02/17/14 — Strickland to seek District 4 seat on school board

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Strickland to seek District 4 seat on school board

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 17, 2014 1:46 PM

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Jennifer Strickland

A mother of four has officially announced her intentions to run for a seat on the Wayne County Board of Education.

Jennifer Strickland is seeking the District 4 seat, now occupied by Board Chairman John P. Grantham.

Four seats are open on the school board in the upcoming election. In addition to Grantham, others include Chris West for District 1, Arnold Flowers from District 5, and Rick Pridgen, District 6. West and Flowers reportedly also filed for re-election, as did Grantham.

Mrs. Strickland said she had entertained the idea of entering the arena for some time, saying she has grown increasingly concerned about the education of children in Wayne County. She said her biggest concerns have been school bus safety and textbooks.

As a former PTA president and volunteer in her children's school, she said she has felt an urgency to get textbooks, or the appropriate materials, in the hands of the teachers.

"For the last five years, I have listened to our teachers from around the county talk about either using outdated textbooks or having no textbooks at all for their classrooms," she said.

Citing instances of students being unable to take home a textbook to review assignments or having insufficient or outdated curriculum materials, she said she has been disturbed by the potential loss of valuable classroom time to read passages.

"I have seen my children miss six weeks of instruction time during the school year because the teachers are being required to perform repetitive assessments," she added.

A self-described fiscal conservative, the Wayne County native grew up in the Rosewood community. The daughter of a farmer and hairdresser, she also has a family connection to the school board. Her late uncle, Lehman Smith, held a seat for nine years, representing District 1.

"He was the first person I voted for," she said.

A graduate of Rosewood High School, she praised the education she received from Wayne County Public Schools in preparing her for the future.

After high school, she studied Parks, Recreation and Tourism at N.C. State University. She continued her education at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, earning a master's degree in public administration one month before delivering her first child.

She and her husband, attorney Billy Strickland, have four children, all attending Rosewood Elementary School -- Billy III, a fourth-grader, twins Jack and Isaac, third-graders, and Alexandria "Fancy," a kindergartner.

A stay-at-home mom whose focus has been on taking care of her children, she said they are the motivating reason for her decision to seek office.

"My No. 1 job is to protect my children and the best place that I feel like I can do that right now is on the school board," she said.

Mrs. Strickland said there are many areas that need attention, not the least of which is to have a more unified relationship between the county's most empowered governing boards.

"I see a lot of fighting right now between the county commissioners and school board," she said. "I'm friends with a lot of them so I feel like there will be dialogue and not fighting. We're missing a lot of just working together right now. It makes me very sad."