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Originally published Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 8:29 PM

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Embattled Tukwila schools superintendent resigns

Ethelda Burke, the Tukwila School District superintendent under investigation for allegedly making inappropriate racial comments, has resigned.

Seattle Times education reporter

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Tukwila School District Superintendent Ethelda Burke has resigned amid an investigation into claims that she made inappropriate racial comments.

Burke, who has led the 2,800-student district since 2008, wrote in a resignation letter made public Wednesday that the "unwarranted claims" had made it impossible for her to be effective as superintendent.

"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," she wrote to School Board President Mark Wahlstrom. "It also resulted in irreparable damage to my reputation as an educator."

Burke added that she has "devoted every moment" of her 40-year career in education "to provide equity in access to learning for all students."

The board accepted the resignation and appointed Mellody Matthes as interim superintendent. Matthes had already been serving as acting superintendent since Burke was put on paid leave in March.

That action took place after nine district employees complained Burke allegedly called them "slaves" and made other comments they found inappropriate.

The employees, like Burke, are African American.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is investigating the claims.

In a statement in response to the resignation, the school district reiterated its position that "there is no evidence to substantiate any of those claims"against Burke.

Wahlstrom, the board president, thanked Burke for her service.

Before taking the Tukwila job, Burke was deputy superintendent of the Tacoma School District.

In July 2007, she abruptly resigned from that post after being passed over for a temporary stint in the top job, according to the Tacoma News-Tribune.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or brosenthal@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal.

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