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Superintendent loses power, works with those she's suing

Posted April 10, 2009

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— Before suing Gov. Beverly Perdue and the state Board of Education, Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said she called those named in the lawsuit to let them know it was coming.

Bob Orr and June Atkinson Web only: Atkinson sues over job duties

As WRAL saw Tuesday while shadowing Atkinson, she continues to work alongside many of the people she is suing.

“I felt it was very important to provide them the professional courtesy and personal courtesy of letting them know what my plans were,” she said.

Atkinson in awkward situation in state government Atkinson in awkward situation in state government

Now in her diminished role as an elected, but largely powerless leader of the state school system, Atkinson reports to work each day and discusses important education topics with some of the people she is suing – including the school system’s new CEO, Bill Harrison.

See Atkinson's calendar from April 1-15.

Dressed in Carolina blue, she began her day at the office at 7:10 a.m. and met briefly with her senior policy adviser about a presentation she planned to give. Then she was off to a meeting with Harrison and associate superintendents.

“How are you this morning, Bill?” she asked.

Atkinson claims that Harrison’s newly-created position is unconstitutional and usurps hers. However, she was polite as they discussed their protest of the Senate’s proposed budget, which includes deep cuts to education.

“One of the reasons I went forth with the lawsuit was to have some clarity, and I think that is important when it comes to the taxpayers’ dollars,” she said.

When asked who communicates with legislators, her or Harrison, Atkinson said they each speak on behalf of their respective positions.

“Bill will certainly speak for the department as chairman of the state board, and I can speak as state superintendent,” she said.

Next, Atkinson was off to a Council of State meeting where she received a friendly greeting from Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, another person named in her lawsuit. After the brief meeting, she had time for a chat with Attorney General Roy Cooper who will represent the state in her lawsuit.

If she wins the lawsuit, Atkinson said her goal is “to be able to work on a day-to-day basis in a management and leadership role.” Whatever the outcome, she said she will live with the court’s decision, which she hopes leaves her, and her alone, in charge of education in North Carolina.

Atkinson said she asked Cooper to expedite the case. Her attorney thinks the courts could take it up in nine months, she said.

A 1995 law gave the state school board flexibility to shape the superintendent's job, and the power of the post has ebbed and flowed since then depending on who held the job. In Atkinson's first term, the board gave most of the day-to-day authority of the schools to a deputy superintendent.

Atkinson was elected to a second term as superintendent in November. In January, Perdue said she wanted her choice for chairman of the board of education also to take the new title of schools chief executive officer, clearly making Perdue responsible for how the public schools educate about 1.5 million students.

Harrison, the former Cumberland County schools superintendent, took both posts last month. Atkinson said her role has been constricted to being "an ambassador for public education."

27 Comments

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  • momlame Apr 14, 2009

    to Ax: You wrote "Ahmmmm Speak for yourself Ms. Know it all!! Typical statement from someone who sits at home all day watching the soaps.... We voted for June because she is a past educator and has obtained real results. If only she had more (real) power we could be experiencing a better outcome by now. (momland), Dr. Harrison is just another puppet bleeding this state dry.. $265k?? come on get real!!!"
    June as NOT gotten real results. She is far removed from the classroom. Harrison has the rep as a hands on administrator who knows what teachers are going through. And I am not sitting home watching soap operas. I am a Master's degreed educator with over 22 years experience teaching mathematics. I never voted for June and know many teachers who also did not. Electing her was a mistake and Purdue, who really is out of touch with teachers too, has attempted to make education in our state better.

  • superman Apr 13, 2009

    It is up the parents and the children to change the school system. Apples don't fall far from the tree. Lazy student=lazy parent. I have never seen a recipe to force students to learn and do their homework.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Apr 13, 2009

    What a waste of taxpayer money to defend such a frivolous lawsuit.

    The position has been primarily ceremonial since it was created.

  • stopthehaters Apr 10, 2009

    I was under the impression she lost her powers ike when Superman lost his. this story makes no sense

  • daMoFo Apr 10, 2009

    shep, I also know Bill Harrison. He hired me many years ago. I think he is a good person, but reality is that nothing the people in Raleigh do will improve the quality of our graduates until they stop blaming teachers for the failures of the students and start requiring students to accept responsibility for their own performance or lack of performance. Since that's not the politically popular thing to do, neither Harrison, Atkinson or Purdue is going to do that and our students will continue to perform at a low lwvel.

  • daMoFo Apr 10, 2009

    I've been teaching in this state for 20+ years and I could not tell you anything that the state superintendent has ever done for the schools in this state. Most of the positions in Raleigh do nothing but create more work for the people that actually teach the kids and find ways to justify their own jobs. Bev simply wanted a state superintendent that was obligated to tow her line to keep their job.

  • LuvLivingInCary Apr 10, 2009

    this story embarrases me to know that i voted to put her in office...3.8 years left and we will voice our opinion bases on facts.

  • Adelinthe Apr 10, 2009

    She's an elected official, chosen by a majority of the people in this county for this position.

    She should NEVER have to take the back seat to an appointed official.

    Bevie once again overstepped her bounds, and if the state loses this lawsuit, the state shouldn't have to pay for it - Perdue should, right from her own little handbag.

    God bless.

    RB

  • 3779LRRP Apr 10, 2009

    June, take a break... Take your salary... go to the beach, mountains or somewhere. Answer your e-mails, and enjoy life. You have an appointed assistant doing all your chores for you. What a deal. Wish I had that.

    As for some schools needing a dire change. Wrong attack. It is some students that need a dire change. They need to come to class prepared to learn. The information is put before them and it's free. I doubt the students that are pulling the school system down have that attitude.

  • chance Apr 10, 2009

    PERSONALLY, I HAVE NO DOCUMENTATION/PROOF WHO WOULD BE BETTER FOR THE JOB ATKINSON OR HARRISON. WHAT I DO KNOW IS THAT NO ONE PERSON SHOULD HAVE THE POWER TO OVERRIDE AN ELECTED OFFICIAL UNLESS THERE IS SOME FORM OF GROSS MISCONDUCT - IN WHICH CASE THERE ARE IMPEACHMENT PROCEDURES IN PLACE.

    MAYBE A STATE POSITION NEEDS TO BE CREATED THAT WOULD SUPERCEDE THE GOVERNOR AND SEE HOW SHE LIKES IT! SHE WOULD BE CRYING DAY AND NIGHT ABOUT HOW 'SHE' WAS ELECTED BY THE 'PEOPLE'.

    4 MORE YEARS OF PERDUE ... 4 YEAR TOO MANY AS FAR AS I'M CONCERNED. I SERIOUSLY DOUBT SHE WILL BE RE-ELECTED. I HAVE YET TO SEE ANY PRO PERDUE BANTER.

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