Atkinson says school CEO not needed

July 21, 2009 3:44:18 PM PDT
North Carolina State Superintendent June Atkinson said Tuesday that a state CEO for schools isn't needed and the money would be better spent on school kids. Atkinson spoke to Eyewitness News from Colorado where she's attending a conference.

She's fresh off a court victory over Governor Beverly Perdue who appointed former Cumberland County superintendent Bill Harrison as State Board of Education Chairman and CEO right after she took office - effectively giving him more power than Atkinson.

Atkinson sued, saying she was elected superintendent, and Perdue can't constitutionally usurp her.

Friday, a judge agreed.

Perdue is considering an appeal. In the meantime, Harrison is still on the job - although he technically now answers to Atkinson. He's drawing a $265,000 salary - almost twice what Atkinson makes.

Harrison told Eyewitness News Monday that there's plenty of work for both he and Atkinson to do, but she disagrees - telling Eyewitness News Tuesday that there's no need to a CEO with her on the job, and that Harrison's salary would be better spent on education children.

She'll meet with Harrison when she returns from Colorado.

"It may be an awkward meeting, but it's a meeting that has to take place. Education is too important," said Atkinson.

Atkinson can't fire Harrison. Only the State Board of Education can do that. So in the meantime, the two must work together.

"He and I must work collaboratively and cooperatively to make sure we keep an eye on the prize in North Carolina," said Atkinson.

Harrison says he thinks it will work.

"My style is collaborative. I believe her style is collaborative. I think we'll be able to figure out how to work through this thing," he said.

But Atkinson says in the long run, there's no need for a CEO and a State Superintendent

"We need to make sure that we have a very streamlined administration for public education. And I don't believe that we need to have duplication in administrative responsibilities," she said.

And the fact that Harrison's salary is more than double hers?

"Candidly, that does not bother me personally. But I know that is bothers a lot of other people," she said.

"You think the money could be better spent, though?" asked Eyewitness News.

"Well, yes, I do," she responded.


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