Education

Wake school board to meet about Burns' future

Posted February 19, 2010 12:49 p.m. EST
Updated February 23, 2010 12:42 p.m. EST

— The Wake County Board of Education will meet in a special closed session on Tuesday to discuss the future of the school system's outgoing superintendent.

The board will meet at 5 p.m. at Leesville High School in Raleigh, where a public meeting on year-round schools is planned for later in the evening.

Board member John Tedesco said Friday that it might be time to cut ties with Superintendent Del Burns, who announced Tuesday that he is resigning from his post on June 30.

Tedesco said he was shocked by the announcement and further shocked by the reason Burns gave.

Burns on Thursday criticized members of the new board majority – accusing them of "partisan political gamesmanship," and expressed concerns in several interviews reported in the media about some of the policy changes that the new board majority has made or wants to implement.

Those comments offended Tedesco and prompted him to question whether Burns should stay on the job until June 30.

"Superintendents are not permitted to be jumping into the policy debate," Tedesco said.

"If you can't do your job, what do I need you around for the next four months for?"

Keith Sutton, another member of the board, defended Burns.

"In no way was that insubordinate in any way. He was just voicing his opinions," Sutton said.

With a tough budget season looming, "we need his leadership and expertise," Sutton added.

Tedesco said he is confident that there are other administrators in the school system capable of continuing to move the school system forward while the board seeks a replacement.

Parent groups push for change

At least two local groups on Friday called the board to replace Burns immediately.

Wake Schools Community Alliance, which is a public supporter of the school board's new majority, wants the board to reassign Burns to other duties until his resignation.

"It is clear that having Dr. Burns continue to serve as superintendent of schools will only serve to delay this transformation and to prolong Dr. Burns' personal conflict with the school board agenda," Wake Schools Community Alliance said in a statement.

Among the items on the board's so-called agenda is the school system's decade-old diversity policy that buses students across the district to achieve socio-economic diversity in schools. Most board members want to end the policy and go to a community-school model.

The alliance wants the school board to appoint an acting superintendent until it can hire a new superintendent.

"Dr. Burns made it very clear that he could not support future school board directives, which will move Wake County to a community-schools model," the group said.

The local chapter of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, which supports ending the diversity policy, has also called for Burns' removal as soon as possible.

Parent Nicole Sutton is ready for change. "If the turnover is like that and it makes a difference, then so be it," she said.

It would take five votes on the nine-member school board to oust Burns.