Schools have vacancies at top

Staff WriterFebruary 17, 2010 

— Wake's new school board majority, taking its first steps toward transformation of the 140,000-student system, suddenly finds itself with the district's top administrator and a key lieutenant both on their way out.

Superintendent Del Burns' sudden announcement Tuesday of his resignation took place with assistant superintendent Chuck Dulaney's previously announced departure date of March 1 less than two weeks away. Burns' resignation is effective June 30.

"That's a lot of institutional knowledge that's being lost in a short amount of time," board member Keith Sutton said. "I feel complete shock, surprise and sadness that he's retiring."

Members of the board majority said they wanted to work with Burns on plans for a new assignment system but would forge ahead.

"I had hoped that he was going to stay and work with us on building a new vision for students and education in our community," said board member John Tedesco, one of four newcomers elected last fall.

The majority is planning to dispense with several policies that Burns and Dulaney had put into place, such as diversity-based student assignments. But Tedesco said Burns could still have been an effective administrator.

"He shared with me in the past that just because he did what the old school board wanted him to do, it didn't mean that he agreed with them," Tedesco said.

Dulaney oversees the staff that draws up student reassignment plans and fills seats to magnet schools and year-round schools. His office also determines what areas should be targeted for land purchases for school sites. But he said school system staffers he'll leave behind are fully capable of meeting the technical needs of a changing, complex system.

"The folks in my department are very skilled in pulling up data," he said. "If the board is considering a change, the team can tell them what the impact will be."

But the Rev. William Barber II, state president of the NAACP, sounded a more ominous note about Burns' departure, calling the five members of the board majority "the five ideologues." Barber has threatened to sue the school board if changes enacted by the new majority hurt the academic prospects of low-income and minority students.

"There will be drift in the school administration, and this will seep down into the principals' offices and into the classrooms," Barber said in a prepared statement. "And that drift will not end July 1st, because we have reason to believe no self-respecting educator concerned with educating poor kids will want to work for the Five Ideologues - bound and determined to dismantle a school system that 94 percent of the parents are happy with."

thomas.goldsmith@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8929

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