Local News

Durham School Board Votes Along Racial Lines to Hire Wilson County Superintendent

Posted February 21, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— The Durham school board voted along racial lines Thursday night to hire Ann Denlinger of Wilson County to lead the county's school system.

The 4-3 vote followed a tense meeting, which ending with angry chants of "The board is blind everytime, the board is blind everytime," from some in the audience who accused white board members of being racists.

Denlinger, superintendent of the Wilson County schools, is white, and the Durham school board's four white members voted for her. The three black members, and the local NAACP, supported the hiring of James Williams, the superintendent of the Dayton, Ohio, public schools.

The board debated the choice for four hours in a closed-door session before voting in public session at 10 p.m.

Denlinger, 52, has been superintendent of Wilson County Schools since 1992. She worked for almost 25 in Wake County as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent.

Friday, a number of Wilson's teachers and principals gave her high marks for getting people to work together, and for seeing that translate into better academic achievements by students.

Denlinger told WRAL-TV5 News that the institutions of higher education in Durham County had pledged to support whoever was ultimately chosen for the superintendent's post.

Denlinger will replace Owen Phillips, who retired nearly a year ago. She said her top priority would be reaching out to groups that had not supported her candidacy.

Curtis Gatewood, president of the local NAACP, expressed dissatisfaction with Denlinger's choice after the meeting, saying that Durham has opted again "to go down the same road, dripping with the slime of racism."