Somebody forgot that part of the equation.
Two things come to mind in the aftermath of the Kentucky Board of Education's vote to sack its chairman, Keith Travis.
First, given that Mr. Travis cast the only vote for his retention in a 10-1 rout, he may not have been any better at assessing his political strength with his colleagues than he was in conducting a search for a new state education commissioner.
That exercise was a debacle from start to finish.
The Iowa search firm retained to screen and recommend candidates, Ray and Associates, failed to examine the record of Illinois educator Barbara Erwin carefully enough to illuminate her troubling and controversial professional background.
That fumble was compounded by the board's unwillingness simply to cut bait.
Instead, it forged ahead and hired Ms. Erwin despite false claims in her résumé and allegations that she ran roughshod over teachers and administrators in three states where she served. The appointment unraveled just three days before she was to start work, after her personnel file mysteriously went missing.
Second, however, the board's decision to put itself under new leadership and to acknowledge how badly it botched the search is better than what might reasonably have been expected.
In other places and at other times, the board's vote could be dismissed as a case of very little, very late. But this is the Frankfort of Gov. Ernie Fletcher, and the board members are his appointees. Gov. Fletcher's administration was investigated for criminal acts in the merit-system scandal, and only a blanket gubernatorial pardon averted multiple prosecutions. Yet, the Governor sees himself as an innocent victim.
Given that context, the school board's action seems a vigorous act of accountability.
That said, Mr. Travis' replacement should make Kentuckians feel slightly better only about the past -- not about what lies ahead.
The board and its new chairman, Joe Brothers of Elizabethtown, are still committed to hiring a new education commissioner.
The Erwin debacle cannot be blamed entirely on Mr. Travis. Other board members could have asserted themselves and reopened the search for a better candidate. Mr. Brothers properly acknowledges that the entire board must take responsibility for voting to bring Ms. Erwin to Kentucky.
It's hard to feel confident that this same group can do a better job the second time around.
A better course would be to recognize that a gubernatorial election looms.
If the voters decide to give Gov. Fletcher a second term, then there can't be serious quarrel with allowing his appointees to choose a new education commissioner. But if his Democratic rival, Steve Beshear, is elected, the new governor should have a major role in filling such a key position.
Such an outcome would require more than just Mr. Beshear's victory. It would also take the resignations of at least a majority of the board, so that Mr. Beshear could replace them.
That would not be Kentucky politics as usual, to be sure. But it would be real accountability -- and it would be an act for the common good.