Local Politics

Atkinson: Room for only one education chief

Posted July 20, 2009

— Backed by a state judge's ruling, Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said Monday that she plans to solidify her control of North Carolina's public school system.

"I believe there's room for one person at the top of the organization," Atkinson told WRAL News by phone from Colorado, where she's attending the Council of Chief State School Officers annual meeting.

State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison Harrison: Enough work for two people

Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood said Friday that Atkinson is the person at the top of North Carolina's schools because the state constitution assigns that duty to the elected superintendent.

Gov. Beverly Perdue in January named former Cumberland County Schools chief Bill Harrison to the dual roles of chairman of the State Board of Education and chief executive of the public school system. The latter position didn't exist before Harrison's appointment, but Perdue said it was needed to improve accountability and establish a clear line of command in the state Department of Public Instruction.

Atkinson, whose role was diminished after Harrison's appointment to that of an ambassador for public education, sued the state, saying Perdue's move wrongly stripped her of her authority.

Lawyers for the state haven't decided whether to appeal the ruling, but Harrison said Monday that pursuing the case would only distract from the task of improving student performance.

Although he and Atkinson haven't spoken since Friday's ruling, he said he plans to continue working with her to lead DPI, noting that there's plenty of work for two people.

"We've worked well together the past 4½ months, and I think we'll work together for the next number of years," he said.

Harrison retains his position as chairman of the education board and said he reports to Perdue. Atkinson insisted that he would report to her in the future because there's no longer a need for a school CEO.

"His role has to be clarified should he continue as an employee of the Department of Public Instruction," she said.

His salary also might need to be adjusted, she said. Harrison makes $265,000 a year, which is more than double the Atkinson's $123,198 annual salary.

Atkinson and Harrison said they plan to sit down together Thursday to discuss various issues, and they acknowledged that they expect plenty of awkward moments as they try to redefine their roles following Hobgood's ruling.

"I think we're both adults and we're both focused on the work that needs to be done, and that's what's important," Harrison said.

67 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • shep8851 Jul 22, 1:04 p.m.

    Trust me--this cat fight ain't over yet. As for Bill Harrison--remember, he didn't ask for this job--and you kinda have to feel for the man--caught between two high profile women in a spittin contest. Much is made of his salary-believe me, for the work he had to do and the crud he had to tolerate, he earned every penny. Far more so than some of the "upper level" bureaucrats in the DPI whose salaries far exceed their duties and responsibilities.

  • oldrebel Jul 21, 7:43 p.m.

    "There can be only one"

  • scientistjo Jul 21, 7:09 p.m.

    $265,000/year!!! And how many classrooms will have 30 students this year because you had to fire teachers? So that guy is worth about 8 teacher salaries! That's an entire grade level at a school!

  • lkanzig Jul 21, 4:39 p.m.

    memo:
    harrison, you are fired.
    take your buddy bev with you as well!

    breaking laws and being corrupt is just business as usual in nc politics.
    i hear obama has hired a chimp to run nc. cheaper and will be run better than bev and her buddies have been doing.

  • LIVEITUP Jul 21, 3:06 p.m.

    SHAME ON YOU BEV!! How many teacher salaries would $265000 cover! Let's get rid of Harrison and get down to business!

  • rroadrunner99 Jul 21, 2:54 p.m.

    I think he need's to be Terminated unless Bev want's to pay him out of her salary. The state of N.C. is already in a budget bind. The taxpayer's don't need to be paying him $265,000.00 for something we elected June to do already. If Bev don't like the judge's ruling she can resign as Gov. anytime. What was she thinking making that appointment when the state was facing such a budget shortfall anyway? I think I could do better than that at running the state and managing the budget. When money is short you don't go out and spend an extra 265,000 that you don't have too.

  • streetfightinman Jul 21, 2:35 p.m.

    perdues plan from the start, now taxpayers will pay for both salaries, bev perdue should have to pay for her patsy,that wormed himself right into that job, get his tail out of there
    and make her pay for it. she broke the law,not suprised

  • lookn4spac Jul 21, 2:03 p.m.

    I am glad to see so many reasonable people out there. Most people would not try to claim fiscal responsibility- and then create a position (with a salary THAT high!!) without a second thought.

    The only accountability I see is old Bev feeling accountable to a good ole boy in her crew. Truly sad. Think of how that money (even what we have already paid him for doing nothing) could have been better used! She should pay us all back- where is the special prosecutor here?

  • kgonzalez Jul 21, 1:31 p.m.

    Wonder how Bev would feel if President Obama appointed a CEO of North Carolina to whom she would report. This whole situation is crooked and should be investigated...after Harrison is fired of course.

  • superman Jul 21, 12:26 p.m.

    Harrison needs to pack his personal stuff and go home. We didnt need him.

More...