LEE COUNTY - Tonight a major game changer for the Lee County school district. As state investigators focus in on Doctor Joseph Burke, he makes a major announcement to Fox 4.
A week after saying he would step down, the Superintendent is singing a different tune. All this as board members decide not to investigate Burke for wrongdoing -- instead they're leaving that task to state officials. Four in your Corner investigator Mike Mason was at tonight's meeting and has the latest.
The Superintendent now saying he may want to stay and he has some key members from the community standing behind him. Just before the school board meeting began....local NAACP chapter President James Muwakkil telling me he and others met with Superintendent Joseph Burke on Monday and Burke told them he now wants to stay. Muwakkil says Burke decided to retire because of pressure from the media.....criticizing him for suspending an investigation into Deedara Hicks. Witnesses say Hicks showed up to work - apparently drunk....in August of 2011....but Burke ordered the district to stop investigating Hicks. Muwakkil says Burke is now rallying support so he can keep his job. Moments before the meeting began I asked Burke if he was having a 'change of heart'.
Mike Mason: "Are you still going to retire?”
Joseph Burke: "Uh, most likely I haven't changed my plans."
Mike Mason: "James Muwakkil says you changed your plans.”
Joseph Burke: "Well, James asked me if I would be interested in staying and I told him that I would be but the medical situation that I'm going through will have to play itself out in the next few months."
Muwakkil and several other minority group leaders speaking tonight in support of Burke and his administration.
James Muwakkil: "We support Dr. Burke and we support Dr. Hicks and we support Dr. Rodriguez."
Supporter of Dr. Burke: "I ask Dr. Burke to reconsider his resignation."
But board member Jeanne Dozier wants Burke out. She's suspicious about whether Burke ever really wanted to retire.
Jeanne Dozier: "People are scared to death and it has to stop and the only way it's going to stop is to put all of this to rest."
Dozier says if Burke does retire early she doesn't want his second in command - Alberto Rodriguez - to replace him. Burke hired Rodriguez and Hicks after working with them in other districts.
Mike Mason: "So you wouldn't support Dr. Rodriguez being the new Superintendent?”
Jeanne Dozier: "I would not do that, absolutely not."
If the Superintendent does leave a year before his contract is up board members say they won't have to pay him a dime after he retires.