Local News

Wake Schools Superintendent To Retire

Posted November 15, 2005 9:35 a.m. EST

— Bill McNeal, who was named the 2004 National Superintendent of the Year, is stepping down from his post at the Wake County Public School System.

McNeal, who announced his retirement at Tuesday's school board meeting, will take a position with the North Carolina Association of School Administrators after his contract expires in June 30.

"I cannot tell you how proud I am to have been a part of building a school system that is the envy of the nation," McNeal told the Wake County Board of Education.

A nationwide search to find a new superintendent is expected to last between 3 and 6 months.

McNeal began his career as a social studies teacher in the school system in 1974. In addition, he held a variety of positions, including assistant principal, principal and associate superintendent before becoming superintendent in July 2000.

"It's been a very difficult day for me, simply because I love this job, I love this community ... and the children are fabulous, the teachers are fabulous, the principals are fabulous," McNeal, who has been superintendent for 5½ years, told WRAL.

A native of Durham and graduate of North Carolina Central University, McNeal has been credited with narrowing the achievement gap in Wake County. Recent studies show that Wake County students are more successful on state end-of-grade and end-of-course testing than North Carolina students as a whole. Plus, SAT scores in Wake County are among the highest in the state.

But achievement has been met with challenges. Explosive growth in the school system has led to crowded schools and some unpopular school reassignments for families. McNeal has taken a strong stand on maintaining balance in schools, which favors bussing students for socio-economic diversity.

McNeal's tenure, however, has not been without controversy. His long-time friend Vern Hatley pleaded guilty for his role in a fraud scheme while he served as transportation director for the school system. Several other former school system transportation department workers are also charged with diverting millions of dollars in school money for personal purchases and unauthorized supplies.

McNeal is the second Triangle superintendent to step down recently. Last month, Durham Public Schools Superintendent Ann Denlinger announced her retirement after more than 8 years in the position. Her last day will be June 30.