No decision on Burns' future

Posted February 23, 2010 7:01 p.m. EST
Updated March 1, 2010 10:13 p.m. EST

— Wake County school board members will continue their discussion next month regarding a personnel matter that kept them in a closed-session meeting for nearly two hours Tuesday.

Personnel matters are not part of the public record, but several board members, including Keith Sutton, said the meeting was to discuss the future of the school system's outgoing superintendent, Del Burns.

"We are working to some agreement, and I think we are pretty close,” Sutton said.

Last week, Burns, who is resigning June 30, spoke out against some of the school board's decisions and expressed concern about the direction of the school system under its leadership.

The board's new majority has made several changes since its first meeting in December and wants to move away from the system's decade-old policy of busing students for diversity reasons in exchange for neighborhood schools.

Burns accused the board of "partisan political gamesmanship" and said ending the diversity policy would segregate rich schools and poor schools in the school system.

Several community groups have called for Burns' immediate removal, while others have come to his defense. Board members also appear to be divided with many on the new majority offended and concerned about the ability to work with him for the next four months.

Burns was not in attendance Tuesday night and his name card at the table was turned face down.

"I felt it were better that he not be here," board Chairman Ron Margiotta said. "It's a bit uncomfortable."

It would take five votes to remove Burns. A decision was not reached Tuesday, and members plan to take up the issue again on March 2.

"It gives us more time to deliberate and think through what has happened, and what needs to happen," Sutton said.

Parents weigh in on year-round schools

School board members also heard from the public Tuesday evening about year-round schools.

About 350 parents showed up at Leesville High School for the forum and to voice their opinions on whether the board should make student assignment changes.

“I am overwhelming in support of keeping Leesville Elementary and Leesville Middle as year-round calendar schools,” parent Dana Dismukes told the board.

Those against year-round schools argued that they have not eased overcrowding and that they create a hardship for families.

"Our community has been divided as many families have taken their children out of Leesville schools in order to attend a traditional magnet or private school," parent Dodie York said.

Two years ago, the school system converted 22 elementary and middle schools to mandatory year-round calendars to help keep up with enrollment growth and save money on school construction.

The board voted last month to overturn the mandatory year-round policy. The meeting the third in a series of four is to help board members decide on future school calendars.

Another public forum is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Panther Creek High School, 6770 McCrimmon Parkway, Cary.