Burns to resign as Wake schools superintendent

Posted February 16, 2010

— School board members and the public alike were shocked Tuesday when Wake County Public School Superintendent Del Burns announced he will resign from his post effective June 30.

"I have always considered myself fortunate to be part of the Wake County Public School System," he said during the school board's regularly scheduled meeting.

Del Burns Video: Wake schools chief stepping down

"Based upon personal and obligatory considerations, it is clear to me that I cannot in good conscience continue to serve as superintendent," he continued. "Therefore, out of respect for the board, out of respect for its directions and its decisions, I provide to the chair written notice that, effective June 30, 2010, I resign my position."

Board members gasped upon hearing the announcement, and board Chairman Ron Margiotta called for a brief recess.

Margiotta said he will try to convince Burns to change his mind but hopes the board's recent changes and decisions were not the reason for the decision.

"I would hope not. I think we have been working well together," Margiotta said. "I thought the relationship was a good one."

Burns declined to comment any further about his decision, but school board member Dr. Anne McLaurin said that Burns could not go along with the new direction of the board.

"It is a terrible loss for our county. It's a terrible loss for our school system. It is a terrible loss for me," she said. "He was unhappy with the direction we were taking, that the board was taking, and it was time for him to resign."

In recent months, the school board's new majority has reversed several school system policies, including one that makes year-round school calendars mandatory for new schools.

The board majority is also in favor of neighborhood schools and ending the school system's decade-old diversity policy, in which students are assigned to schools to help achieve socio-economic diversity among student populations.

Burns, who previously served as Wake schools' deputy superintendent, took over for Bill McNeal in July 2006, becoming the system's seventh superintendent.

He began his career with the Wake County school system in 1976 as a special education teacher at Root Elementary School and worked as a principal at Washington Elementary School and East Wake High School.

In 1999, he was named the school system's Principal of the Year while he was at Millbrook High School. In April 2000, Burns was named associate superintendent and was promoted to deputy superintendent in July 2006.

"In each role, I have worked to the best of my ability for all children, supporting a strong school system, not just a system of schools," Burns said Tuesday.

Burns' announcement comes on the heels of Chuck Dulaney's retirement. Assistant superintentendent for growth and planning, Dulaney announced last year that he would retire effective March 1.

Resignation draws responses

Parents and Wake County residents at Tuesday's board meeting praised Burns for his work over the past three years, as did school board members.

"We are going to have to look at this and see where we go from here," school board member Chris Malone, one of the members of the new majority, said. "Del Burns has done a good job and has been a good public servant for the county."

Parents groups, like Wake Cares, were much more pointed in their responses.

"Since the vision and philosophies are so different between Dr. Burns and the new school board, everyone's best interest is served by his resignation," Wake Cares spokeswoman Dawn Graff said in a statement.

Dallas Woodhouse, director of Americans for Prosperity in North Carolina, called on a nationwide search for a new superintendent that focuses on candidates in favor of the new board's agenda.

"It is time for a new era in leadership in Wake County, one that matches the voters' desire for neighborhood schools and breaks from the discredited social engineering policies of the past," Woodhouse said.

Ann Denlinger, president of Wake Education Partnership and former superintendent of Durham Public Schools, called Burns' resignation "very unfortunate and unsettling" for the school system, saying he had hoped to work on the necessary changes proposed by the new board.

But, she added, she isn't surprised by his decision and believes politics have been at play since the new board members were elected.

"There's a reason school board elections are nonpartisan," she said. "It should not be about a political party. It should be about qualities, world-class schools for all children. And I think if we listened for the last few months, through all the conversations, how many times have the students and their education been the center of the discussion?"

Denlinger said she doubts any superintendent can function in that environment, and expects some of Burns' staff members to also leave the school system.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Arrggghhhh Feb 17, 2010

    yes the debate was during the election. they explained what they wanted to do and are now doing it. If Mr. Burn's can prove his policies should remain he should agrue them, he should show them the SAS report, ooh wait that shows Burn's policies dont work, mmm better hide that one.

  • HopingForABetterWorld Feb 17, 2010 us wherev this new board wanted to debate with the way they run things through meetings without prior knowledge just so they can make their voters happy.

  • Arrggghhhh Feb 17, 2010

    Lunar..No one ran him out of his job. He QUIT. The fact that he couldnt stand up and debate the issues and try to win the arguement, he decided to be a quitter!!!!Is that how you teach children, when the going gets tough QUIT?

  • lunarmodule Feb 17, 2010

    The meanness and hatred towards a man who has dedicated his career to our children saddens me. You may disagree with his points of view, but the anonymous vitriol I read is horrible. You've won. You've run him out of his job. But that's not enough, is it? You continue to kick him. I wish people would expend half as much energy discussing for real solutions to improve schools. But that's not as much fun is it? Some posters here should be ashamed of themselves. Is this how the teach their children to behave?

  • SME2 Feb 17, 2010

    you truly don't follow any of the facts do you or, maybe there's a real reason why you can't keep up? If you think current graduation rates, especially for ethnic males, is working, as I said, you can't keep up.-time4real

    You are so absolutely right! We should stop concentrating on getting the masses to be educated and start worrying about one demographic as you say the "ethnic males". Though I am "white" do I not have an ethnic background if my heritage is English/Irish? What do you mean by ethnic male? Say what you really mean...quit being PC.

  • vdanielson Feb 17, 2010

    ITS ABOUT TIME - Burns I really didn't think you were smart enough to know your days were numbered with the new school board in place I noticed though you still didn't man up during your announcement and acknowledge that you were an ineffectual leader at worst and a mediocre one at best. Do us all a favor and take a leave of absence till June. Kudos to the new school board keep up the house cleaning.

  • aintbackingdwn Feb 17, 2010

    It's a shame Wake County has got to put up with Dell another 4 months.

  • NCAries Feb 17, 2010

    so far many youth in the community have learned - why get an education - welfare will take care of them.

    And you know this how? Is this what the youth are telling you? How many youth have you actually spoken to in the "community" to find out how they feel about education? What "community" are you referring to where the youth are being taught this nonsense? Obviously you haven't a clue about the welfare reform and you can't possible have visited all the "communities" or spoken to many youth or you wouldn't be spouting the bs you are.

  • NCAries Feb 17, 2010

    With all the compaining going on, where was everyone during election day?

    Hello, only the districts with open seats could vote.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Feb 17, 2010

    If you look at the high percentage of minority dropouts in the WCPSS, you can see that the previous diversity policies were a complete failure.

    As Obama says, "it's time for change", and the WCPSS needs all of the change that it can get.