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‘It’s time for me to move on’: State Board of Education chairman resigns

August 3, 2018

State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey

State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey submitted his resignation Thursday, saying it’s time for him to move on and spend more time with family.

His resignation comes just as State Superintendent Mark Johnson has taken more control of the state education agency after a lengthy legal battle with the state board.

Cobey, 79, said his decision to resign is not related to the legal battle and said the board and Johnson have been working together better.

“No, that’s been settled. That’s behind us. I think actually relationships are improving and will improve as time goes on,” Cobey told WRAL News by phone Thursday.

“I want to move on so that others can lead,” he added, declining to say who he’ll vote for to become new chairperson. The board will vote in September.

Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to name Cobey’s replacement on the board. Cooper’s three previous State Board of Education appointments had been pending more than a year when lawmakers voted on them in June, a running source of friction between the administration and the GOP-controlled legislature. Under the state constitution, Cooper’s appointment of a replacement for Cobey is not subject to legislative confirmation because it will be made to complete Cobey’s unexpired term.

The majority accepted Cooper’s reappointment of board member Reginald Kenan, but it voted down Cooper’s new picks, retired professor Sandra Byrd and J.B. Buxton, a former deputy state superintendent and an adviser in former Gov. Mike Easley’s administration.

Cooper released a statement saying, “Bill Cobey has been a dedicated advocate for public education in North Carolina and I am grateful for his tenacity working for our state’s school children and teachers. We have been fortunate to have had his leadership and his lifetime of knowledge.”

Cobey has been a state board member and chairman for the past five and a half years. He will chair his last meeting on Sept. 6.

“It’s been a challenging five and a half years but very rewarding, and I’ve loved working with such a great group of board members,” he said. “They always put the public school children first.”

Former State Superintendent June Atkinson shared her thoughts about Cobey’s retirement on Twitter Thursday.

North Carolina Association of Educators President Mark Jewell also released a statement: “Chairman Cobey has served our students, educators and public schools well and has offered stability in a time of an excessive legislative power grab on public education. He has always put students first and we deeply appreciate his commitment to our public schools and state.”

Cobey served a term as a member of the U.S. Congress in the mid 1980s and joined the administration of Gov. James Martin, first as deputy secretary of the N.C. Department of Transportation and then as secretary of the Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources, according to his biography on the state board’s website.

He is also a former athletic director of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. From 2005 until 2012, he served on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directors that governs Reagan National and Dulles Airports.

He received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Emory University, an MBA in marketing from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a masters in Health and Physical Education from the University of Pittsburgh.

Cobey said he has no plans after resigning, other than spending time with family.

“I’ll be 80 next spring. I’m not seeking anything,” he said. “My father use to tell me, ‘Son, in life you need to know when to move on.’”

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