Gov. Cooper names three nominees to the State Board of Education

Gov. Roy Cooper

Gov. Roy Cooper has named his first new nominees to the State Board of Education, the panel charged with overseeing North Carolina’s public school system.

Included among his nominees is current state board member Reginald Kenan, as well as former Department of Public Instruction administrator John Buxton and retired UNC-Asheville associate professor and assistant provost Sandra Byrd.

The Democratic governor’s nominees will require the confirmation of the Republican-controlled N.C. General Assembly, although it’s unclear whether GOP lawmakers plan to contest any of the new state board nominees.

In 2011, the Republican-controlled legislature refused to take up former Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s nominees with two years remaining in her term, reserving multiple picks for her eventual replacement, Republican Pat McCrory, in 2013.

As Policy Watch has reported on multiple occasions, Republican lawmakers have been aggressive in acting to curtail the powers of the new Democratic governor since his election last November.

The appointments come at a tumultuous time for the state board, with members embroiled in a lawsuit with the legislature over the powers of new Republican Superintendent Mark Johnson.

Kenan, who was first appointed by Perdue in 2009, is a lawyer in Duplin County and longtime member of his local board of education.

Buxton has a lengthy history of involvement in K-12 policy. A former high school English teacher, Buxton has served as a White House Fellow under former President Bill Clinton, a DPI administrator, education advisor to former Democratic Gov. Mike Easley, legislative director for the State Board of Education and coordinator of the Teaching Fellows scholarship program at the Public School Forum of N.C., a nonpartisan policy and research group based in Raleigh.

Meanwhile, Byrd, in addition to her university work, is a former high school teacher once recognized as Buncombe County’s teacher of the year.

The two nominees would replace Wayne McDevitt and Patricia Willoughby, whose terms expired at the end of March.

Gov. Cooper is expected to be able to name multiple members of the board during his term, although given the precedent set by the legislature’s inaction on Perdue’s picks, that’s open for debate.

Three more seats—held by board Chairman Bill Cobey, as well as members Rebecca Taylor and Gregory Alcorn—will expire on March 31, 2019.

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