Who's in charge of NC school system?

July 21, 2009 4:24:18 AM PDT
Superintendant Dr. June Atkinson and school board chairman Dr. Bill Harrison have apparently spoken briefly since a ruling confirmed Atkinson as the head of the state school system.A judge ruled on Friday to sidestep a move by the governor to appoint Harrison to run the state school system and strip elected superintendant Atkinson of her power.

Click here to read more about the ruling

Harrison has been in charge for the past four-and-a-half months.

On the first day of work since the ruling, the governor said she was considering an appeal, while the superintendant and the chairman of the school board are trying to work under a role reversal.

"I felt that the decision the governor made was within the parameters of the constitution and certainly the legislation, so I was a bit surprised," State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison said. "We'll sit down and iron things out ? I think there's plenty of work for the two of us to do."

But Atkinson -who is out of state for a superintendant's convention- may not feel the same way.

Eyewitness News asked her attorney if she could fire Harrison who was handpicked by the governor and who - at $265,000 - makes almost twice what Atkinson does.

"Dr. Harrison was hired by the board in a position created by the board and serves at the pleasure of the board," Atkinson's attorney Bob Orr said. "So the answer would be no. Only the board can do that."

Over the years there has also been power struggles between the appointed state board of education and the elected superintendants. So the board won't likely to fire Harrison.

And Atkinson's attorney said paying both to do similar jobs is costing taxpayers and will probably continue to create friction.

"It will certainly be difficult, I would suspect, for Dr. Harrison, having expected to have the final say so there, to be answerable to Dr. Atkinson," Orr said.

Attorneys for the governor indicated they would appeal, but apparently a final decision to do that has not been made.

If they do, Harrison conceded even more taxpayer dollars would be used.

"If an appeal does go forward I think, in addition to the cost, that will be distracting as well," Harrison said. "I think we really need to push things aside as quickly as we can and get about the work that needs to be done for kids."


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