Ron Margiotta: School board owes explanation on Sutton

January 23, 2014 

I have always found Wake County school board member Keith Sutton to be smart, politically astute and willing to work with anyone to achieve his goals. One of his major goals was – and I am sure continues to be – improving the academic achievement of low-performing students. Sutton never compromised his principles, which could be a reason the current school board denied him the traditional second term as chairman.

When the Republicans attained a majority in 2009, we explained the reasons for deposing the incumbent chairman. It was necessary for the new majority to enact its goals of moving the district forward. We were clear on our goals and explained why they were necessary. There was transparency, something completely lacking with the current board’s decision to depose Sutton. The liberal political community, supported by the news media, made sure through continual disruptions and unlawful protests to slow down the reforms the Republican majority was putting into effect.

During the Republican majority’s time, Sutton was a strong partner on my appointed task force that was established to work on reducing suspensions and increasing student achievement, especially for low-performing students. During his shortened tenure as chairman, he led the board to many accomplishments. Most likely his major one was bridging the gap and overcoming bitter relations with the county commissioners to persuade them to agree to put a bond referendum on the October ballot. He was able to gain support from Democrats and Republicans – yes, a unanimous decision. He followed through once again to persuade the commissioners to actively support the bond referendum – again, with a unanimous decision, a great achievement that reduced any organized opposition to the bond issue.

Yet, after all of these positive results, for whatever reason the school board majority decided to deny Sutton the traditional second term as chairman. The lack of explanation for this decision is troubling and contributes to the assumption of many that the decision has racial overtones. The Democratic majority on the school board owes an explanation to the public and to Keith Sutton on the reasons for denying him the chairmanship after his many accomplishments.

Ron Margiotta, Morrisville

The writer, a member of the Wake County school board from 2003 to 2011, was chairman from 2009 to 2011. The length limit was waived.

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