Education

School board's direction concerned Burns

Posted February 17, 2010
Updated February 18, 2010

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— Concerns about major policy changes within the Wake County Public School System led the superintendent to announce his intent to resign at the end of the school year, a former school board member says.

Citing "personal and obligatory considerations," Del Burns surprised school board members Tuesday when he said that he could not "in good conscience" continue to serve in the post he has held for nearly four years.

He did not elaborate on his reason why.

"He didn't feel comfortable leading the system down a path leading toward bad times to come," said Tom Oxholm, a friend who served on the school board from 1999 to 2003.

Oxholm said he could hear frustration in Burns' voice when the two spoke over the last few months.

Since December, the school board's new majority has reversed the school system's policy making year-round school calendars mandatory for students.

Four new members also campaigned on ending the system's decade-old diversity policy in favor of neighborhood schools.

"What he found was that these new school board members were not interested in learning anything," Oxholm said. "They came in with a knowledge that they had enough knowledge and a mandate from voters to make immediate change without working through normal governance-type stuff."

"I wouldn't characterize it that way," said board member John Tedesco, who was elected in a runoff election in November. "I feel we gave him every opportunity to work with us."

Tedesco said the school board plans to push for a national search to find the best possible candidate to replace Burns.

"I can understand, after doing something the same way for 33 years and people wanting to look and be innovative and focus on high-quality education, sometimes it's hard to deal with change," he said.

The Wake County chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators, which represents nearly 5,000 school system employees, fears that change could damage the school system's credibility.

"It's a huge loss. (Burns) is one of the finest educators I've ever worked with," chapter President Jennifer Lanane said. "It's a tragedy that things have come to this."

Lanane said that, with Burns' departure, she is fearful that newly elected board members won't have the guidance they need to make proper decisions.

"They don't know anything about education. They have not taken the time to learn the culture of Wake County schools," she said. "I'm not really quite sure what's going to happen. I guess that's a question for them."

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  • scousler Feb 23, 3:06 p.m.

    Wake County schools through middle school are among the best in the state. However, Wake County's high schools focus far too much on advanced courses and all encompassing no-tolerance policies than they do on paying attention to an individual student's needs. The poor HS grad rate is a big problem and is not getting better. The diversity programs did nothing to address this issue besides forcing some kids to attend a school clear across the county. Change is needed and the high schools need to get better - the advanced courses are doing more to widen the gulf between the privileged and the underprivileged than any diversified busing system could ever bridge. Community-based high schools give kids a school to be loyal to and should provide them with the resources to graduate high school first. If they are capable of more then the school system can provide advanced courses, but only after providing enough remediation to ensure at least a 90% grad rate.

  • time4real Feb 18, 2:07 p.m.

    "how do you feel about the school board throwing 12 million down the drain"

    could care less. isn't the first batch of millions wake county has wasted with schools and something tells me, it won't be near the last!

  • AWakeMom Feb 18, 1:56 p.m.

    Finally!!! Someone said it -- thank you very much Superman!!! Dr. Burns only does what the board allows him to do!! Well put!

  • superman Feb 18, 1:30 p.m.

    The Supt is NOT a voting member of the school board. Busing, diversity, early Wed dismissal, Year Round schools were issues that the school board voted on and approved. The Supt does not make school board policy. His duty is to carry out the policy for the Board of Education. So you dont like him-- how do you feel about the school board throwing 12 million down the drain when they decided not to build the new high school. Anyone who has completed enough years of service should resign and enjoy their retirment. And finally, the comments made about the old board didnt listen-- sounds like my 10 year old when I say no. Some of you who rode the short bus to school and graduated from the 5th grade need to go back to school and finish.

  • rescuefan Feb 18, 1:00 p.m.

    "I wonder if the posters are reading the comments being written. As Mr.Burns stated, it's politics in education, and when that happens people lose. In this instance the losers are children who are not family members,friends,or socio-economic equals of the new board, and the good name Wake County Public School Board had made for itself i.e. people flocked here in droves to be a part of that system. For those worshipping the new change like it is a godsend, remember the same people you step on on your way to power may be the ones who have to break your fall. Be VERY careful what you ask for.
    1missdf"

    Very well put. Thank you!

  • 1missdf Feb 18, 12:49 p.m.

    I wonder if the posters are reading the comments being written. As Mr.Burns stated, it's politics in education, and when that happens people lose. In this instance the losers are children who are not family members,friends,or socio-economic equals of the new board, and the good name Wake County Public School Board had made for itself i.e. people flocked here in droves to be a part of that system. For those worshipping the new change like it is a godsend, remember the same people you step on on your way to power may be the ones who have to break your fall. Be VERY careful what you ask for.

  • Garnerwolf1 Feb 18, 12:47 p.m.

    Ignore it or not, facts are facts.

  • SaltlifeLady Feb 18, 12:16 p.m.

    Change needed to happen on this school board. Things have gotten WAY out of control with the bussing and diversity policy. I work in a middle school where some students are bussed away from 11 (yes, that is ELEVEN)closer middle schools to get to this one. There has to be a better way to balance these schools. Also, the way these assignments are made, the kids have to make new friends all the time. The part of the neighborhood I grew up in near North Hills now is assigned to Moore Square Middle downtown. It used to be in the Carroll district, which makes sense, only 1.5 blocks away. Then it got reassigned to Daniels MS (Where I went). Now they get sent to Moore Sq. Crazy!!! Then these kids are bussed to Sanderson for HS. The two schools can NOT have the same bases given their locations so now this group of kids is having to make a whole new set of friends. People, this is just not fair! Something needs to be done! Thank heavens for private school!!

  • Ready2Taxi Feb 18, 12:11 p.m.

    I think there is plenty common ground. But it requires a discipline to test all ideas, to not be bound by preconceived notions, to not be bound by fads of the day, to be able to see that the emperor is naked.

    The previous board and it's superintendent proved unable to do that. And this board may not rise above itself, either.

    In both case, no one wins.

  • elcid liked Ike Feb 18, 11:50 a.m.

    "As long as 'my team, your team' politics is your main concern, you are correct."

    More a "my approach to education / your approach to education."
    We simply disagree and are unlikely to ever find common ground, so it's probably better to give them the shot they have earned to prove the validity of their ideas. I don't begrudge them that, but I do disagree with what they propose to do, so I'm obviously not going to help them do it.

    If they succeed, bravo. If not, well, they tried and failed, so at least we know what doesn't work.

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