Monday, November 18, 2013



                                                        CHAIRMAN KEITH SUTTON

By Cash Michaels

            One year ago, despite the earnest leadership of Wake School Board Chairman Kevin Hill, there was little question that the beleaguered and embattled Wake Board of Education was in trouble.
            Democrats, in a brilliant 2011 election move, swept the five seats they needed to take back the school board from its controversial Tea Party majority, ousting Republican Board Chair Ron Margiotta in the process.
            During 2012, the four remaining Republican board members, in collusion with Tony Tata, the Republican schools superintendent the former Tea Party majority had hired eighteen months earlier, literally plotted to disrupt and obstruct Hill and the Democrats at every turn.
            When Tata’s ill-fated school choice student assignment plan began to cause immense problems, and his cuts to school bus service caused a catastrophe – in addition to his all-too-public personal attacks on two Democratic board members – Hill and the majority had had enough, and terminated the retired US Army general.
            But the bad taste left behind, in addition to the bad blood that was made even worse, further divided the Wake School Board, and raised questions about its ability to even function, let alone lead when it came to improving education for all of Wake County’s students.
            In the midst of all of the confusion, Board Vice Chair Keith Sutton stepped forward after Chairman Hill decided he didn’t need another year of grief.
Wake School Board chairs serve a maximum of two consecutive years.
 Sutton, the Southeast Raleigh representative and only African-American of the board, told his colleagues to give him the ball, and for the next year, he’ll take it from there.
            “I think I have the ability, I think I have the experience, I think I have the temperament to not only help lead this board and try to bring us together, but to also move us past some of the challenging issues we have in front of us,” Sutton told The Carolinian shortly after being chosen by his fellow Democratic board members in December 2012.
            Fast forward to today. Chairman Sutton’s report card for the past year comes due in two weekds, along with the swearing –in of three new board members – two of whom are Democrats.
            Observers say there’s little debate that the Wake County School Board is a dramatically different place than it was a year ago. Though there have been noteworthy challenges - including the police arrests of students at Enloe High School; filling two empty school board seats; passage of a new student assignment plan; adoption of a leaner annual budget; a Wake Commission Board attempting a  legislative “powergrab” for school property ownership that failed; the transparent process and hiring of new Wake Supt. Dr. Jim Merrill; voter passage of the $810 school construction bond; and of course, the fall elections that saw Democrats add to their already firm grip on board leadership for the foreseeable future – the Wake School Board has come through it all looking and sounding better than it has since 2009.
            “We have to get back to basics,” Sutton told The Carolinian a year ago. “Basic courtesy, basic respect for each other as board members. We’ve not seen that here lately, and I think we’ve got to get back to that.”
          “I set the tone at every meeting, and at every work session,” he added.
            And with three new board members preparing to be sworn-in on Tuesday, Dec. 3rd, one would expect that Sutton’s colleagues would gladly re-elect him to his second term as chair, to continue to lead them to the ultimate goal of Wake Public Schools being the best.
            But sources tell The Carolinian Newspaper that, in fact, there could be at least one challenge to Sutton’s board leadership, and it could come from none other than the board’s vice chairwoman, Christine Kushner.
            The Carolinian emailed Ms. Kushner, who represents District 6, to confirm whether she will be running against Sutton for the top spot.
            There was no response from her by press time Wednesday.
            Nor was there any on-the-record response from any of the other school board members currently serving about Sutton’s leadership, the board’s progress, or if they would be supporting his bid for a second, final term.
            Sources say the lobbying has already begun to oust Sutton, the feeling being that now that the waters are calm, new leadership is needed with an emphasis on a new direction.
            Chairman Sutton dismisses that belief, noting that, in conjunction with the board, it took strong vision, measured patience and temperment, good judgment and honed political skills to accomplished all that has been accomplished in the past year.
            Sutton believes that he has earned strong consideration for a second -term.
            Community members The Carolinian has spoken with say they intend to be at the December 3rd Wake School Board meeting in a show of support for Chairman Sutton.
            They say given what has been accomplished over the past year under his leadership, denying him one more year would be unfair.


            He didn’t attend the funeral in Charlotte last August when North Carolina said goodbye to one of its most historic figures, but Gov. Pat McCrory attempted to make up for that this week by posthumously awarding former NCCU Chancellor Julius L. Chambers the Spirit of North Carolina Award, a special honor given to state employees for exemplary service. “Julius Chambers was a pioneer in education and civil rights and he advanced both fields while in direct service to the people of North Carolina," said Gov. McCrory. "His public service and life’s work enriched North Carolina and our nation.” Atty. Chambers, who is also known for his extraordinary career in civil rights, was the first NCCU alumnus to serve as its chancellor from 1993 to 2001.

            It would have been a towering 17-story police, fire and emergency communications center in the heart of downtown Raleigh. But because of its hefty $175 million price tag, security concerns, and the fact, according to some critics, that it was being named after Clarence Lightner, the city’s first and only African-American mayor in history, the Lightner Public Safety Center was doomed. This week, the Raleigh City Council officially pulled the plug on any prospect of the Lightner Center being built, and instead approved the $71 million construction of the scaled-down, 100,000-square-foot Critical Public Safety Facility on Raleigh Blvd. and Brentwood Road. Construction could begin next summer.

            The Wake County Commission Board voted Monday to name the new Career and Technical Education High opening next fall after former Wake commissioner and school board chairman, the late state Senator Vernon Malone, who died in April 2009. The Wake Board of Education recently approved a resolution honoring Sen. Malone with the designation, but the commission board had to ratify it because it owned the building.


            [WINSTON-SALEM] As the CIAA continues its investigation into the beating of a Winston-Salem State University quarterback allegedly by members of the Virginia State University football team in a bathroom on WSSU’s campus last Friday, WSSU Chancellor Donald J. Reaves blasted VSA head football coach Latrell Scott, accusing him of allegedly trying to obstruct the police investigation, and charging that the coach, “…was more out of control than his players were.” The CIAA has suspended VSA from championship play with a 9-1 record, while the 9-1 WSSU, now considered the CIAA conference champion, goes on to play Slippery Rock in the first-round Division II playoff game on Saturday. Meanwhile angry parents of VSU football players not involved in the alleged assault confronted school officials this week, blasting them for not fighting to allow their children to continue playing. WSSU QB Rudy Johnson alleges that as many as six VSU players beat and kicked him in a WSSU bathroom last week the day before a scheduled game between the two schools. However, only VSA running back Lamont Darnell Britt has been charged with the assault.

            [CHARLOTTE] Three registered North Carolina voters have file a federal lawsuit seeking to invalidate Congressional districts 1 and 12, claiming that they are racially gerrymandered to be majority black. The suit was filed in October by David Harris of Durham; and Christine Bowser and Samuel Love of Mecklenburg County. The plaintiffs argue that since the US Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act last June, that the legal basis the Republican-led NC General Assembly used in 2011 to draw the two majority-minority districts was now null and void. Congressman G. K. Butterfield [D-NC] represents the 1st District, while Cong. Mel Watt is a Democrat from Charlotte representing the 12th District. Both are African-American.

            [DURHAM] Blue Cross – Blue Shield, the major health insurer in North Carolina has announced that, in response to Pres. Obama’s request to keep current individual health plans in force for another with problems with the Affordable Care Act get ironed out, it will raise the premium rates on those policies by 24 percent for the next year. The plans originally were to be phased out because they did not meet the new standards required by the ACA. Customers with those plans do have the option of dropping them, and purchasing a new plan from federal website.

By Cash Michaels

            50 YEARS AGO – On November 22nd, 1963, I was a third-grader at an elementary school in Brooklyn, NY.
            It was a Friday afternoon, and the one thing that my classmates and I loved about Friday afternoons was that we’d soon be boarding the school buses on our home for the weekend.
            But on this particular Friday afternoon, a strange thing happened. Our teacher, and I do not recall her name, informed the class that a school assembly had been called, and we were all to report to the auditorium immediately.
            Now normally when there is to be a school assembly, we pretty much knew about it literally days in advance, and at the latest, the day before. But this sudden announcement came out of the blue, meaning something was very wrong.
            Even at that young age, we all knew that unless someone had just given our school a million bucks, good things just didn’t happen that quickly to stop everything and call an assembly.
            So, one-by-one, we lined up in front of the classroom, whispering to one another while teacher would insist that we be quiet, and we walked down the hallway to the auditorium, along with the other classes.
            Along the way we heard that a student in the school had been killed or something, and that the principal was going to announce it.
            We were all wondering who could this kid be.
            When our class got to the auditorium, three-quarters of the school was already there, so we were forced to sit in the back away from the stage.
            As we sat there, we still kept trying to figure out what kid got killed, and who knew what was going on.
            Finally our principal, Father Henry Jacobs (yeah, I remember his name – he was strict and would give us whuppins in his office…WITH OUR PARENTS PERMISSION) an older, distinguished man of the cloth, took the podium, and told us all the shocking news.
            President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated earlier in Dallas, Texas.
            It just so happens that the word “assassinated” wasn’t used that much at our grade level, so it took a moment, given how sad Father Jacobs and his staff onstage seemed to be.
            It also was quite noticeable when our teacher, and other teachers grabbed their mouths in sheer disbelief.
            It guess to clarify, Father Jacobs went on to say that the president had been shot, though he didn’t say it was a fatal shot to the head.
            Jacobs (he can’t whup me now, so I can leave the “Father” off this one time)
said that in light of the great national tragedy, that classes were being dismissed, and the buses will be loading shortly to take us all home.
            As a kid, it was incredibly hard to believe that anyone could kill the president of the United States. This was the most powerful man on Earth. He had the military, and secret agents like James Bond (since my mother never allowed me to watch a James Bond movie when I was a kid, I didn’t realize until years later that Bond was, in fact, a Brit, and an agent on her majesty’s Secret Service).
            How could anyone kill the president?
            It was scary.
            I think that the Kennedy assassination is what sparked my interest in news, because the TV networks, for the first time in history, went wall-to-wall with coverage, and I just couldn’t get enough.
            All of the great newsmen – Walter Cronkite on CBS, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on NBC, and Howard K. Smith on ABC – the only three TV networks and TV national news media in those days, were front-in-center with their extraordinary coverage of perhaps the crime of the century (prior to the 9-11 attacks, of course).
            It was all shocking, all riveting, all too interesting to let go. Even my mother, who really didn’t allow me to watch much television in those days, sat in front of the set with me, not knowing how could something like this happen to such a good and decent man, a young leader who inspired.
            Most importantly, he was for equal rights for negroes, and promised he would work with Congress to make that happen.
            Was that why Pres. Kennedy was killed? After all, being New Yorkers in the north, we were under the impression that folks speaking out for negroes in the South eventually had their heads handed to them.
            I know my Mama, whose family was from the Caribbean, felt that way.
            So who did, and why did it happen?
            And that Texas guy with the big nose and long drawl…the vice president…Johnson? Is he the president now? How’d that happen?
            And what about the guy the cops caught…Oswald, is that his name? They say he’s the one who killed the president, and shot a police officer. What’s his story?
            It was a stunning, strange weekend, that got even stranger that Sunday morning when the alleged assassin was gunned down by Jack Ruby, a local night club owner who got through all of that police security in the Dallas PD garage…with a gun.
            It was during that weekend that we got word that there would be no school on Monday. President Johnson had declared it a national day of mourning.
            The country, indeed the whole world was in grief. I had experienced nothing like it, and it was all happening on television.
            The funeral, the riderless horse, Mrs. Kennedy with little Caroline and John-John…John-John, with that salute as his father’s horse drawn carriage passed by.
            And the tears from everyone…it was like we had all lost a member of our family.
            The images from that entire weekend, ending with the eternal flame at Arlington National Cemetery, were indelible.
            And they still are.
            It’s hard to believe that it was 50 years ago when we so violently lost one of the most inspirational presidents. John Kennedy had his dark side, we have since determined, but his youth, his energy and his vision for America and the world, has been everlasting.
            I’m so glad that we haven’t forgotten him.
            And never will.
            ZAPRUDER FILM – We neither have the time nor where-for-all to write about it here, but the history of the 26-second 8mm film of President Kennedy’s assassination taken by Abraham Zapruder on that faithful day in Dallas is fascinating. Research it online. The history of this extraordinary piece of film over the past fifty years is worthy of a movie of its own. Indeed, one has already been made.
Make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my blog, ‘The Cash Roc” ( I promise it will be interesting.
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Columnist Cash Michaels was also honored by the NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009, and was the recipient of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s President’s Award for Media Excellence in Sept. 2011.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian in your life. Bye, bye.

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