The decision to oust Keith Sutton

Posted by Dan Barkin on December 3, 2013 

A few hours ago, the Wake School board voted not to re-elect Keith Sutton as chairman. He was replaced by board member Christine Kushner, on a 7-2 vote.

Here is what our reporter, T. Keung Hui, wrote:

“It’s not about one person,” Kushner said in interviews after the vote. “It’s about us coming together as a board.”

Kushner said that there had been talk the past few weeks about a leadership change but she didn’t explain why. She and other board members publicly praised Sutton on Tuesday for his service as chairman.

That probably won’t satisfy some people, since traditionally board chairs are, in Hui’s words, “allowed to serve for consecutive one-year terms.”

With Sutton as chair, the board got an $810 million bond issue passed, which was no sure thing. The board also hired a new superintendent. There’s nothing obvious that jumps out about why Sutton was not re-elected. Maybe the reasons will be explained at some point.

I think it is a good idea, when you do something like this, to talk about why. Maybe the majority disagrees with Sutton about policy.

Around a month ago, I wrote about the company that was buying Hofmann Forest, and its initial decision not to talk about this major land deal. I wrote:

“Public relations professionals would look at this and say, now, that’s not the way a substantial company that suddenly controls 79,000 acres should introduce itself to North Carolina.

Walker Ag should have anticipated that there would be questions about who they are, why they are buying this huge tract, and what they plan to do with it.”

Similarly, the school board members who voted in Kushner over Sutton should not be surprised that members of the community would raise their eyebrows and ask: “What’s this all about?”

Especially after they voted to give the board $810 million two months ago to spend on new schools, which required one heck of a leap of faith on the part of the citizenry. There was a big, four-column picture on the front of the Oct. 9 edition of the N&O of a smiling Keith Sutton, watching the returns with Wake County Commissioners Chairman Joe Bryan. Sutton deserves some of the credit for the fact that the school board and the commissioners could bury the hatchet long enough to get a huge bond issue passed.

Would the bond issue have gotten nearly 58 percent of the vote if folks knew that Sutton was going to be replaced two months later as chairman?

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