Talk about tough duty. Keith Sutton pulled his share and then some as chairman of the Wake County school board, dealing with contentious Republican county commissioners on the issue of the ownership and management of facilities and then working with them on the successful bond issue.
Prior to that, Sutton, on the board since 2009, served with a Republican majority that couldn’t have cared less what other board members thought about anything.
So just what happened that caused seven board members to vote this week for Christine Kushner as chairman, denying Sutton the customary second one-year term?
The board owes the public an explanation as to why a perfectly competent chairman was ousted. This is a publicly elected group. It handles the sensitive matter of supervising the public schools. It has been roiled with partisan and philosophical tensions in the past, and the election of moderates in October promised a more cooperative and serene atmosphere.
So why should Sutton, a veteran member who came through a challenging – and that’s putting it mildly – tenure as chairman, be ousted?
Not surprisingly, he’s not saying much. Some of his allies in his East Raleigh district are talking, including Raleigh City Council member Eugene Weeks, and others believe a fuller explanation is needed.
Kushner, a Morehead scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill with a graduate degree from Princeton, certainly is qualified to hold the chair. She’ll have some tough issues, including an expectation that the commissioners and the school board will continue to face off over property ownership and management.
And there will be continued discussion about how to deal with student assignment while trying to avoid high concentrations of disadvantaged kids in some schools.
Sutton was a good chairman. Kushner will be, too. But why the change happened should not be a mystery.