Under the Dome

School leadership a tangled web -- of names

March 5, 2009 

  • To see a video clip of Jimmy Fallon's ode to U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, visit the online version of Under the Dome at dome.newsobserver.com.

North Carolina's school leadership structure is so confusing that even Gov. Beverly Perdue stumbles over it.

At a bill signing Wednesday morning, Perdue introduced her choice to be the new public school CEO as "Bill Atkinson."

She meant to say Bill Harrison, the former Cumberland County schools superintendent.

But Perdue evidently got his name tangled up with June Atkinson, the elected state superintendent of public instruction, whose responsibilities are being pushed aside in the reshuffle.

Perdue said she expects Harrison to bring "a clear line of accountability" to the schools.

Perdue signed her first bill as governor in the old House Chambers in front of school children and about a dozen lawmakers.

The bill allows Perdue to restructure the school leadership.

"It really transforms how we do education in North Carolina," she said.

Cost-saving ideas can pay

Perdue is reviving a program to reward state employees for providing innovative and cost-saving solutions.

The idea is to provide a financial bonus to ideas that save money. The program, initially called the Employee Suggestion Program when it was started in the mid-'90s, is being renamed NCThinks program.

State employees are eligible to get up to 20 percent of the savings they identify.

Perdue says it makes sense to give the program a higher profile during tight financial times and when many state employees are suffering morale problems because they are being asked to do more with fewer people.

Foxx in Fallon's 'slow-jam'

Talk-show host Jimmy Fallon "slow-jammed" a mention of U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx this week.

As part of a segment on his new show Monday night, Fallon sang an R&B-style number about the federal stimulus package.

"It could have passed much sooner, but Congresswoman Virginia Foxx wanted to play with it a little," Fallon spoke-sang, putting particular emphasis on "Foxx."

Rapper Black Thought, aka Tariq Trotter, gave a bluesy elaboration from the show's band stage.

"She played with it. Touched on all of its fine details all night long, all night long," he sang. "She added an amendment."

Foxx, a Republican from Banner Elk, voted against the $787 billion stimulus package.

But Aaron Groen, a spokesman for Foxx, said the lyrics were a bit off in that Foxx did not offer any amendments.

"The stimulus package was considered under a 'closed rule,' meaning that no one could offer amendments," he said via e-mail to Dome. "But I guess 'closed rule' doesn't make for as good of a slow jam."

A study of road money

A state House committee moved a bill Wednesday to establish a commission to study how road dollars are distributed.

Transportation money is distributed according to the department's "equity formula," which was designed to spread around dollars fairly.

Rep. Becky Carney, a Charlotte Democrat, said the formula has created a lot of complaints across the state.

"I feel confident we're going to get this study commission," she said.

A House transportation committee spent time Wednesday tweaking who would appoint the commission's 18 members and what constituencies members would represent.

Rep. Winkie Wilkins, a Roxboro Democrat, said it wouldn't matter who was picked to study the formula.

"I honestly believe if we appoint a Little League baseball team to study it, they'll figure out the thing's a mess," Wilkins said.

Perdue speech in progress

Perdue said Wednesday she is working on a draft of her State of the State address that she will deliver to a joint session of the legislature Monday.

Perdue said she would emphasize the need to continue to fund education in hard times. And she will emphasize the need for transparency in government.

She said was working on changing a speech draft that she was afraid was too much like "a school marm" in tone.

Perdue is not expecting to submit her budget recommendations until mid March.

"There are tremendous cuts -- things that just broke my heart to cut," Perdue told reporters. "But I am doing what I can do to protect the public schools."

rob.christensen@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4532

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