Alamance-Burlington school board members agreed this week to invite 12 of the 13 applicants who submitted a letter of interest for the vacant seat – created by the April 23 resignation of four-term school board member Patsy Simpson – to appear at their next meeting on October 23 to outline their qualifications and why they should be selected (see accompanying chart below for biographical details about the applicants).
Monday, October 9, was the deadline to submit a letter of interest for the vacancy.
School board members preemptively eliminated one candidate, Danielle Cheek Sellars, from consideration during their discussion Tuesday afternoon, for failing to adequately respond to the vacancy notice.
Sellars submitted a letter of interest last month that gave no details about her background, or her address, but simply stated, “I, Danielle Cheek Sellars, [am] interested in the position.”
A notice of the vacancy that was posted last month on the ABSS website directed interested individuals to submit a letter stating that “the individual is eligible for and willing to fill the vacancy,” and outline his/her qualifications for the position and interest in the office.
Meanwhile, numerous community members have appeared before the board, during the public comments period at many of the board’s monthly business meetings since this spring, to lobby for the appointment of Seneca Rogers of Graham, who had been the next highest vote-getter in the November 2022 school board race.
However, school board members had been unable to agree following Simpson’s departure about whether to fill the vacancy and, if so, how to go about doing it.
For his part, school board member Dr. Charles Parker, who along with Dan Ingle and Chuck Marsh was elected in November 2022, relented this week on his earlier preference to have ABSS post a survey on the school system’s website, asking respondents to pick their preferred candidate.
Parker acknowledged during the school board’s latest discussion Tuesday afternoon that doing a survey “makes things more complicated.”
At the same time, Parker asked this week for the school system’s administration to post headshots of each of the applicants, along with video “pulled out from the evening meeting” on October 23, on the ABSS website and invite the public to give feedback.
School board members Dan Ingle and Donna Westbrooks liked that idea, as well as Parker’s suggestion to invite what he termed “a subset” of the applicants, “or invite everyone” to talk at the next school board meeting.
School board members initially agreed by consensus Tuesday to set a three-minute time limit but later agreed to let each applicant speak for up to five minutes.
“Because I know there’s more to a person than what you read on a piece of paper, I do think it would be wise to let them speak,” said Westbrooks. “Three minutes sounds sufficient to me, as well, since we do have a lot of their information and credentials on paper.”
School board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves asked her fellow board members whether they would like to set aside time during the next meeting to ask candidates any questions.
“What do we want to make sure they include?” Westbrooks asked.
Ryan Bowden, the school board’s vice chairman, said, “Basically, the who, what, and the why.”
Ellington-Graves added, “I think, for me, the big question is the why.”
Parker subsequently introduced a motion to invite the candidates who responded – “with the exception of Danielle Sellars, whose letter was not responsive to the request” – to speak at the school board’s meeting on October 23. The motion passed, 6-0.
Following the vote to invite candidates to speak, school board attorney Adam Mitchell advised the board to establish some parameters, outlining “what the expectations will be.”
Westbrooks suggested that the candidates should introduce themselves and explain why they want to serve out the remaining portion of Simpson’s term, which expires in November 2024.
Ellington-Graves said the candidate introductions should be listed as a separate agenda item for the meeting in two weeks.
For his part, Parker asked to include another agenda item to discuss the next steps in the selection process.
School board members agreed to resume their discussion at their next meeting in two weeks.