William Harrison is stepping down as the CEO of the state's public schools. He will remain as chairman of the State Board of Education.
Harrison told employees of the Department of Public Instruction in an e-mail today that he will retire at the end of August, reports Lynn Bonner.
As you are aware, I have spent a great deal of time during the last two days responding to a legal dispute regarding my position as CEO. Quite frankly, I’ve wasted too many hours on this case – hours I would rather use working with you and education leaders across the state to accomplish the one thing Gov. Perdue asked of me six months ago: reforming our public education system to best serve our children. Because the 1.4 million students in this state remain my primary focus, and because I feel I can best serve them by focusing on my role as chair of the State Board, I will retire from DPI effective Aug. 31, 2009.
Harrison's retirement seemingly clears a path for June Atkinson, the state superintendent of public instruction, to take charge of the public schools.
Update: Gov. Beverly Perdue issued a statement saying that Harrison's decision "exemplifies what I’ve known all along – that his real commitment is not to a title or to a paycheck, but to securing a world class education system for our children. During this legal dispute, the focus on our kids has been lost in the courtroom. Dr. Harrison’s move today puts the focus back where it belongs – on the classroom."
Read more after the jump.
A judge ruled Friday that Atkinson, who was elected statewide, has the authority under the state's constitution to run the Department of Public Instruction. Atkinson had filed suit after Perdue and the State Board of Education essentially pushed her aside and instilled Harrison as the state's schools czar.
The ruling on Friday, while clearly a victory for Atkinson, created some confusion about who would be in charge, though.
Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood ruled that the state board, chaired by Harrison, was in charge of setting education policy for the state. But he also ruled that Atkinson was responsible for implementing those polices, not Harrison as the education CEO.