Educators take leadership of school board

Malishai Woodbury is sworn in during the school board meeting on Thursday, Dec. 13. Woodbury is the first African American to serve as board chair.

Educators take leadership of school board
December 20
12:39 2018

In their first meeting as a collective body, the new Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education made history when they voted to elect Malishai Woodbury as board chair, the first African-American to hold the position.

During the meeting held on Thursday, Dec. 13, five new members including Woodbury, Barbara Hanes Burke, Deanna Kaplan, Andrea Bramer, and Leah Crowley, and incumbent members Dana Caudill Jones, Lori Goins-Clark, Lida Calvert-Hayes and Elisabeth Motsinger were sworn in by Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Todd L. Burke.

When it came time to submit nominations for board chair, only two names were submitted. Republican Leah Crowley nominated Woodbury, who is a Democrat. Motsinger, who is a Democrat and longest serving member on the board, nominated Caudill Jones, who is a Republican and previously served as chair.

A native of the city and a 1992 graduate of Carver High School, Woodbury is a project coordinator for Guilford County Schools. Over the years, she has made a name for herself through the local school system fighting for students who need it most with organizations like the Carver High School Alumni Association and the Coalitions for Equity in Education and she promises to do the same as board chair.

Motsinger said she decided to nominate Caudill Jones because she didn’t think the role of chair should go to someone who is brand new to the board.

“Dana has served our district well and I don’t believe that the chairmanship should go to someone who is brand new to the board. I think it is important to learn the district well and I think it’s important to build relationships. I think it’s important to know what the scope of our district is before one becomes chairman,” continued Motsinger, who is a Democrat. “…I love my party but I love this district more and I believe the district is best served by having a chair who is experienced and knows the district.”

Despite questions about her experience with the district and on the board, it is important to note that the only board members who have experience in education are Woodbury and Hanes Burke. Before joining the school board, Hanes Burke served as the vice principal at Carver High School and she has more than 20 years experience in education.

Fellow Republican and incumbent member Lori Goins-Clark voted for Caudill Jones as well.

When discussing her decision, Goins-Clark said Woodbury didn’t reach out to her until the day before the meeting to ask for her vote for chair. She said, “… This board member who would be chair waited until yesterday to reach out to me at all though the election was Nov. 6.

“I find that odd and it does not bode well for communications as I have worked very hard as a board member these last four years and I feel like I have some things to offer,” she continued. “After all, the chair of the board must hear opinions and be a censuses seeker and a bridge builder.”

She said, “… I don’t know much about Ms. Woodbury, but based upon today’s knowledge of her, I can’t support her in good conscience to lead this board.”

In the end, Woodbury gained the support she needed from her fellow Democrats and Republicans Lida Calvert-Hayes and Leah Crowley. After the decision was final, Woodbury’s supporters seated in the auditorium stood and applauded.

Hanes Burke was elected vice chair.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, residents didn’t waste anytime letting the board know how they felt about the statements directed at Woodbury. One resident said it was heartbreaking to hear board members talk so negatively about the people they are expected to work with.

City native and well-known activist Al Jabbar alluded that what he saw from the board resembled racism. Retired educator Al Harvey said he came to the meeting hoping the historic board made up of all women would rise above racism and partisanship. He then applauded the board members who put personal agendas aside when voting for chair and vice chair.

“I am so happy today that those of you had the courage to vote the correct way not the way of partisanship. This board was elected because people wanted new ideas, a new and fresh approach, and I hope that we can get that from this board,” Harvey said.

Not everyone in the community was as excited to see board members cross partly lines. Since the vote was made final last week, Lida Calvert-Hayes has received several posts on her Facebook page from residents angry with her decision to support Woodbury. Mont Dixon wrote, “Wanted to thank you for voting for the DEMRAT!!!!!! I will NEVER help you again!”

After she was announced as the new board chair Woodbury thanked the community and the board for their support. Woodbury has also spoken about making changes to policies that make goals for teachers and learning for students more attainable.

“I would like to thank all of the school board members here and Dr. Emory for the service that they have done and that we are going to continue to do,” said Woodbury. “As a school board member, what I’m going to do has to relate to policy. Anybody who works in education will tell you when the objectives are vague, you can’t get to the solution so we have to very specific.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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