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

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DURHAM — The Durham school board voted along raciallines Thursday night to hire Ann Denlinger of Wilson County to lead thecounty's school system.

The 4-3 vote followed a tense meeting,which ending with angry chants of "The board is blind everytime, the boardis blind everytime," from some in the audience who accused white boardmembers 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 threeblack members, and the local NAACP, supported the hiring of JamesWilliams, the superintendent of the Dayton, Ohio, public schools.

Theboard debated the choice for four hours in a closed-door session beforevoting in public session at 10 p.m.

Denlinger, 52, has been superintendent of Wilson County Schools since1992. She worked for almost 25 in Wake County as a teacher, principal andassistant superintendent.

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

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

Denlinger will replaceOwen Phillips, who retired nearly a year ago.She said her top priority would be reaching out to groups that had notsupported her candidacy.

Curtis Gatewood, president of the local NAACP, expresseddissatisfaction with Denlinger's choice after the meeting, saying thatDurham has opted again "to go down the same road, dripping with the slimeof racism."