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Atkinson: Time to decide who runs schools

June AtkinsonSchools Superintendent June Atkinson is asking lawmakers to give her authority over education.

In a letter to legislative leaders sent today, the two-term Democrat noted Gov. Beverly Perdue's recent decision to consolidate power under the chairman of the State Board of Education, saying it as part of a long trend toward reducing the role of her office:

Every State Superintendent since 1995 has coped with the confusion caused by the current governance structure. It seems logical that an elected official would be able to select, organize and run his or her state agency. You can rest assured that the over 2.1 million voters who voted for me think I have the authority to run the Department. To think otherwise would discount the voter.

She asked legislators either "restore authority" to her position, give Perdue "total authority" or hold a constitutional referendum on the issue.

"North Carolina deserves your final decision," she wrote.

The full text of the letter after the jump.

—————

February 3, 2009

Dear President Pro Tempore Basnight and Speaker Hackney:

In asking Cumberland County Schools' Superintendent Dr. Bill Harrison to serve as Chairman of the State Board of Education and Chief Executive Officer of Public Schools, Governor Perdue did what she thought was best for public education. Having worked with Dr. Harrison for over 20 years, I know that he has made and will continue to make significant contributions to public education in his new role.

He deserves a chance to make a difference; and I, with more than 30 years of dedicated service and experience in the education field, deserve a chance as well.

Twice I have stepped forward and offered my service and leadership, and twice I have been denied this opportunity. I attribute this denial to the current governance structure as outlined in legislation.

Every State Superintendent since 1995 has coped with the confusion caused by the current governance structure. It seems logical that an elected official would be able to select, organize and run his or her state agency. You can rest assured that the over 2.1 million voters who voted for me think I have the authority to run the Department. To think otherwise would discount the voter.

Prior to 1995, the State Superintendent had the authority to run the Department of Public Instruction. Now state law gives that authority to the State Board of Education "subject to the discretion, control, and approval of the State Board of Education, it shall be the duty of the Superintendent to ... organize and establish a Department of Public Instruction..."

The time for clarity is now and I am calling on the General Assembly to provide that clarity once and for all. Your action will have implications for other Council of State elected officials and how state agencies are run in North Carolina.

In re-examining this issue, I ask you to consider if a State Board of Education is needed, and if so, also consider how members of the State Board of Education are appointed, the duties and selection of the State Superintendent, and the role of the Governor.

The people of North Carolina need the General Assembly to address the governance issue in its entirety, not just in a piecemeal fashion. Now is the time to decide to restore authority to the State Superintendent, issue a constitutional referendum or to give Governor Bev Perdue total authority of education. North Carolina deserves your final decision.

Regardless of whether I have the authority to advocate for the Department or to actually run the agency, I will take pride and comfort in knowing that many of my colleagues in the Department of Public Instruction and in public schools across the state recognize that during my last term, I played a significant role in influencing efforts to make public education better.

No matter what happens, I can assure you that I will work collaboratively with Dr. Bill Harrison and Governor Bev Perdue to do what is right for North Carolina's 1.4 million public school students and approximately 190,000 full-time personnel.

Sincerely,

June St. Clair Atkinson


Comments

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Re: Atkinson: Time to decide who runs schools

Our elected State Superintendent MUST be given the power to do the job for which we elected her. The voters need to call or email their legislators and demand that they restore the authority of the State Superintendent. Governor Perdue did not remove June Atkinson's authority; that was done years ago. She selected someone, Dr. Harrison, who will run the Dept. of Public Instruction like a business and that will be much better than the convoluted structure that exists there now.

There is room for both Dr. Harrison and Dr. Atkinson at the Dept. of Public Instruction. Both are intelligent, innovative, and forward thinking leaders. It is past time for the General Assembly to step up and correct the error it made by stripping the authority of the State Superintendent.

Keep it up, June. Real educators are behind you!

Re: Atkinson: Time to decide who runs schools

Gov. Perdue is off to a great start -- creating a position that already exists. State employees are facing lay-offs and the Governor is creating unnecessary positions. It would be great if a politican could tell the truth for a change.

Re: Atkinson: Time to decide who runs schools

If the ELECTED State Superintendent of Schools is not going to run the schools, what's the use to have one? Bev Perdue needs Shaquile O'Neal ahold of her for about 3 days and she'd behave a lot better.

Re: Atkinson: Time to decide who runs schools

Dr. Atkinson is our state's ELECTED State Superintendent of Public Instruction and therefore should be at the helm of the department of public instruction, not just a figure-head ambassador. The one who runs DPI should be the people's ELECTED representative, NOT someone the governor decides to chose.

Now Hiring - Position of State Manager, People's Republic of NC

This whole situation is a joke. Gov Bev instructs state agencies to prepare for headcount reductions. This week she appoints a six figure salary politico to replace the NC voter elected six figure salary department superintendent. Leading by example. No problem, this is the kind of CHANGE were used to. Keep pushing them Atkinson. Gov. Bev watch your back the legislature might be looking to hire a state manager, it's the trend.

Re: Atkinson: Time to decide who runs schools

Bev ran on a platform of breaking up the gold ol' boys' notwerk.

Allowing Bev to appoint a lacky-hack, and then skirt a duly elected official's authority -- putting that power in the hands of her own hand-picked appointee is akin (tho, I realize, not as severe) as her abolishing the general assembly and making all the laws herself.

Bev, I am one of YOUR bosses: More representation, less taxation. Not the other way around!

Re: Atkinson: Time to decide who runs schools

I applaud Dr. Atkinson for speaking out. I hope the General Assembly will address this issue and make a decision, one way or another. In the meantime, Supt. Atkinson was elected - twice - by a majority of the voters in North Carolina. That - and she - should be respected.

Re: Atkinson: Time to decide who runs schools

I am glad she stepped up to the plate. It is very confusing and North Carolinians voted her to do the job. She should have the authority to do the job.

Re: Atkinson: Time to decide who runs schools

Yes something needs to be done about this. Either give the Superintendent full power or have a amendment doing away with the position.

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