Shirley Sims is picked to take chairman's job on school board
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 5, 2006 1:45 PM
In an historical move Monday night, the Board of Education named its two minority women members to leadership roles.
Shirley Sims will serve as board chairman for the upcoming year, with Thelma Smith named as vice chairman.
Ms. Sims was named vice chairman a year ago, but it was not her first time being a runner-up. In 2002, after having been vice chairman for a year, the board declined to move her into the top position, elevating instead board member George Moye.
Traditionally, board members nominated to the role of vice chairman are subsequently elected to serve as chairman the following year. On the seven-member board, each of the men has served at least one term, while Ms. Sims has only made it as far as the second slot.
Mrs. Smith has made several attempts in recent years to defy the system, nominating Ms. Sims whenever she was not already a candidate for the vice chairman position. And each time Ms. Sims has politely declined, saying she would not be a part of anything that might split the board.
Ms. Sims has publicly stated that she could serve just as effectively without the title of chairman. The retired educator in 2002 received the Raleigh Dingman Award, the highest award of the North Carolina School Board Association.
Nominated by board member Pete Gurley, each member offered congratulations and said they were looking forward to working with the two women.
Board member Rick Pridgen said the move was "long overdue."
Ms. Sims thanked the board for its confidence and support for the short tenure of one year.
"It goes pretty fast, I hope," she joked before thanking Mrs. Smith "for agreeing to assist me at a time when I think there's a lot that should be done for Wayne County Public Schools.
"It's been a challenging time. I don't know that there's a member here that doesn't feel the same way as I do, that we are up for the challenge."
She said she appreciated the staff members in the school system and said the goal will be "to do a little bit more so that we can get better results than we have in the past.
"We take our positions seriously. I feel like this is a time when we can do some things that we have talked about doing and for whatever reason, may not have."
She also told Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent of schools, that she looks forward to working closely with him.
"I know you're not looking forward to working with me," she quipped. "But it's just your time."
Taylor later said he was looking forward to the year ahead. He told Ms. Sims that while she never hesitated to share her opinions, there was no reason the chairman's job was going to keep her from continuing to do so.
"You'll make a good team," he told the women. "Congratulations as we start a new era."
Ms. Sims said that communication is important and she would work to convey the school system's message to the community.
"We do promise that we will do everything we can about keeping people informed with right kinds of information and in a timely manner," she said.
Ms. Sims joined the school board in December 1992 and Mrs. Smith has been on the board since December 1996.
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