'Del's Army' takes Burns' side

The Wake board tonight will discuss ousting outspoken schools chief.

Staff WriterFebruary 23, 2010 

  • Del's Army, a Facebook group, formed to urge the Wake County school board to allow Del Burns to stay on as superintendent through June30. Go to www.facebook.com/group.php? v=info& gid=316578057101 for more information.

    TONIGHT'S FORUMS

    Today's special school board meeting on Superintendent Del Burns will take place before a previously scheduled public hearing at 6:30 p.m. at Leesville Road High on school calendars.

    Also tonight, the Coalition of Concerned Citizens of African American Children, the local NAACP and the YWCA of the Greater Triangle will host a public forum on Wake student achievement from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Martin Street Baptist Church's Johnson Building, 1001 E. Martin St. in Raleigh.

— Supporters of Wake County Schools Superintendent Del Burns are mounting a last-ditch campaign to persuade the school board to not oust him after he warned last week that the new board majority's policies could lead to economically segregated schools.

The Wake school board will meet in private at 5p.m. today at Leesville Road High School in North Raleigh to discuss whether to remove Burns ahead of his June 30 resignation date. Since the weekend, Burns' supporters have formed a Facebook group and sent numerous e-mail messages and phone calls to school board members arguing that it would be too disruptive to remove him four months early.

"It's going to cause a lot more chaos if they get him to leave now," said CarleneLucas, a Garner parent who unsuccessfully ran for school board last year. "We don't need any more suddenchanges."

Her son, Tony, a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, created a Facebook page called "Del's Army" that had 601 members as of late Monday afternoon.

In addition to the Facebook page, also circulating online Monday was a petition calling for "censure, resignation, and/or recall" of the four new school board members elected last fall who helped form the new majority.

The Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African American Children and two local chapters of the NAACP are also speaking out, saying Burns is facing retaliationfor his public criticism of the board majority's proposal to end the district's diversity policy in favor of neighborhood schools. They're urging that he be allowed to stay on through June 30.

But supporters of the board majority compared predictions of chaos resulting from Burns' early departure to the story of "Chicken Little."

It's time for Burns to go, said Kristen Stocking, a founder of the Wake Schools Community Alliance, a parents group that backed the new school members. She pointed to the remarks Burns made in several media interviews in which he explained his resignation announcement last week, saying he disagreed with the direction of the board's new majority while offering sharp criticism of their proposed changes.

"Once you give your resignation, you give it your all for three-four months," Stocking said. "Don't try to discredit the board. Leave with some grace."

School board member John Tedesco, one of the newcomers, said Burns crossed the line by publicly discussing the policy disagreements he has with the board majority.

The school board could approve a payout of around $100,000 in salary and personal leave days that would allow them to remove Burns early.

Tedesco said he would propose waiving the provision in Burns' contract that he has to give at least 90 days before he can leave or risk a $30,000 penalty. He said he has received many e-mail messages in the past few days about Burns, split roughly 50-50 between those who want the superintendent to stay and those who want him to be shown the door.

"At the end of the day, we're going to look at what's in the best interests of education in Wake County," Tedesco said. "There's no political interest group that's going to sway the decision."

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

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