NC: With Wake school debate cooled, could Burns make a comeback?
An executive search committee is scouring the nation looking for a new Wake County schools superintendent, but there is one highly qualified candidate right in the county who is available — Del Burns.
Burns, of course, resigned as superintendent in February during the heat of the Wake County School Board’s debate over diversity vs. community schools. But much of that heat disappeared when board member Debra Goldman bolted from the 5-4 majority in October. Now, the march toward community schools has been delayed, if not derailed, for at least a year.
Goldman still favors community schools, but she may be open to adjusting the assignment policy to ensure that no schools fall below a minimum level of academic achievement. That adjustment would effectively eliminate the potential for low achieving, high poverty schools that caused Burns to resign.
Burns’ appeal may be further enhanced by Tuesday’s election. He and other former superintendents are campaigning on behalf of Democrat Jack Nichols, who is running against Republican incumbent Paul Coble.
Should Nichols and other Democratic commissioner candidates win, the board of commissioners, which approves school spending and construction, would be inclined to support recommendations coming from Burns.
Goldman and other board members could not be reached for comment Monday.
Burns, speaking at a Nichols campaign event last week, said he won’t re-apply for his old job despite the cause of his resignation having largely gone away.
His description of his successor seemed to fit his ability to reach beyond the former majority.
“I think it’s going to be very important for the next superintendent to be a person that the board can trust and one who works closely with all the board,” he said.
The former majority was willing to consider a non-educator for the post, but Burns said someone outside of education and unfamiliar with large school systems would have a “longer learning curve” in doing the job.
Burns said he has no regrets about stepping down.
“Resigning was not something I wanted to do. It was something I felt I had to do and I’ve maintained that position,” he said.
Still, at 57, he’s ready to go into education administration somewhere.
“People ask me all the time, ‘How are you enjoying retirement?’ And my answer is, ‘I’m not retired. I’m just resting,’” he said, “I’m considering a number of possibilities and I haven’t decided yet what my next venture will be.”
Burns, who previously served as Wake schools’ deputy superintendent, took over for Bill McNeal in July 2006. He began his career with the Wake County school system in 1976 as a teacher.