New Hanover County Schools names interim superintendent

Updated: Feb. 27, 2020 at 5:32 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The New Hanover County School Board named an interim superintendent after meeting in closed session Thursday.

Dr. Del Burns will be the new interim superintendent and will take the position Monday.

Dr. Burns was the superintendent for Wake County schools for four years before he retired in 2010, according to WNCN. Since his retirement, he has served in multiple interim superintendent roles including Alamance-Burlington, Edgecombe County, Orange County, Bertie County, Nash-Rocky Mount and Wake County schools.

“All interim positions are dealing with transition and in that regard it is no different than any other interim position I’ve held," Burns said. "Dealing with the particular employee misconduct matters that are present is somewhat unique in that there have been so many so recently, not to say that that doesn’t happen to some degree in many districts over the course of years. I have experience dealing with such matters, regrettably, and I do want to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can regarding the issues and what is being done, and there are many things that I’ve read are being done to support students and create healthy learning environments.”

WRAL reports Burns began his career in 1976 as a special education teacher at a Wake County elementary school before he made the leap to administration, working as principal, associate superintendent and deputy superintendent over the course of his career.

“I look forward to working closely with Mr. Burns over the coming months,” said Deputy Superintendent LaChawn Smith in a press release. “His depth of experience and success across North Carolina will help us as we evaluate our current policies, implement new procedures and initiatives, and work to ensure our students have a safe learning environment and our community is informed of our progress.”

“This is the next necessary step to help provide stability to the district, and our Board appreciates the North Carolina School Boards Association for assisting with this process,” said Lisa Estep, Chair of the New Hanover County Board of Education. “With his vast experience, we are confident that Dr. Burns is the right choice to lead our district while the search continues for a permanent superintendent. Our goal remains making our schools safe for students, families, and staff.”

Board of Education member Judy Justice said she’s thrilled with the choice.

“If anything he will be over communicating and that will be exactly what we need," Justice said. "We need transparency, we need accountability, but also we need a direction -- not that we haven’t had it -- but we need to have the public’s support in the direction that we’re going and he’s the kind of leadership during this interim that I think will bring that about.”

The superintendent position was left vacant after Dr. Tim Markley resigned February 7. Markley resigned without directly addressing the sex abuse scandal, throughout which many people have called for his removal.

Moving forward, Burns said communication will be key.

“Trust is developed when folks believe and know that communication is as clear and abundant as it can be within the parameters that you’re allowed to talk with folks," he said. "There are limitations. There are legal limitations. Folks who’ve been accused of misconduct have rights as well and we have to honor all of those things.”

Burns signed a six-month contract to serve as Interim Superintendent.

“He’s done this particular role before so he knows what it means to bring stability to a school system that’s facing some challenges, so that’s really what we wanted,” Estep said.

Estep says they’ll conduct a national search to find a permanent replacement for Markley.

Burns will not be directly involved in that process.

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