June Atkinson With Nothing To Do



Remember June Atkinson? She was the Democratic candidate in 2004 for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. You might also remember she won that election, but her opponent, a Republican creature named Bill Fletcher, contested her victory and mounted a long drawn out legal fight.

The election was close, but the decision was clear. Never-the-less, Fletcher refused to give up and the battle through the courts cost both political parties a fortune and prevented June Atkinson from taking office until late in 2005.

You might assume all of that would be frustration enough for someone like Dr. Atkinson who has terrific qualifications and a strong desire to serve. After all, she campaigned all across the state and enjoyed high hopes for her aggressive agenda to improve the schools.

If that's what you think, then be prepared for disappointment. The humbling of that electoral dog fight was simply a fore taste of what she's experiencing now.

According to a Sunday editorial in The Winston-Salem Journal...

* The State Board of Education, which is the body that determines the bulk of her job description, has given her no responsibilities and less authority. She shows up to work each day with little to do but smile and be optimistic

* The State Board has chosen to hire J.B. Buxton as deputy state superintendent starting February 1st, a position that will not report to Atkinson, but directly to the board itself

* In an added measure of irony, J.B. Buxton is the very person she campaigned against and defeated in the Democratic primary.

* And now for the coup de grace - The State Board of Education will be paying Buxton $140,000 a year, about $25,000 more than the state pays Dr. Atkinson

Obviously there is something going on behind the scenes about which those of us on the outside can only speculate. However, the real enemy appears to be an administrative structure at the Department of Public Instruction that is an organizational joke.

Evidently back in the mid 1990's certain members of the state legislature took a dislike to then Superintendent of Public Instruction, Bob Etheridge (yes, that Bob Etheridge.) So in a fit of petulance they decided to teach Bob a lesson and strip his office of most of its powers.

Now good old Bob is happily serving in the U.S. Congress, and could probably care less. However, poor June now occupies the hollowed out shell of his old position, and when she reflects on her decision to serve she must be asking herself, "Whatever was I thinking?"

Comments

Say what?

These cheap shots don't become you. Say what you will about June Atkinson but she showed up for a Larry Kissell fundraiser. If you don't know what she does it's easier to make throw away comments than to actually try understand. This reads more like a JLF blog entry.

JB Buxton fills an existing position vacated by a retirement. There is no irony. There is no "coup de grace" (there is no coup d'gras either). There is no "real enemy". There is no "administrative structure....that is an organization joke", though there may be a political one.

In the late 80's and mid 90's much control was returned to local education authorities and the Department of Public Instruction was gutted. It was hardly a petulant response to one individual.

June Atkinson knows exactly what she was thinking even if you don't.

Greg.

I think you misunderstand...how many times have I said that?

Anyway, there was a huge story about this during the court battle. The position really has had all its power stripped away, that isn't a shot at June Atkinson, she simply was elected to a position that many say should either have its power given back or become an appointed position.

I think George's point is that she survived a lousy electoral vote only to have the State Board of Education continue overriding her and, potentially, her decisions.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

Say this!

Did you even bother to read what I wrote?

There's not one jot or scintilla of criticism for June Atkinson in what I wrote... not a bit.

If you read what I wrote it should become explicitly clear that the criticism I offered is of the relationship which has developed between the state board of education and Dr. Atkinson (as described in the linked editorial) - that and the ridiculous way that the Department of Public Instruction has been administratively organized.

What I wrote about the good woman herself was uniformly positive. I attended a fund raiser for her when she ran, gave to her campaign and suffered right along with her through her long battle with the Republican creature who contested the last election. In short, I am sure that June Atkinson knows exactly what she is doing, and I don't need you to assure me of that all too obvious fact.

Before you go off half cocked and filled with the pomposity of your own righteous opinion, please refer to the text itself.

I'm 56 years old. I moved to North Carolina five years ago. The previous twenty-five years I spent as a resident of Chicago's north shore and before that Wisconsin, Utah and California. I live in Moore County. My Congressman is Howard Coble, my State Sen

I think it's comments like this one....

She shows up to work each day with little to do but smile and be optimistic

....and then there's this

However, poor June now occupies the hollowed out shell of his old position, and when she reflects on her decision to serve she must be asking herself, "Whatever was I thinking?"

It leaves her looking powerless and pitiful. I doubt very seriously she is either.

My first read-through left me feeling the same way Greg apparently felt. The overall negativity of the rant seemed to be directed at multiple people/entities. There's a dig at Bob Etheridge - or what seems like one and certainly some jabs at the Board of Ed and maybe even the governor and state legislature from the '90s. It's simply difficult to tell who you are ranting about. This, of course, could very well be that it is a multi-pronged problem and they should all enjoy a bit of our anger. This seems to be born out in Graig's comment, which is very constructive.

I read Greg's comment a second time and it is in no way a personal attack. I do not believe that he deserves your personal attack in return.

Before you go off half cocked and filled with the pomposity of your own righteous opinion, please refer to the text itself.

Greg is one of the least pompous, self-righteous people I've had the pleasure to know and work with. He is a true gentleman. While he doesn't need me to get his back, I am going to do so anyway.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Comments like these...

It was comments like these...

1. These cheap shots don't become you.

2. ...it's easier to make throw away comments than to actually try [to] understand.

3. June Atkinson knows exactly what she was thinking even if you don't.

that caused me to assume that your "true gentleman" was engaging in a personal attack. Perhaps I'm stepping on the privileges due to a pre-existing relationship, but I think the offense I took was for good and appropriate reasons.

If you don't think that Dr. Atkinson's current situation has left her with reduced influence and diminished power then I'd love to hear why that's the case. If there's an argument to be made that would indicate the contrary please make it. Unlike Graig, I'm not an expert in the area of education, nor do I claim to be. If my point of view was ill informed, superficial or wrong headed I'm ready to hear the reasons why.

The Dr. Atkinson I know and respect is someone with much to offer to an educational system that requires reform and improvement. I would hate to see her effectiveness held hostage by old turf battles that have nothing to do with her, or a governor who wishes to bypass her so that his own initiatives prevail.

She deserves more than that, and so do we.

I'm 56 years old. I moved to North Carolina five years ago. The previous twenty-five years I spent as a resident of Chicago's north shore and before that Wisconsin, Utah and California. I live in Moore County. My Congressman is Howard Coble, my State Sen

Pity

your diary did not more clearly represent this sentiment

The Dr. Atkinson I know and respect is someone with much to offer to an educational system that requires reform and improvement. I would hate to see her effectiveness held hostage by old turf battles that have nothing to do with her, or a governor who wishes to bypass her so that his own initiatives prevail.

I have to say I had the same initial reaction as greg and SD. Your diary seemed to negatively portray Dr Atkinson by implication although not necessarily in your explicit language.

Your comment here does a much better job of explaining both your view of the diary subject matter and your regard for Dr Atkinson.

As for your exchange with greg, it is one thing to address a diarist's tactics (ie: cheap shot) and quite another to make personal digs (ie: pompous/self-righteous). The purpose of submitting our writing in this forum is to give and receive feedback...both positive and negative. We may not - and will not - always agree on the content of a diary. The challenge is to separate content from personality.

Larry Kissell is MY Congressman

I give...

I'm left to assume that this from the third paragraph of my original post, which appears prominently above the fold, was not sufficient to describe my opinion about June Atkinson...?

You might assume all of that would be frustration enough for someone like Dr. Atkinson who has terrific qualifications and a strong desire to serve. After all, she campaigned all across the state and enjoyed high hopes for her aggressive agenda to improve the schools.

Candidly, I'm amazed that anyone could read my original post and find anything in it that was even mildly critical of Dr. Atkinson, and much that sympathized with her impossible position.

Please, give me a break here. There must be something else going on that exceeds the text of what I wrote. How about letting me in on the secret.

I'm 56 years old. I moved to North Carolina five years ago. The previous twenty-five years I spent as a resident of Chicago's north shore and before that Wisconsin, Utah and California. I live in Moore County. My Congressman is Howard Coble, my State Sen

Just know

that the point of a diary isn't always as obvious to the reader as it is to the diarist.

We can go back and forth all afternoon pulling quotes out of your diary...but as others have already commented on today, it just didn't come across the way you may have meant it. You can call us all crazy and dismiss the critiques or you can accept the comments for whatever they are worth and use the feedback as you write future diaries.

Larry Kissell is MY Congressman

(nitpick)

coup de grace. gras means "fat."

On topic, that is a really crappy thing to do to a person.

Coup de Grace

You're right... believe it or not I've been making that mistake all my life with no one to draw my attention to it... coup de grace it is... thanks for the correction.

I'm 56 years old. I moved to North Carolina five years ago. The previous twenty-five years I spent as a resident of Chicago's north shore and before that Wisconsin, Utah and California. I live in Moore County. My Congressman is Howard Coble, my State Sen

This is a major move in education circles.

Whether you want to quibble with George's writing or not, this is a major issue in NC's education structure. We don't usually get much about education at BlueNC, so I'm really happy to see this here.

For years, those of us who work in education have known that our accountability structure is absolutely nuts...
-The State School Board is appointed by the governor.
-The State Superintendent is elected.
-The state's education budget is set by the General Assembly.
-DPI is accountable to the State Board.
-Local School Boards are elected by residents of their district.
-Local Education Agencies (otherwise known as school districts) are accountable to their local board. They have some reporting responsibilities to DPI and they receive financial support from the GA.

It would take more time and space than I have here to explain all of the ramifications of this wacky setup.

The State School Board's move to appoint Buxton breaks from recent tradition. When Mike Easley was State Superintendent, the Board gave him operational control - which basically means that he had both Atkinson's and Buxton's responsibilities and control.

Buxton's appointment sure seems like a move that Easley orchestrated to create a clear hierarchy: Governor - Board - Asst. Supt. - DPI. He's in control, and Buxton is clearly his man.

What does this mean for public education? Easley's pet initiatives have one fewer hurdles to clear. Look at next year's budget for support of Learn and Earn, More at Four, and other reforms spawned by the New Schools Project and the American Diploma Project.

What does this mean for Atkinson? She's very well respected and accomplished. I think only time will tell how this shakes out for her. As far as I can tell, Atkinson's only public comment on the issue has been supportive, and can be found in this DPI press release.

My take: This wouldn't be an issue if the State Superintendent's job was appointed rather than elected.

Cleaning up this system.

Maybe this is something our Gubernatorial candidates should talk about, cleaning up this system to be more centralized and more illogical.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

Thank you, Graig

I was going to reply that the position shouldn't be an elected one to begin with, but did not have the time to research my opinion to back it up with fact. Thank you for your take on this.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Graig, where do you see the Office of School Readiness

fitting into all of this?

Do you expect that responsibility for other state early childhood initiatives and departments such as Smart Start and the Division of Child Development will be folded into this? On the one hand, it seems to make sense to centralize and cut down on administrative costs, and yet on the other hand, it has been my experience that the folks at the top of the funding streams are not adept at "getting it" as to what is happening and what is important at the end of the funding streams. More centralization could have the effect of taking away more local control and creative problem solving. Thoughts?

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Gandhi

Office of School Readiness

The Office of School Readiness is a collaborative effort of the Governor's Office, DPI and HHS, correct? I think the idea was to get them all on the same page about our state's various early childhood initiatives (Smart Start, More at 4, etc.).

I don't know how much Buxton has been involved with that, because my conversations with him have been about high school reform and college access. My guess is that he's been on the inside for all of the conversations about early childhood education. It's possible that his role at DPI could lead to even better collaboration and a more seamless connection between pre-k and k-12 education.

Should DPI totally take over pre-k education? It would get less attention from the governor. I'm sure the HHS people wouldn't want to give up their involvement (and they play a very important role). The upside would be better intergration of services I suppose.

I hope we can turn the centralized authority/local control conversation into one where we look for a both/and solution (rather than either/or). We could really benefit from a more centralized structure if it results in greater clarity about our state's educational priorities. LEA's would, of course, want to maintain local control about implementation and lots of other decisions.

One of the issues that we're faced with

at the Early Childhood level is a number of parallel systems that have grown up in the state, with parallel administrations, but with different standards. Division of Child Development (DCD), which is part of DHHS, has significantly higher standards for the care of 4 year olds in some areas (environments must be developmentally appropriate, etc.) than DPI does, for instance. OTOH, DPI has significantly higher standards for teacher education than DCD does. I'd like to see a blending of both - discarding the lower standards of each, and taking the higher standards so that the children of NC get the best we can offer them.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Gandhi

Yes but...

...did you mean Greg or George?

I meant Geroge

:)

Actually, I meant George. I don't have any background on this and between the two of you, I now know 5000% more than I ever did. Still not sure what I think, this one will take some mulling.

Incurious

Unfortunately I read every word you wrote, not once but twice, just to be sure I understood what you wrote. I think I know what you meant, but I take exception to what you wrote, not what I thought you meant. In paraphrasing the words of the W-SJ you also took ownership of and amplified inaccurate and uncharitable remarks. I wish you had simply quoted the editorial with blockquotes but you chose to summarize with your own unique spin, for which I hold you responsible.

I made it past the snarky title but the inaccuracy and sarcasm in the original article was compounded by your re-interpretation of it. The “praise” of June Atkinson served to heighten the ridicule and the apparent disparity between qualifications and responsibility.

You assert that she was humbled by the “electoral dogfight”, then assert this was “simply a fore taste (sic) of what she’s experiencing now” without any basis for either assertion.

You assert that the Board “has given her no responsibilities and less authority”. This is patently incorrect and is entirely your own fabrication. The W-SJ said “She has few duties other than those assigned to her by the state board” and “In the past, the board has given superintendents a good deal of responsibility. For reasons that escape us, it has not chosen to do so with Atkinson”. Nowhere is it written, except in your own words, that the Board has given her “no responsibilities”.

The duties delegated to Atkinson by the Board are outlined in this policy statement dated 09/02/2004, prior to her election to office. In addition to those duties she serves as Secretary to the Board of Education, is a member of the Council of State and, the Governor’s Education Cabinet.

There is nothing new in the fact JB Buxton’s salary will be the same as his predecessor Janice Davis. Like his predecessor he will “report directly to the State Superintendent” per State Board of Education Policy. The same policy, dated 09/02/2004 which also describes the State Board of Education’s current delegation of authority to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Position Description: Deputy Superintendent
Department of Public Instruction

REPORTING LINES:
The Deputy Superintendent reports solely and directly to the State Superintendent.

To date there has been no change, nor no proposed changed, in State Board of Education policy regarding this delegation of authority and lines of reporting.

The authority extended to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction has ebbed and flowed. The State Board of Education, over a period of several years found a comfort level with Mike Ward that allowed for an expansion of that authority beyond that afforded to his predecessor Mike Etheridge.

In the summer of 2004 with Mike Ward’s resignation as Superintendent, the State Board rescinded much of the authority it had extended to Ward pending the election of a new Superintendent. This was done with the approval of then Interim Superintendent, Board member Patricia Willoughby. The protracted election dispute served to extend the tenure of Patricia Willoughby as Interim Superintendent and the rescinded authority was never restored to June Atkinson after she took office. To be fair her tenure has run just a little over a year, having been sworn in August 23rd 2005 only after the General Assembly settled the vote.

The authority extended to Mike Ward was to some extent unusual though not unprecedented. The retention of authority by the State Board is similarly unusual but understandable. The election results were not predictable and the rescinding of authority was as much an immunization strategy against a potential win by Bill Fletcher as it was smart management tactic in the absence of Mike Ward. When Mike Ward first ran he defeated challenger Vernon Robinson. Ward earned his trust from the Board of Education over a period of almost eight years. The Board’s failure to restore some if not all of that authority to June Atkinson may be a matter for exploration but it has not been precipitated by the appointment of JB Buxton.

The assertion that “poor June” occupies a “hollowed out shell” of “good old Bob” Etheridge’s old position is a clever use of words that manages to slam both Atkinson and Etheridge and obfuscate the truth. If she occupies any “hollowed out shell” it is that of Mike Ward’s which was actually constructed over a period of 8 years. I would expect a delegation of authority to be consistent with that given to Mike Ward when he assumed office, not when he left

June Atkinson received 1,655,719 votes in 2004 general election. She and Marshall Stewart had more votes than JB Buxton in a three way primary. Stewart actually had the most votes but lost in the run-off to Atkinson who obviously garnered much of Buxton's support. There is no evidence of animosity between Atkinson and Buxton or the Board or the Governor.

There may be an argument for eliminating the election to this position but it should be in the context of other Council of State elected positions. Eliminating a position simply because political rivals may have out-maneuvered it is hardly a sound or Democratic basis for action.

The W-SJ actually criticized the “education governance structure” which you extrapolated incorrectly into the “administrative structure at the Department of Public Instruction”.

The “administrative structure at the Department of Public Instruction” is everything from the State Superintendent down. What the W-SJ referred to was everything else. If you have some factual basis for the statement that “administrative structure at the Department of Public Instruction that is an organizational joke” then please share it but please don’t take cheap shots at something you don’t understand.

The stories about JB Buxton’s appointment have sought to put a spin on a controversy that does not exist by assembling some grains of truth into a flimsy fabrication. Your post amplified that spin and introduced further inaccuracies. June Atkinson is a progressive grassroots campaigner that deserves support and reasoned, informed analysis, not this ridicule.

Greg, this is beautiful

It's the most I ever thought I would learn about the Board of Ed's history/structure. I wish it weren't under these circumstances, but I appreciate the lesson anyway.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.