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The Daily Tar Heel

Orange County superintendent steps down, seat filled by Del Burns

After only a few months since the last appointment, Orange County School System returned to an old favorite to fill the position of superintendent. 

For the second time in a year, Del Burns will act as interim superintendent for Orange County Schools after Gerri Martin resigned on May 12. 

“I have matters to address regarding a serious family medical situation that has to be a priority for me," Martin said in her resignation letter. "In December, my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.” 

Martin was appointed last October by the school board and served eight months of her term.  Her decision to resign was accepted unanimously by the school board. 

“We probably knew something about it a couple of weeks before her resignation,” said Donna Coffey, director of the Orange County Schools Board of Education. “We knew she was at least contemplating resigning to take care of her mother for a few months.” 

Burns has stepped in to fill the duties of superintendent until a new one is selected, though he is not new to Orange County. He acted as interim superintendent in between the retirement of former Superintendent Patrick Rhodes and the appointment of Martin. Burns also served as superintendent of Wake County from 2006 until 2010. 

“He was someone the district had already had a relationship with, and we knew he could be reliable,” said Seth Stephens, director of communications for Orange County Schools. “We value his experience, and he was prepared to offer his skills once again.” 

Cedar Ridge High School Principal John Wheeler met the selection of Burns with enthusiasm. 

“I think the selection of Burns is an opportunity for the district to bring us to the next level in education,” Wheeler said. “He’s as dynamic as it gets, he has a variety of experience and has the perfect demeanor for the job as superintendent.” 

For Wheeler, the next level in education for Orange County means being seen as trendsetters with technology across North Carolina. 

“I think Burns is very capable of supporting that goal,” Wheeler said. 

The selection of Burns means Orange County has breathing room before the Board of Education selects a new superintendent. 

“We are going to make sure the selection process is a good one and that we’ve thought through everything,” Coffey said. “We probably won’t see a superintendent coming on mid-year again.”  

Orange County is not currently in the process of seeking out a new superintendent, Stephens said. 

“I think that Martin’s resignation surprised a lot of people,” Wheeler said. “But we need to move forward, and Del Burns is the perfect person to do that for Orange County.” 

Burns could not be reached for comment. 

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