roberts has been promoted to director of strategic communications. She rejoined DPS as a communications specialist serving as lead storyteller and media relations coordinator in November 2021, having earlier served as director of communications. She previously was chief of equity, information, and student services for Johnston County Public Schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mass media from Hampton University.

In Administrative Services, Cierra Ojijo joins DPS on June 26 as senior executive director of financial services. Ojijo comes from Warren County Schools as chief finance officer. She has also served as deputy director of finance for The Hunt Institute and was a longtime senior accounting administrator, among other positions, in the Wake County Public School System. She earned her Master of Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.


Finally, three Academic Services leaders have received promotions effective July 1 reflecting their expanded scope of work or acceptance of a new role.

Dr. Daniel Kelvin Bullock has been named senior executive director of equity affairs and professional development. Dr. Bullock began his career at DPS as a social studies teacher and department chair before coming to Central Services as a K-12 social studies curriculum specialist. He was named DPS’s first director of equity affairs in 2017 before adding professional development to his portfolio as an executive director in 2022. He earned his Doctor of Philosophy in curriculum and instruction from North Carolina State University.

Dr. Julie Pack has been named senior executive director of career and technical education and magnet programs. She joined DPS in 2019 as an executive director overseeing CTE and magnet programs in 2019 after serving as director of secondary education for Asheboro City Schools. She has also served as an assistant principal and social studies educator in Asheboro, Randolph County, and Alamance-Burlington school systems. She holds a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Elizabeth “Liz” Moffitt has been named director of math and science. Moffit has served as a curriculum specialist for grade 6-12 mathematics since June 2018. She has also been a grade 6-8 math content coach and math teacher for schools including Lucas, Lakewood Montessori, and Southern. She earned her master’s degree in gifted education from Elon University.