12/04/12 — School board starts new term, picks chair, welcomes Cannon

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School board starts new term, picks chair, welcomes Cannon

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 4, 2012 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Board of Education welcomed a new member Monday night and named its leadership for the coming year, with the only order of business being in the form of two suggestions -- encouraging educators to speak up and parents to read with their child.

At its first meeting since the November election, the Rev. Dr. D.B. Cannon was sworn in to his newly minted role as representative of District 2.

Vice Chairman John P. Grantham took over the reins as chairman, while board member Chris West was chosen to serve as vice chairman. This marks the third time Grantham will serve in that capacity.

Grantham, representing District 4, has been on the board nearly 17 years, while West, serving District 1, was elected in 2010.

Cannon replaced Len Henderson, who had been appointed to the District 2 seat by the county commission in 2010 to complete the term vacated by Shirley Sims. Instead of running for re-election, Henderson decided to run instead for the at-large seat held by Eddie Radford and was defeated. He did not attend Monday's meeting.

During board comment, Cannon thanked those who voted him into office and pledged to take the role seriously.

"I'm praying every day that I'm worthy of this," he said. "I want to respect this board."

He acknowledged that he has much to learn and would not act like he had been there as long as the other board members, so at his introductory meeting, he chose to sit back and listen.

"I take it very seriously," he said. "I'm not here to play games. I'm not here to be a puppet. ... I'm not here with any private agenda. All I want to do is what's best for the students of Wayne County."

Board members applauded his attitude.

Thelma Smith welcomed Cannon, who is also her pastor at St. James AME Zion Church.

Grantham said Cannon appeared to be on the right track, then acknowledged the return of Radford and Mrs. Smith, both recently re-elected to their seats on the board.

The new chairman also reiterated a stance he has mentioned at previous board meetings regarding supporting educators.

He said that much has been discussed of late about increasing charter schools. By contrast, Grantham said his preference would be to give the public schools the flexibility that charter schools have.

"One of the things I would like to see this year is to get some input from teachers, some ideas," he said, explaining that he hopes to encourage teachers to share their ideas as well as concerns. "I think we need to hear what they have to say without any repercussions."

He noted that it might elicit "some crackpots," but at the same time, if enough of the same complaints surfaced, it would allow the board to address them.

Board member Rick Pridgen's remarks targeted the need for parents to support their children by reading with them.

He said he has had concerns about the drop in proficiency scores in reading and math.

"I think back over the years," he said. "We're putting a lot of money into reading and remediation, that type of thing. But folks, it's obvious we're going to have to find more dollars to put into that as well."

Despite new initiatives for reading to get students up to par, Pridgen said there is an obvious solution.

"The best thing that you could do in this county is for parents to spend an hour a night reading to that child," he said. "Sit down and read to that child. I can't tell you how important it is. Schools can only do just a little part of it. It's got to begin in the home."

Pridgen said it doesn't have to be a huge sacrifice.

"Most people spend an hour on their cell phone. Children probably spend an hour on video games," he said. "Spend an hour with a book in their hand."

Grantham agreed that parental involvement is important.

Mrs. Smith also backed the concept.

"If we could have our parents and children to commit to a certain hour, where everybody would turn off the TV," she said. "I don't know how we could monitor this, but I believe some people would buy into this."