Remember June Atkinson? She was the Democratic candidate in 2004 for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. You might also remember she won that election, but her opponent, a Republican creature named Bill Fletcher, contested her victory and mounted a long drawn out legal fight.
The election was close, but the decision was clear. Never-the-less, Fletcher refused to give up and the battle through the courts cost both political parties a fortune and prevented June Atkinson from taking office until late in 2005.
You might assume all of that would be frustration enough for someone like Dr. Atkinson who has terrific qualifications and a strong desire to serve. After all, she campaigned all across the state and enjoyed high hopes for her aggressive agenda to improve the schools.
If that's what you think, then be prepared for disappointment. The humbling of that electoral dog fight was simply a fore taste of what she's experiencing now.
According to a Sunday editorial in The Winston-Salem Journal...
* The State Board of Education, which is the body that determines the bulk of her job description, has given her no responsibilities and less authority. She shows up to work each day with little to do but smile and be optimistic
* The State Board has chosen to hire J.B. Buxton as deputy state superintendent starting February 1st, a position that will not report to Atkinson, but directly to the board itself
* In an added measure of irony, J.B. Buxton is the very person she campaigned against and defeated in the Democratic primary.
* And now for the coup de grace - The State Board of Education will be paying Buxton $140,000 a year, about $25,000 more than the state pays Dr. Atkinson
Obviously there is something going on behind the scenes about which those of us on the outside can only speculate. However, the real enemy appears to be an administrative structure at the Department of Public Instruction that is an organizational joke.
Evidently back in the mid 1990's certain members of the state legislature took a dislike to then Superintendent of Public Instruction, Bob Etheridge (yes, that Bob Etheridge.) So in a fit of petulance they decided to teach Bob a lesson and strip his office of most of its powers.
Now good old Bob is happily serving in the U.S. Congress, and could probably care less. However, poor June now occupies the hollowed out shell of his old position, and when she reflects on her decision to serve she must be asking herself, "Whatever was I thinking?"