Education

Wake County school board names interim superintendent

Then-Wake schools superintendent Del Burns presides at the Wake County Board of Education meeting in August 2007. The school district named him an interim superintendent on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018.
Then-Wake schools superintendent Del Burns presides at the Wake County Board of Education meeting in August 2007. The school district named him an interim superintendent on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. 2007 News & Observer file photo

Del Burns, who previously led Wake County schools for four years, will serve as interim superintendent, starting next month.

The Wake school board made the announcement Tuesday evening. Current superintendent Jim Merrill will retire Feb. 1, and a new leader is expected to start by July.

Burns led the school district from 2006 until he resigned in 2010. He said he quit because he could not continue under the school board’s Republican-led majority at the time. The school board had become politically heated as some members pushed to move away from Wake’s longstanding practice of busing students as way to balance diversity.

Burns spent most of his education career in Wake, working as a special education teacher, assistant principal, principal, associate superintendent, deputy superintendent, and ultimately superintendent.

After leaving Wake, he started Burns Alliance, an educational consulting firm. He has also served as an interim superintendent for several school districts across North Carolina, including the Alamance-Burlington School System, Edgecombe County Schools, Orange County Schools and currently Bertie County Schools.

Monika Johnson-Hostler, chairwoman of the Wake school board, said the board picked Burns because of his experience.

“We have such a hefty agenda ahead of us, so we went with a known factor,” she said.

Johnson-Hostler also said she was confident Burns would work well with the Democratic-led school board.

“He’s very aware of who we all are and how we operate as a board,” she said. “He’s prepared to come back and shepherd the district and work with our board.”

In a statement released Tuesday evening, Burns said it was “an honor” to come back to Wake.

“The Wake County Public School System is highly respected across our state and nation,” he said. “It is an honor to return and serve as interim superintendent during this period of transition. I look forward to working with the Board of Education and the dedicated employees who teach or support those who teach students every day.”

Merrill, 67, is leaving after four years at the helm of North Carolina’s largest school district. He was named N.C. Superintendent of the Year in 2016, his third time being named a state’s top educator.

Applications for the permanent superintendent job are due Jan. 30, and the board will likely interview seven to 10 candidates in March before narrowing the list to three finalists. A new superintendent could be named in early April and start the job by July 1.

Wake will pay the N.C. School Boards Association $18,500 to conduct the search, with a $15,000 maximum budget for expenses such as advertising for the position and candidate lodging and meal costs.

Pressley Baird: 919-829-8935, @pressleybaird

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