Tukwila school superintendent must get fair appraisal | Our view
April 26, 2012 · 12:45 PM
The racial-discrimination charges against Tukwila Superintendent Ethelda Burke seem damning.
But they are just that – charges. No guilt has been assigned to those charges nor has Burke, at least publicly, had a chance to explain her side of the racially charged allegations.
Sadly, in the early days of such legal dramas, those on offense – in this case the attorney for the nine Tukwila School District employees – hold the power to mold the sentiment of a public bereft of “the other side.”
In the meantime a cloud of doubt hangs over Burke’s ability to lead Tukwila’s schools. The uncertainty is a distraction that no one needs in a district where all attention must focus on educating one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation.
That is why it’s so important that the public take a step back now and wait for the results of the school district’s investigation. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, with whom the complaints were filed, will investigate, too.
School Board President Mark Wahlstrom has shown just the right blend of keeping the community’s emotions under control, yet still expressing a willingness to take whatever action is required involving Burke – but after the investigations are complete.
Based on what he has told the community at School Board meetings and in today’s Tukwila Reporter, Wahlstrom is the best person to ensure Burke gets a fair shake and ultimately the Tukwila community gets a strong leader for its schools.
Burke is already on paid administrative leave, a necessary step to allow the district’s head office to proceed as normally as possible.
It’s clear that Burke has made a difference in the Tukwila School District. In an interview with the Tukwila Reporter in March 17, 2011, about four years into her job, Burke said the community had embraced her.
She talked about the district’s ethnic diversity.
“And you see them talk to each other. The ethnic communities here learn how to get along. They learn about each other’s cultures. It is very inviting,” she said.
That’s why it’s hard to believe that an African-American woman would say something that on the surface seems so racist. And that’s why it’s so important the investigations play out fairly and that Burke has a chance to regain the confidence of the Tukwila community.