06/18/10 — Group setting rules for picking board member

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Group setting rules for picking board member

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 18, 2010 1:46 PM

Recommendations for a replacement for retiring District 2 school board member Shirley Sims will be considered by the Wayne County Board of Commissioners when they meet in special session July 23.

The commissioners' meeting will begin at 9 a.m. on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

About two dozen people were on hand Thursday morning for the organizational meeting of the committee charged with making those recommendations.

A second organizational meeting will be scheduled prior to applicant interviews that will be held July 21 and 22 at 2 p.m. in Room 111 at the Jeffreys Building. The interviews are scheduled to last about 45 minutes each.

The deadline for school board candidates to submit their resume and letter of intent for the office is 5 p.m. on July 12. They should be submitted to Marcia R. Wilson, Clerk to the Board, Wayne County, P.O. Box 227, Goldsboro, N.C. 27533-0227. All applicants will be subject to a background screening. The telephone number is 731-1445.

During Thursday's meeting, committee members came up with a preliminary list of questions for applicants.

Commission Chairman Jack Best, who appointed the committee on which he is serving, too, asked Mrs. Wilson to compile the questions and to forward them to committee members prior to the group's next meeting.

Serving with Best are Thelma Smith, vice chairman of the school board; Jimmy Williams of Mount Olive, former superintendent of Wayne County Schools; Andy Anderson of Pikeville, senior member of the Wayne County commissioners; Jim Parker, a former school board member; Paul Smalley, former Mount Olive town commissioner; Shirley Bond, a retired educator; and Robyn Wade, a radio announcer.

Those who have announced they are interested in the post are Ven Faulk of Dudley, a former school board candidate; Lawrence Durham of Dudley, who is Ms. Wade's cousin; Len Henderson of Dudley; Dr. Dwight Bernard Cannon; and Joyce Hatch of Mount Olive, who, according to the county Board of Elections, lives in District 4 and would not be eligible to serve

Two audience members, Mary Rowe and Larnell Reece of Goldsboro, said the appointment should go to a minority and some appeared confused as to how the process would work.

"It is a minority district, and I would like to see a minority go back in that district, and I don't see why it was open to everybody," Ms. Rowe said.

Later in the meeting, Reece questioned why the replacement should be limited to people living in District 2, if a better-qualified person lived in another district.

County attorney Borden Parker told Reece that the merger agreement between the Goldsboro city and county school systems provides that the person must live in the district he or she represents.

Reece also wanted to know if the public would be able to comment on what was being said during the meetings.

"Actually, Mr. Reece, we have taken public comment and we will take into consideration what your comments were," Best said.

Best said members would be glad to hear more comments at the next meeting when they have a public comment time.

Ed Cromartie of Mount Olive said it was not clear who would make the actual appointment.

"The committee is appointed to come back with a recommendation for the county commissioners," Best said. "We don't have any vote. They don't have to take the recommendation. All we are here to do is recommend."

Cromartie also wanted to know if it would be a list of recommendations.

"We will probably recommend one person," Best said. "The county commissioners do not have to take that recommendation. This (committee) is a way to have a diverse group of people that is nonpartisan to screen the applicants."

"Only the board of commissioners can appoint," Williams said.

Best said he would like for the committee to draft five or six questions that could be asked of each applicant. Members could ask their own questions as well, he said.

"I think the most important question is why," Williams said. "Why do you want to be on the board of education?"

Smalley suggested that applicants be clear that they will be running for election when the term is completed in 2012.

"I think that is a question that needs to be asked," Williams said. "If you are selected to this position, do you intend to run? When the term is up, do you intend to follow up? I think it indicates if they want to fill out the term or if they are genuinely interested in becoming a member of the board of education over the longer term."

"The second question right behind that is what do you think your qualifications are for serving on the board," Anderson said. "What are you bringing to the table?"

Smalley said it is important to know if the person can afford the time to serve.

"As Jim and Thelma know, this is far more than just the first Monday of the month," Williams said.

Jim Parker said there are times when school board members are needed between normal business hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. He said he was fortunate that as a business owner he could do that and then catch up on his work at night.

"It is never-ending," Mrs. Smith said. "It is a major job. If you are not committed to the time ... . Also, you have to visit schools. That is one thing that I am really down on folks who want to join these boards and then never show up. They need to see you and they need to know who you are. You need to be visible at all of these school campuses and whenever there is a program you are expected to be there. So your commitment is not just to be there on Monday nights."

Along with the commitment, the person must have integrity, Ms. Bond said.

"When I think about being on any board or committee it is important to have integrity," she said. "I don't think you can go anywhere without integrity. If there is something in front of you to look at you need to look at it objectively and in the best interest of your peers and your constituents."

Being able to maintain confidentiality is important as well, she said.

"It should not get back to the community before it is actually discussed," she said.

The ability to build consensus is vital, too, Mrs. Smith added. There are seven votes on the board, she said.

"I might not win the war today, but maybe if I can work with you then maybe I might win the war tomorrow," she said.

Ms. Wade said candidates also need to be asked what their link is to the school system -- do they have a child or grandchild in the public schools.

"This is a not a light undertaking," she said. "You have to want to undertake it. What is the tie that binds you? Dedication is a must to take on this position."

Ms. Wade said she understands District 2 is a minority district. But she said she couldn't say outright that only a black person should serve in the position.

"Obviously I am a minority, but maybe my world view is larger than most. I don't know who will be the best candidate, but I am not necessarily one to say we need to separate the blacks and whites over here and let's pick the one from each group then whether it happens to be a white person or pink person it is the best person for me. But I can understand their concerns wanting the representation to be diverse, but then there other issues of diversity that we need to work on.

"I looked at District 2 and said, "Wow, there are other issues that we need to look at if we are talking about diversity. District 2 is large district, almost like somebody took a pencil and said let's just draw right here."

"The word is gerrymandering," Williams said.