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Court ruling prompts NC Schools CEO Bill Harrison to retire

Governor Perdue's choice to lead North Carolina's school system has had enough. CEO of Public Schools Bill Harrison is retiring at the end of August. He says a successful lawsuit that challenged his authority has taken too much of his time. Harrison was effectively stripped of his duties on Friday when a Wake County judge ruled that only the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction has authority to run the agency's daily operations. In an e-mail to employees at the state Board of Education, Harrison said he's "wasted too many hours on this case," and that he'd rather spend his time helping Governor Perdue reform public education. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson filed the lawsuit in April shortly after Harrison began his $265,000 a year job. Atkinson said that Harrison called Wednesday morning to inform her of his resignation. "Dr. Harrison's retiring certainly does indicate his willingness to put children first in our state." The court ruling made for an awkward situation for Atkinson and Harrison on Monday when they returned to work. As CEO of Public Schools, Harrison had to report to Atkinson. But Atkinson also must report to Harrison because he's chairman of the state board of education. Harrison says he will remain in that position. It's now Atkinson's role to carry out board policy. Perdue praised Harrison for deciding to retire. In a prepared statement, she said it "puts the focus back where it belongs, on the classroom." Perdue created the CEO of Public Schools position and named Harrison chairman of the state board as part of an effort to clear up who runs North Carolina's education system. Since 1995, the state Board of Education had hired a deputy superintendent to run the daily operations of the Department of Public Instruction. That scenario created a lot of confusion about who was in charge. Harrison's appointment as CEO further reduced the elected superintendent's position to a figureheard. Now, Atkinson has more authority than she's ever had in her five years on the job.