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A.L. “Buddy” Collins, vice chair of the State Board of Education, announced today in a letter his intent to resign from the Board, citing his recent filing to run for election to the Forsyth Board of County Commissioners. He said in the letter to Governor Roy Cooper that he cannot do both at the same time. 

“Serving the State of North Carolina as a member of the State Board of Education has been an honor and privilege; and I am grateful for the opportunity to help improve education in our state,” he wrote. 

Noelle Talley, deputy communications director for the governor’s office, offered via e-mail Cooper’s gratitude for Collins’ work on the State Board.

“Gov. Cooper appreciates Mr. Collins’ dedicated service to North Carolina and thanks him for his work on behalf of students and educators,” she wrote. 

Bill Cobey, Chair of the State Board, said Collins would be missed. 

“It’ll be a big loss to the Board, and a big loss to me personally, because Buddy brought extensive experience in public education to the Board,” he said.

Cobey and Collins were sworn in at the same time, and Cobey said he didn’t come to the Board with much education experience himself. As a result, he leaned on Collins.

“That was incredible to have someone at my side,” Cobey said. “And he was always willing to do everything I asked him to do, and didn’t mind challenging me on things and giving me ideas.” 

 

Collins has been part of the Board since 2013 when he was tapped by Governor Pat McCrory. He was elected vice chair at the first meeting he attended. A Republican representing the Piedmont-Triad Education Region of the state, Collins practices law in Kernersville. He formerly served on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education for 16 years. 

For more than a year, Collins served in the second spot on the State Board amidst a trying time for its members as the Board battles Superintendent Mark Johnson for ultimate authority over the state’s education system. 

The State Board filed suit after the General Assembly shifted some authority from the Board to the Superintendent in House Bill 17, passed during 2016’s short session. The law made Johnson the chief authority of the Department of Public Instruction, a role previously held by the State Board. It also granted the superintendent direct supervision and administration of the public school system. None of the superintendent’s new powers have gone into effect as the case makes its way through the court system. In July 2017, a three-judge panel ruled in favor of Johnson. The State Board appealed the case, and in February the state Supreme Court heard arguments in the case. Parties to the suit are still awaiting the top court’s decision. 

Collins did not mention the lawsuit in his letter of resignation, but he did write about the essential role of education in the workings of the state. 

“The writers of the State Constitution recognized the importance of public education when they wrote the following: ‘Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools, libraries, and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.'”

He went on to say that he remains committed to education and hopes to “encourage meaningful reform,” in the local education system by working as a member of the County Commission. 

The letter states the resignation is effective whenever the governor appoints his replacement or April 14 — whichever comes first. 

Cooper is still awaiting confirmation of three of his State Board of Education appointees by the General Assembly. 

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.