by Bob Geary
[Update, 8:45 p.m.: Back from the meeting. Guess what? Despite the low, low (free) price of my good advice, the new majority tossed Tedesco out as vice chair. Kevin Hill is the new chair, Keith Sutton is vice chair. Both by 5-4 or 5-3-1 votes. (A convoluted process; the vote for Hill as chair happened ... and then it happened again ... the reason doesn't matter.} Jim Martin, new member, made the good point that organization meetings, as a rule, should occur after elections — in December — not in June, as they do now. Martin wants the dates changed, which requires action by the General Assembly. Another example of the idiotic mother-may-I system of legislative control over local issues.
[Still, the bottom line is that Tedesco, a Republican, was ousted in mid-term on a party-line vote. Another body blow to the old nonpartisanship that Hill, as chair, said is his prime directive. Is JT planning to run for the DPI post? He didn't confirm or deny — but he had that look in his eye.]
Below is what I wrote this morning:
So here's a question for y'all who've spent the last two years in open or quiet despair over the antics of the Wake County Board of Education's Republican majority. With the recent elections, the Republicans' hold is broken. Non-Republicans, a.k.a. registered Democrats, will be in the majority by 5-4 as of today's swearing-in meeting. The Republican board chair, "Papa Ron" Margiotta, was defeated for re-election, so he must be replaced mid-way through his one-year term as chair.
Kevin Hill, I'm told, will be elected the new school board chair. A non-Republican.
But now the question is —
What of the vice chair, Mr. Grandiloquence himself, John Tedesco? Not just any Republican, but a firebrand Republican of the Tea Party variety and a likely candidate for state Superintendent of Public Instruction in the 2012 GOP primary.
Should Tedesco be allowed to serve the remaining six months of his term as vice chair? Or should he be ousted in favor of, say, Democrat Keith Sutton?
You will recall that, when the Republicans took power in December, 2009, Hill was the sitting board chair with six months left in his term. Margiotta & Co. knocked him immediately, notwithstanding the long, long board tradition of nonpartisanship and, actually, bipartisanship, under which Republican members and Democratic members served side-by-side and so cooperatively that most people had no idea which was which.
The ouster of Hill in mid-term blew that tradition off without care, signaling the Republicans' intention from the jump to run the school board as partisans.
But the old tradition was a good one — one the new board would do well to restore.
Leaving Tedesco as vice chair for another six months would send the message that this new school board majority, albeit all registered Democrats, intends to serve in the nonpartisan way their predecessor boards served — with the unfortunate 2009-11 period the exception proving why the rule is needed.
On the other hand, can you really leave Tedesco in office, even if it is a largely meaningless office with no authority, knowing he'll be calling himself the Wake school board vice chair if and when he runs for state DPI leader?
This morning, with the sun shining and the holidays approaching, I'll say yes.
I don't know that I'd say yes every morning.