Who’s In Charge Here?

July 23, 2009 | Blog

North Carolina’s educational governance structure is a bit clearer after a lawsuit and a resulting retirement. The lawsuit determined that the state’s elected superintendent of public instruction indeed is in charge of public education in the Tar Heel State.

The News & Observer in Raleigh-Durham reports:

A judge’s ruling Friday intended to settle a long-running debate about who is in charge of running North Carolina’s public schools may instead set the stage for even more players to enter the fray.

In the meantime, though, the ruling allows June Atkinson to reclaim the authority she thought she had when voters elected her the state’s superintendent of public instruction in 2004 and again in 2008.

And Gov. Beverly Perdue, whose attempt to consolidate education authority under her office led to Friday’s ruling, will have to share that power for now.

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After only six months as state schools CEO, William Harrison said Wednesday afternoon that he will retire from the job of running the education agency on Aug. 31.

Harrison will relinquish his $265,000 salary but will continue to guide policy as the unpaid chairman of the State Board of Education.

His announcement comes days after elected schools Superintendent June Atkinson won a lawsuit giving her authority to run the Department of Public Instruction, the state agency that oversees testing, curriculum and policy for 115 local districts in North Carolina. Atkinson suggested in an interview earlier this week that Harrison should leave his CEO job as she takes charge of the department and its staff of about 780.

Harrison’s decision to step aside is a setback for Gov. Beverly Perdue, who had handpicked him to be her point man on education. Perdue, whose key platform has been improving education, lost her gamble to control the agency by creating her own czar in Harrison.

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