Wake schools official retiring

Someone else will have to oversee reassignments after the board shake-up.

Staff WriterDecember 8, 2009 

— The architect of Wake County's student assignment plans is retiring amid efforts by the new school board majority to end busing for diversity in favor of neighborhood schools.

Assistant Superintendent Chuck Dulaney, 62, told Superintendent Del Burns on Nov. 24 that he will retire March 1 to spend more time with his family. For nearly four years, Dulaney has overseen the development of student reassignment plans, including implementing socioeconomic diversity efforts and determining which schools to convert to a year-round calendar.

"He has a truly thankless job," said Lisa Boneham, a North Raleigh parent who had clashed with Dulaney over his year-round conversion plans. "I wouldn't wish it on anybody else."

Dulaney did not return calls Monday.

New school board chairman Ron Margiotta and new vice chairwoman Debra Goldman said neither they nor the other members of the new majority had pressured Dulaney to leave. They said they had expected him to carry out their new student assignment policies.

"I have respect for his ability," Margiotta said. "You don't have to agree with somebody to respect him."

Dulaney has worked in Wake since 1993 and has been a strong supporter of the district's efforts to balance the percentages of low-income students at individual schools. He said he had come from Charlotte because of Wake's commitment to promoting diverse schools.

Dulaney was promoted in 2006 to assistant superintendent for growth and planning. He took on what all sides admit is a difficult job that has made him unpopular in some quarters. His salary is $126,735.

News of Dulaney's retirement drew varying reactions.

"From a parents' perspective, I view this as a good sign for parents that we don't have to deal with him again," said Barbara Walsh, a Cary parent who clashed with Dulaney on the latest reassignment plan.

Boneham said she personally got along with Dulaney, but said, "There will be people who are cheering."

But Liz Parry, a Holly Springs parent, said Dulaney's critics don't realize just how much work he has put into his job.

"He deeply cares about every child in the school system," said Parry, who served on a parents' advisory committee that helped Dulaney draw up assignment plans. "He's worked very hard to make sure that every school is utilized."

Dulaney helped oversee some major changes in the past few years.

He helped identify which 22 schools to convert to a year-round calendar in 2007 to prepare for projected enrollment growth. Year-round schools hold more students than schools on a traditional calendar, though critics note that enrollment did not grow as much as expected.

Earlier this year, the old school board adopted a plan that Dulaney helped create that calls for moving 24,654 students to different schools over the next three years to fill new schools, promote diversity and ease overcrowding. It was the first time that Wake has tried to tell parents years ahead of time where their children may go to school.

But the way Wake assigns students is expected to change following the election of four new board members this fall who are critics of the current diversity policy. They and Margiotta form a new majority that last week introduced changes to the student assignment policy that eliminate references to the diversity policy and instead list neighborhood schools as a priority.

The assignment policy changes have been referred to the board's policy committee.

Margiotta said he didn't think Dulaney's retirement would hold up the changes. Goldman wasn't as certain.

"The timing, knowing we're about to make great changes, isn't great," Goldman said.

keung.hui@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4534

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