Former GHS principal Burden named to seat
By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 6, 2014 1:46 PM
Newly appointed board member Patricia Burden receives congratulations from Goldsboro High School principal Brian Weeks after the Wayne County Public Schools board meeting Monday night. Burden is a retired educator and former Goldsboro High School principal.
The Wayne County Board of Education Monday night appointed retired Goldsboro High School principal Patricia Burden to complete the unexpired District 3 term of the late Thelma Smith.
There was no public discussion by the board, or comments from any of the five people who had asked for the appointment. Instead, board Chairman John Grantham said that board members had done their own individual fact findings and had spoken with the five individually to arrive at their own choices.
However, Grantham said the procedure still met the spirit of the state's Open Meeting Law that requires the discussion and vote to be held in open session.
Ms. Burden, who sat at the back of the room, was nominated by Dr. Dwight Cannon. Charles Wright Sr., who lost elections to Mrs. Smith in 2008 and in 2012, was nominated by Arnold Flowers.
Flowers cast the lone vote for Wright, while Ms. Burden received support from the other five board members.
Ms. Burden and Wright were among five people who had submitted their names for consideration to the District 3 seat. The others were Dr. Jerry Grimes II, Linda R. Harper and Trebor J. Jackson.
"It is like (Superintendent) Dr. (Steve) Taylor mentioned in the meeting, she has a lot of similar background as Mrs. Thelma Smith," Grantham said. "She is from the district. She brings a lot of educational experience and we look forward to working with her."
Ms. Burden, 66, will serve until 2016. She said she plans to run for election at that time.
Ms. Burden still has to be sworn into office, but board members did not say how soon that would happen.
"I am very excited, and I am very honored that I was selected to complete Mrs. Thelma's term," Ms. Burden said after the meeting. "I in no way can replace her. She is one of a kind, even though we have a lot of things in common based on our educational experiences.
"I will work hard to represent her well and to do the best job possible on the board. I have a strong interest in students and curriculum. I want to learn a lot more about facilities. I am just looking forward to the opportunity of learning and applying the skills and knowledge that I have, based on my experiences, to add to the board."
Ms. Burden said she had no second thoughts about being appointed.
"I think being a high school principal puts about the same pressure on you as being a board member," she said. "Your district might be larger as a board member versus as a high school principal, but you will probably face the same thing.
"You have parents who want you to take into consideration their needs. You have students, then you have staff of the district to respond to. No, it is not that I am hesitant, but I know that I have a lot to learn starting out."
Ms. Burden said she was not coming in with an agenda.
"I am coming in to serve the board the best way that I possibly can on the issues before us," she said.
Ms. 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 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.
She has taught in Philadelphia, Pensacola and California before moving back to Goldsboro in June 1990.
By July of that year she was named assistant principal at Brogden Middle School, where she worked for four years.
She served as principal at Goldsboro Middle School for six years before being principal at Goldsboro High School from 2000 to 2010.
She retired in 2011 after serving as principal at Wayne Academy.
Flowers' explanation of why he nominated Wright -- because of his previous two runs for the board -- was the only discussion about the candidates.
Cannon said after the meeting that he had nominated Ms. Burden because she had been recommended by Mrs. Smith.
The state's Open Meeting Law requires that all discussion about the appointment and vote take place in open session.
"If you had a discussion by the whole board that would be true," Grantham said. "We put the notification out for people to contact the school board if they were interested in the seat.
"All of the people who were interested sent in resumes that were sent to all of the board members individually to do their own fact finding and talking individually to the candidates to come up with their choice."
Grantham said he believes the board lived up to the letter of the law because it did not have any collaborative or "back door" meetings.
"I am sure we lived up to it," he said. "There is no process that is called out by law or by board policy because it is the first time that we have ever done it. We can't commit a future board to the process either.
"But I think it was fair, too, each board member had a chance to read the resumes, contact the individuals on their own and have a one-on-one discussion with them and make their best choice."