The Tukwila School Board on Tuesday formally accepted the resignation of its superintendent, who has been accused by employees of discrimination. But the board says it has rejected the claims against Burke.
Ethelda Burke resigned June 30. She was on paid administrative leave, while the office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated allegations by 10 district employees of racial harassment and discrimination.
“The ordeal of the past few months has taken a toll on me and my family, and created an unfortunate and unnecessary spectacle which served as a distraction to students, parents, teachers, staff and the board. It also resulted in irreparable damage to my reputation as an educator,” wrote Burke. “It would be impossible for me to return and be effective as Superintendent.”
The school board said it agreed with Burke’s assertion and has accepted her resignation, but it rejects the discrimination charges. The district said it has not seen any evidence proving Burke discriminated against any employee.
“The staff members, who were all African American, alleged that Ms. Burke discriminated against them on the basis of race and/or gender and created a hostile work environment,” wrote the board in a press release. “The District contends there may have been some comments made from time to time that were taken out of context or misunderstood, but they do not support claims of discrimination in any event.”
According to the board, Burke added “… as an African-American woman, born in a charity hospital in New Orleans, I learned at an early age what it’s like to be the victim of discrimination. I clearly understand the magnitude and harm of racially offensive discrimination.”
The Tacoma NAACP also sided with Burke.
But the teachers who complained said there's no doubt in their minds she was out of line and say they have no intention of dropping their case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"A huge slap in the face. It's absolutely digging in your heels...It's discrediting all the of the nine claimants," said Joan Mell, teachers' attorney.
Attorneys with the EEOC said the investigation could take several months, depending on what it says about the allegations. Eventually, all of this could end up in court.
KING's Travis Pittman and Amy Moreno contributed to this report.