Local News

No appeal planned in education superintendent case

Posted October 12, 2009 5:47 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Beverly Perdue said Monday that she will not appeal a court ruling that stripped her hand-picked appointee of the power to run the state's public schools.

A Superior Court judge ruled in July that, without a constitutional amendment, Perdue, state lawmakers and the State Board of Education cannot deprive June Atkinson of her authority over public education as the elected superintendent of public instruction.

Perdue appointed former Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Bill Harrison in January to the dual roles of chairman of the education board and CEO of the public school system. She said at the time that the shared position was vital to improving accountability in the department, which has been criticized in independent audits for a lack of leadership.

The move reduced Atkinson's role to that of an ambassador for public education. She said that's not what voters elected her to do, and she sued Perdue in April.

A week after the court ruling, Harrison retired from the Department of Public Instruction, saying he would remain as education board chairman and would work with Atkinson to improve North Carolina schools.

"I am glad that Gov. Perdue has decided not to appeal the decision of the Superior Court," Atkinson said in a statement Monday. "I look forward to working with her and the State Board of Education and moving ahead on the many needs of North Carolina's public schools. In particular, we need to work as a unified team on the state's high school graduation rate."

Perdue spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said that the governor "looks forward to working closely with Dr. Atkinson and Dr. Harrison as they move forward to improve the system and reach their common goals.”

North Carolina is one of 13 states that elect their chief school administrators.