Guthrie's sudden "resignation" was inevitable after alienation tour


State Superintendent James Guthrie's sudden departure on Good Friday shows how far his stock has dropped with a governor who only a year ago gushed about the first schools overseer ever appointed by the chief executive.

First, this almost certainly was not Guthrie's choice.

Evidence: A news release at 3 PM on Good Friday. Translation: Please don't notice this.

Evidence: The headline on the release: "Sandoval announces interim superintendent." Really?

Evidence: Sandoval's statement -- or should I say statements. 2:47 PM: "Dr. Guthrie moved to Nevada and helped the state transition from an elected to an appointed Superintendent. I thank him for his service to our great state and I wish him the best.” 3:29 PM ("updated quote"): "Dr. Guthrie moved to Nevada and helped the state reform how we approach education. While we continue this work, I thank him for his service to our great state and I wish him the best.” Awkward.

"The governor couldn't get rid of him fast enough," one knowledgeable insider told me. "He is a huge liability."

Well, was.

It's clear -- and sources confirm -- that Sandoval considered Guthrie a liability with....everyone, especially lawmakers. His Legislative Building appearances, according to one education insider, "have been less than stellar." That might be an understatement considering his attitude on class-size reduction, which alienated Democratic lawmakers already upset with the levels of education funding in the budget. And the Sun's Andrew Doughman chronicled the tug 'o war with the locals.

Guthrie was a feisty, at times in-your-face guy whose style offended many, including, I'd bet, a governor who may have in-your-face policies but who softens the blow with his preternatural amiability. I understand no one on Team Sandoval was much concerned that Guthrie was sniffing around elsewhere, including for the newly vacant Clark County superintendent's job. (No one at Clark County had any interest in Guthrie taking the post.)

Some of Guthrie's style was on display last September when I interviewed him, which you can see below. He seemed to revel in being the bull in the China shop, not realizing he was appointed by a guy who likes to polish not pillage.

Perhaps the writing was on the wall in December when Sandoval appointed Elaine Wynn to the state Board of Education. I sensed that it was only a matter of time before the dynamic, super-smart Wynn would become the de facto superintendent. Sandoval knew what he was doing: You cannot appoint someone of Wynn's stature and determination to that board and not expect her to reign.

Wynn would not comment, except to say, "I am committed to the children of our state."

There were other problems for Guthrie, too, including personnel leaving. But the essence was this, as one person close to the situation told me: "He did not forge relationships. He had no allies."

And when that happens in politics, it's time to move on. All that happened today was the inevitable Sandoval shove, not even done with the usual sunny smile, which, perhaps Guthrie appreciated. Or not.

(Image above from hippotential)