Wake Ed

RWCA warns it won't forget Wake school board members who voted against Keith Sutton

Will the seven Wake County school board members who voted against keeping Keith Sutton as board chairman actually face political consequences from the African-American community?

The Rev. Earl Johnson, president of the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association, is warning that they group remembers how the seven board members sought the group’s endorsement and financial support during their run for office. Johnson adds that “the upcoming elections of 2016 may seem far off, but our memories are even longer.”

But would the group support any of their opponents, especially if they’re backed by the Republican Party? Would the group decide to sit out the election and not endorse anyone, including those seven Democratic-backed board members?

Here’s the statement from the RWCA:


The Raleigh Wake Citizens Association, which has represented the interests of the diverse citizens of the second largest county in the State of North Carolina for more than 80 years, has been unsettled by the news that Wake County School Board Member Keith Sutton has been replaced after serving for one year as board Chairman. We have, specifically, several immediate concerns about this matter, which happened without any indication of misdeeds or improper actions by Mr. Sutton.

To begin, Keith Sutton’s resume as a seasoned and well-regarded leader did not begin when he was elected to the Wake County School Board in 2009. From his work with such organizations such as the NAACP and the National Urban League to his work with the North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the Victim Advocate Liaison for the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission, Keith’s service to his community is rarely seen in the office of an elected official. His election to the school board was simply an extension of his commitment to the lives of young people, including his daughters, who are students with the Wake County Public School System.

When he became Chairman of the Board last year, he was faced with the aftermath of a divided body rife with internecine feuds and allegations of inappropriate conduct among board members. Keith managed to assuage the community while building coalitions among his colleagues. Over the past year, he also oversaw the hiring of a new superintendent, an $810 million school construction bond issue and staved off a proposed takeover by county commissioners. That type of leadership in North Carolina and indeed, in Wake County, is an uncommon sight.

Most disturbing about the recent move, however, is that the vote among Board members was divided along racial lines. If Mr. Sutton had not voted for himself, he would have only had one other supporter --- and that supporter is one of the newest members of the Board. How could an incoming member recognize the significance of his leadership and his longtime colleagues reject it? If, indeed, the board members feel as though their actions were justified, could they not have reached out to leaders in the community in advance? The answers that we have received thus far are simply reactionary and our minds are not settled at this point.

Finally, we wish to express to the remaining board members that this is a new day. It is not lost on us that many, if not all of you, have visited our meetings and attended our public forums during election seasons. You have sought our endorsements and seek our assistance with your campaign canvassing and fundraising efforts. The upcoming elections of 2016 may seem far off, but our memories are even longer. This slight of one of our brightest leaders is not something that we take lightly. Keith Sutton represented a beacon of hope to the thousands of young African-American students who are educated under his watch. In an era in which our President is besieged by hostile forces within the GOP, we, the membership of the Raleigh Wake Citizens, feel as though WCSB Member Keith Sutton has been similarly maligned.

Our minds are not settled with this matter.

Yours in progress,

Reverend Dr. Earl C. Johnson