In a closed meeting Tuesday night, the Wake County Board of Education chose to place Adelphus “Del” Burns, current superintendent for the school system, on paid administrative leave for the remainder of his contract.
In mid-February Burns surprised the board with his resignation, effective June 30, at a public meeting citing his inability to move forward with the new board majority in “good conscience.”
School Board Chair Ron Margiotta (left) and Superintendent Del Burns (right) at the controversial meeting where the majority, led by Margiotta, voted to end the diversity policy. Photo by Will Huntsberry.
Del Burns took the helm of the Wake County Public School System in 2006 from Bill McNeal. In 2003, when Burns was working under McNeal, Wake County achieved what many thought unimaginable: a 91 percent end-of-grade test pass rate in grades 3 through 8 county wide.
Many opponents of Wake’s former diversity policy say it masks poor performance among minority students. But, in 2003 81 percent of black students grades 3 through 8 passed their end-of-grade tests, as did 85 percent of Hispanic students. Both of these percentages were well above national average.
Many attributed this success directly to the diversity policy, which was essentially ended by last weeks vote in favor of “community based” school assignments.
Since 2003 Wake County has continued to grow and maintaining socio-economic balance in schools has been a problem. Wake identifies a school as “balanced” if it has less than 40 percent of its students on free or reduced price lunch.
In grades 3-8 the number of “out-of-balance” schools has doubled from 22 to 44 and test scores have declined since that time. Many schools now have percentages of free and reduced price lunch students in the 60s and 70s, which was not the case in 2003.
The decision to end the county’s diversity policy will be up for a final vote on March 23.