Tedesco: Working with Burns will be 'a challenge'

Posted February 18, 2010 10:25 p.m. EST
Updated February 19, 2010 5:37 a.m. EST

— At least two newly elected Wake County Board of Education members said Thursday they aren't sure they can continue to work with Superintendent Del Burns after his criticism over the direction the board is moving in.

“If our superintendent does not want to help us respond to our citizens, that is why we have a democracy and we are going to have to do what we need to do,” District 2 board member John Tedesco said.

On Tuesday, Burns announced to the Wake County Board of Education his plans to resign June 30. He cited “personal and obligatory considerations” as the reasons.

Burns said Thursday that educating students in the county has become more about "partisan political gamesmanship" than what's best for children.

"This should be about the children. It should be nonpartisan. I've not experienced the discussion around political parties in a board election or in the work of the board the way I have in the last few months," Burns said.

Tedesco said it is going to be “a challenge” working with Burns.

“I don’t know how we are going to be able to work with him for those four months,” he said.

Board member Chris Malone wonders why Burns did not resign earlier.

Board member Anne McLaurin said Burns is true to his beliefs.

“He is a man of great integrity and he cannot lead the school system in a way he does not think is best for the students,” she said.

Deborah Prickett, part of the newly elected majority, thinks she can continue to work with the superintendent for the next few months. “I think he does have integrity and I think he will try to do the very best he can,” she said.

One of the biggest differences in opinion between Burns and the board is a decade-old student assignment policy that requires the busing of students.

The school district assigns students so that no school has more than 40 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches. Students are reassigned each year to maintain that level, as well as to fill new schools and relieve overcrowding.

Newly elected school board members have said they want to end the policy in favor of a neighborhood school model.

“That will result in segregating rich school and poor schools in the Wake County Public School System and that concerns me greatly,” Burns said.

Most parents who attended a public forum on year-round schools held Thursday at Heritage High School in Wake Forest were in favor of having their children learn closer to home.

“For my child to go to the school she is districted to it takes an hour and 45 minutes,” parent Walter Tun said.

Shinica Thomas said she is concerned she will not be able to continue volunteering at her son’s school because it is too far away.

Wake Forest Commissioner Peter Thibodeau said the parents who oppose the policy are the minority.

“(The board’s) responsibility is to provide leadership and governance to all, not just the small fraction of the constituents dissatisfied with the school system,” he said.

Wake County Board of Education committee has been holding meetings to discuss the assignment policy. They plan to make a recommendation to full board.

Other public forums on year-round schools are:

  • Tuesday, Feb. 23 at Leesville Road High School, 8409 Leesville Road, Raleigh
  • Thursday, Feb. 25 at Panther Creek High School, 6770 McCrimmon Parkway, Cary

Each meeting runs from 6:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. in the schools' auditoriums.