Candidates for school board speak
By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 4, 2014 1:50 AM
The Wayne County Board of Education is expected to appoint someone Monday night to fill the unexpired term of the late Thelma Smith, who represented District 3 for 17 years prior to her death on Feb. 28.
Five people have submitted their names for consideration: Patricia Burden, Dr. Jerry Grimes II, Linda R. Harper, Trebor J. Jackson and Charles Wright Sr.
District 3 contains a majority of minority voters, but to be appointed to represent the district the person simply has to live in it.
Whoever is appointed would serve until the November 2016 election.
No formal interviews or presentations are planned, board Chairman John Grantham said. Board members are already familiar with the candidates, he said.
Also, some candidates have spoken with board members, Grantham said.
"The appointment must be made in an open meeting," said Brandon Huffman, an attorney for the N.C. Press Association. "The board cannot consider the qualifications of a potential board member outside of an open meeting. To me, that would suggest that a potential board member should not discuss his or her potential appointment with a member of the board outside of that meeting.
"To the extent the board considers the qualifications of potential board members, it must do so in an open meeting. That said, I doubt a simple introduction would be sufficient to violate the (state Open Meetings) law. Potential appointees would likely need to submit their name and qualifications to the board prior to the meeting in order for the board to discuss and consider the candidate."
Patricia Burden is a 1965 graduate of Dillard High School, where Mrs. Smith was a teacher at the time. She went on to become an educator herself, with a 42-year year career that included serving as Goldsboro High School principal from 2000-2010.
Since retirement, she has been working for Goldsboro/Dillard Alumni and Friends as scholarship chairperson, serving on the board of the national organization and a member-at-large of the Goldsboro chapter.
She received her bachelor's degree from East Carolina University and attended Chapman University in California, where she received her administrative credentials.
"Based on my experience and my credentials, I believe that I can make a contribution in terms of leadership on the board," she said. "Some citizens of District 3 also called and encouraged me to go for the seat."
A 1996 graduate of Goldsboro High School, Jerry Grimes lives within blocks of Carver Heights Elementary and Dillard Middle schools, where he was once a student.
"Wayne County Public Schools, next to my parents attributed to the success of my life," he said. "What it really gives is a testament to the quality of the schools and the moral development that I received as well."
Grimes said that what he wouldn't bring to the office is as important as what he would bring.
"I would not bring two things," he said. "First is any preconceived notion of how things should be. I will be open to working with anyone. I don't bring any preconceived ideas.
"The second thing that I don't bring is partisanship."
Grimes said he would like to be part of the support system for teachers and students.
Grimes, who received his doctorate of ministry from Liberty University, has worked with both Wayne and Duplin county school systems. In 205, he worked at Brogden Middle School at Dudley as an English and writing tutor.
In 2013 he served as in-school suspension coordinator at Warsaw Middle School in Duplin County.
Most recently, he became an adjunct professor of religious studies in the N.C. Wesleyan College adult program.
He served on the faculty at Shaw University in Raleigh from 2006-08.
Linda Harper has 36 years of teaching experience from kindergarten to college level, plus seven years substituting in Wayne County.
She spent 19 and a half years teaching in Wayne County at Carver Heights, Fremont, Nahunta, Eureka, O'Berry and Greenwood schools.
"I got interested because I taught at Central Heights, and I have always been interested in helping students and their parents with the education process," Mrs. Harper said. "My strong points are that I have knowledge of curriculum, knowledge of the education process and experience in dealing with issues and a desire to help all students.
"I used to say I wanted to be a teacher since I was in the third grade, and I have never changed. I am just a teacher by nature. I have taught parent workshops. I just love to teach. It is just part of me. I like to help with the education process."
Mrs. Harper received her bachelor's of science degree in consumer science secondary education with a minor in biology, and master's of education from the University of South Carolina.
She earned teaching license in elementary and special education academically gifted and severe/profound from East Carolina University and behavioral disorders license from University of Georgia.
Mrs. Harper currently holds a North Carolina highly qualified graduate license, with six certifications -- biology, consumer science, severe/profound, AIG, grades K-12; elementary grades K-8; and language arts grades 4-6.
Mrs. Harper is the lead teacher for the Academics Plus after-school tutoring program. She has facilitated classroom instruction and handled discipline for three years.
Mrs. Harper is in her third year on the Advisory Council for Older Adults in Wayne County and is a former adjunct professor at Wayne Community College. She is the president of Citizens for Constitutional Liberties.
Trebor J. Jackson, a 24-year military veteran who has been a juvenile court counselor with the state for 23 years, also previously mounted a campaign for school board in 2010, losing his bid to unseat District 6 member Rick Pridgen.
A 1984 graduate of Goldsboro High School, he received his bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Fayetteville State University and a bachelor's degree in theology from N.C. College of Theology in Wilmington.
He was in the Air Force for six years and spent more than 17 years in the N.C. Army National Guard, retiring after a tour in Iraq in 2005.
He worked for six years as a police officer in the city of Goldsboro, and is an elder and member of the ministerial staff at Deeper Life Church Ministries.
Jackson said part of the reason for his candidacy is being able to give back to the community.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity in the light that we will be moving forward and continue to create communities of education that are going to be successful," he said. "It's not so much about District 3. It's about continuing to make our communities in Wayne County successful in our educational endeavors."
He also had praise for his predecessor.
"Mrs. Thelma Smith has been so paramount in our community," he said. "She has had an influence on my life, my children's lives. I just think it's so important that we can't let what she has done die."
Charles Wright, retired military and education chairman for the Goldsboro/Wayne NAACP, lost elections to Mrs. Smith in 2008 and in 2012.
Wright said that as a school board member his goals would be to help improve student outcomes and positive experiences and to improve recruitment and retention of qualified staff.
He said he also wanted to work to improve the relationship between the board and the community and other elected boards.
Wright, a retired U.S. Air Force technical sergeant, currently works as a private duty nurse.
He is a member of N.C. Action for Children, N.C. Nurse Association and American Correctional Association.
Wright has organized an annual Black History Bowl for the county's middle school students as well as a Back to School program to provide supplies to more than 300 students in kindergarten through the 12th grade.
He also worked on an application for a N.C. Legislative Dropout Prevention Grant that was awarded and served 75 at-risk students at Dillard Middle School.
Wright has been responsible for organizing community meetings, workshops and panel presentations concerning schools and students.
He declined comment beyond what information was listed on a fact sheet he submitted to the News-Argus.