“This is the most important job in North Carolina,” Gov. Bev Perdue was quoted as saying about her newly chosen head of the state education department, whom she also designated to lead the state school board. “He literally has North Carolina’s future in his hands.”
The appointment, as reported in The News & Observer of Raleigh today, combines the management of the Department of Public Education with the policy-oriented position of the state school board leadership. Purdue tapped Cumberland County School Superintendent Bill Harrison for the newly minted position, which merges the state’s two top education jobs to “create clear lines of authority and greater accountability.” Perdue formerly held a seat on the board as lieutenant governor; the board oversees the public education agency.
The state’s elected education official, Superintendent of Education June Atkinson, operates under the authority of the state board and has no management role there. Perdue observed that the consolidation of the top management and policy positions was “the only way I can resolve the whole issue of who’s in charge and who does what.” With Atkinson in attendance at the press conference, Perdue noted that the elected official would continue to serve as an ambassador for the schools.
— Nelda Holder, associate editor