Board of Education goes with application process to fill vacancy

Board of Education goes with  application process to fill vacancy
December 23
11:14 2020

Last week the local Board of Education decided on the process they will use to fill the vacancy left by Barbara Burke, who was sworn in as a member of the Winston-Salem City Council earlier this month. After discussing their options, the board voted to go with application and interview process.

According to Dionne Jenkins, WS/FCS general counsel, there are two ways the board can fill vacancies: an application and interview process, or the board can make an appointment. However, the district does have a policy that says the person filling the vacant seat must be from the same political party as the person who vacated the seat. In 2019 the board decided against the application process when filling the seat left by Lori Goins Clark; the board appointed Marilyn Parker. 

Jenkins mentioned that the application process would take more time. She said, “There’s pros and cons to either method, but it’s up to you to decide how you would like to proceed.” Despite concerns about the time it would take to fill the seat, Board Member Elisabeth Motsinger spoke in support of the application process. 

She said when the board appointed Parker in 2019, the entire board was fairly new and they were looking for someone with experience. Parker had served on the board previously. 

“Personally, I think we should have some process where we go about interviewing people. There’s a lot of stress going on in the community about this process,” Motsinger continued. “At the end of the day, it is the board’s job to pick this replacement and I think we should have an open process.  Even though it’s longer, I think we should take the time to do it right and do it well.” 

Several names have been swirling throughout the community since Burke was elected to the city council. The Forsyth County Democratic Party has recommended Chenita Johnson. Johnson, who is a native of Winston-Salem and a graduate of Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), in 2018 and 2014 ran unsuccessfully for the same seat she was recommended for. When she ran for the District 1 seat in 2018, Johnson said if elected she would push to diversify inner city schools. 

“I think that if we have our schools look like our communities… that would help our children and their expectations across the board with educators. Brown versus the Board of Education I Topeka, Kansas, says that schools are supposed to look like your communities,” said Johnson during a candidate’s forum in 2018. 

The Forsyth County Association of Educations (FCAE) has recommended Alexander Bohannon for the vacant seat. Bohannon, a 2017 graduate of Elon University and a diversity compliance specialist for the City of Winston-Salem, also unsuccessfully ran for the seat in 2018. He finished with 17% of the vote, which was good enough for third place behind Hanes-Burke and current Board Chair Malishai Woodbury. 

When he was asked about his plans if elected to the board during his campaign, Bohannon said the first order of business would be “to focus intensely on diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

 “A lot of times diversity isn’t just about race and ethnicity, it also includes ability, gender and all these other identities,” Bohannon continued. “With the ability piece, we have to ensure students who learn differently from the majority have as much opportunity to be successful as other children.”

Although the board voted unanimously to go with the application process, no timetable was discussed during the meeting last week. The full board isn’t scheduled to meet again until January.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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