Wake board votes to oust Burns

WAKE COUNTY Board members decided during a closed session that Burns should be on leave for the rest of his contract. Burns planned to resign on June 30.

"The board has decided to place Dr. Burns on administrative leave at this time," School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta said.

In February, Burns abruptly announced his intention to leave -- a few years before his contract expires. He said he could not in good conscience carry out the policies the new majority of the school board wants to implement - like ending the long standing diversity policy.

His comments left some school board members reeling. So during the third closed door meeting on the issue, the board decided to kick Burns out now, rather than let him serve through his resignation date.

"His choice to conduct these interviews was a poor decision and totally inappropriate in the opinion of this body," Margiotta said.

After the announcement Tuesday night, board members were told not to talk. Some looked visibly upset, including Carolyn Morrison who says she's very disappointed with what happened.

"I'm just really sorry about this, because I think it could have gone the other way," Morrison said.

In the meantime, Donna Hargens has been named interim-superintendent, but Burns will be available for consultation until the end of his contract.

Hargens is currently the chief academic officer for the Wake County Public School System.

According to Burns' contract, he is entitled to unused leave and other benefits through his resignation date. The total falls between $150,000 and $200,000.

A $20 million budget cut to central services coupled with job losses has made it hard for some people to accept the idea of letting the superintendent leave his position early, since it also means the school system will have to pay him to sit out, while paying someone else to take over.

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