Public information officer leaving ABSS later this month

The Alamance-Burlington school system’s public information officer, Les Atkins, has announced his resignation from ABSS after less than two years in the position.

His last day is scheduled for March 25, Atkins confirmed Monday in an interview with The Alamance News.

Atkins’ impending departure follows numerous shakeups at the ABSS Central Office that culminated on March 4 with the resignation of superintendent Dr. Dain Butler.

Early last month, state senator Amy Galey asked the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations (“Gov Ops”) to investigate the school system’s policies and financial decisions.  The results from that probe are expected to be complete next month, Galey said in an earlier interview with The Alamance News.

Two weeks later, on February 16, the school system’s chief finance officer, Kim McVey submitted her resignation, effective that day, to Butler, who is said to have rejected it and terminated the CFO on Sunday, February 18.

The following day, on February 19, Butler announced that he had appointed deputy superintendent Lowell Rogers to serve as the acting CFO.

The State Bureau of Investigation, however, charged Rogers the same day, on February 19, with allegedly failing to report a sexual offense against a juvenile.  He has been suspended with pay since February 19, school officials confirmed last week for the newspaper.

Then, on February 22, Butler revealed that he’d found $4.6 million in federal stimulus funding to forestall a reduction-in-force, which he had previously announced on February 2 but said that the Alamance Virtual School would need to be closed in order to save on expenses – setting off yet another firestorm among ABSS staff, students, and parents.

But the school system’s outgoing PIO insists that the timing of his resignation is in no way related to the turmoil in ABSS.

“I’ve been talking to this company for a while,” Atkins told the newspaper.  “I don’t want anybody to think that this board ran me away – or any of the other recent things that have happened in the district.”

During the school board’s latest work session Tuesday afternoon, Atkins told The Alamance News that he’d been contemplating a professional change for a while but waited to make an announcement because he hadn’t wanted his own departure to be conflated with other, sudden departures from the school system’s Central Office.

Atkins said in the interview Monday that he’ll be working for a private company, which he declined to identify.  “I’m going to be doing the same kind of role [public relations and marketing] but I’m not really at liberty to talk about the company yet…It’s a great opportunity for me to better myself.”

Named as the first-ever North Carolina School Communicator of the Year by the N.C. School Public Relations Association during a ceremony in High Point on February 9, Atkins acknowledged in the interview that he won’t be eligible to represent ABSS or the state this summer for a national competition in Seattle, Washington, because he’ll “no longer be employed as a school public information officer.”

As for his future ventures, Atkins has written a children’s book, which is scheduled for release later this year, he said in the interview.

Titled Brave to Be Lee, the central theme of his book is overcoming obstacles, which Atkins said he hopes will resonate with young readers.
“It’s the story of a little boy who’s made fun of because of a speech impediment,” Atkins explained.  “He starts working with a speech therapist, and [eventually is] able to get up and read a book report with very little stuttering.  It’s sort of my own story: as a child, I struggled with speech difficulties.  It’s for the children who receive those services [and] to raise awareness.”

Lee, the titular character in Atkins’ to-be-published children’s book, pays homage to his second-grade teacher, Eva Lee, whom he credits with helping him to overcome his speech impediment.

“I’ve been working with a friend who’s an illustrator – working nights and weekends, in my spare time,” said Atkins.  “I would put it down for a while and decided over the winter break [while ABSS students were off for Christmas and New Year’s] to really move it forward, doing that and trying to work a full-time job.”

Atkins said he has secured a publisher out of New Jersey, which has targeted his book for release later this year.

A veteran newsman with more than 30 years’ experience in public relations and broadcast news, including as an anchor and a reporter at WRAL and the N.C. News Network in Raleigh, Atkins also served as the PIO for the Roanoke Rapids Graded School district in Halifax County, before and during Butler’s five-year tenure as superintendent for that school system.

Atkins took over as the school system’s PIO in July 2022, two months after the school board announced Butler’s selection as the seventh superintendent for ABSS.

He and his wife, Stacy, will continue to reside in Burlington, Atkins confirmed for the newspaper Monday.