Perdue reforms education system

Published 10:52 am Thursday, January 29, 2009

RALEIGH – North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue made sweeping changes to the state’s education system Monday.

“I have heard from educational leaders across the state and their frustrations echo my own experiences serving on the Board,” Gov. Perdue said. “We need to have a clear line of accountability and better structural support to implement new policies.

“At the same time, the buck stops with me when it comes to North Carolina’s education system,” she continued. “These are changes that are coming at just the right time to kick off a new era of educational innovation and progress.”

On Monday, Gov. Perdue asked the State Board of Education to redefine the duties of its chair to include the responsibilities of the newly created Chief Executive Officer, who will manage operations of the public school system.

Gov. Perdue further appointed Dr. Bill Harrison, superintendent of the Cumberland County Schools, to the board and asked the members to select him as their chair.

In addition, Gov. Perdue appointed Howard Lee, the current Board chairman, to serve as Executive Director of the North Carolina Education Cabinet, a group she has pledged to reinvigorate.

“Dr. Harrison and Chairman Lee are strongly committed to improving our public schools,” said the governor. “Their leadership and experience will be invaluable as we continue to strive to make our schools world-class in a global economy.”

Both men said they were excited about the work ahead.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to work with Gov. Perdue in making our public schools the best they can be,” Dr. Harrison said. “Strong schools mean a strong economy.”

Chairman Lee stated, “I’m honored to have the opportunity to help Gov. Perdue implement her vision for great schools and to work with the state’s top education leaders to build a seamless system that works for all of our children.”

Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. June Atkinson will continue to be the state’s education ambassador, working with superintendents, education leaders, schools, business leaders and others to strengthen public schools. In addition, Gov. Perdue has asked Atkinson to lead a new Blue Ribbon task Force on Career Development and Workforce Issues.

Dr. Atkinson has not actually been charged with running the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. That duty was given to Assistant Superintendent J.B. Buxton, who had already announced he was leaving the department.

While the new organization of North Carolina’s public schools is untested, one local leader believes the governor’s changes will benefit education.

“Major changes are occurring in public education after today,” said Hertford County Board of Education member J. Wendell Hall, who also serves on the state school board. “It is a new day. I commend Governor Perdue on creating this new position.”

Hall also said he believed the state board would back Gov. Perdue’s recommendations and felt it was an important step for reforming the way the business of education is handled in Raleigh. He made those comments during Monday’s meeting of the Hertford County Board of Education.

Also on Monday, Gov. Perdue appointed Myra Best as special advisor to the governor on education and education innovation. Best is currently director of the Business Education Technology Alliance and of the E-learning Commission. She has 14 years of teaching and counseling experience in public schools.

The governor is continuing the process of selecting an education advisor and a teacher advisor.