The beginning of Monday night’s Alamance-Burlington school board meeting took an unexpected turn when school board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves read a letter from longtime school board member Patsy Simpson announcing her resignation from the board.
To read the full text of Simpson’s resignation letter, click HERE
Simpson had announced in March that she would resign on May 22; she has previously said that she and her husband plan to move once renovations were completed on a house they own on family land in rural Virginia. Simpson has said she wanted to be closer to her aging relatives.
A 16-year veteran of the board and the longest-serving current member, Simpson was absent Monday night. In her resignation letter, Simpson revealed that she had undergone surgery last week and is recovering at home.
Simpson was elected to a fourth term on the school board in November 2020.
The school board had started discussing the process for soliciting applicants for Simpson’s seat in late March.
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But Simpson told board members earlier this month that she wanted a “rubric” established to set the criteria for her replacement.
Instead, in response, the school board voted to suspend all procedures for appointing her replacement until an actual vacancy existed.
In separate votes in March and April, Simpson voted against an application procedure for selecting her replacement (6-1) and the subsequent suspension of that process, which passed 5-1 (school board member Chuck Marsh was absent from the April 4 work session).
Simpson has previously said she supports the appointment of Seneca Rogers, a Graham resident who finished fourth (for three open seats) in the November 2022 election, to serve out the remainder of her term.
“I value my seat, I value my voice, and people are looking for what I bring to this board, and they want to make sure my replacement will have the same values,” Simpson said during the board’s work session on April 4.
“I am not vacating this seat until I get to know the criteria that this board has established,” Simpson said at the time. “This board has decided to exclude me from this process; you have not laid out what we’re looking for. Until such time as that is done, I am not going to give up my seat,” she said at the time. She told her fellow board members that she would remain on the board – and remain a resident of Alamance County – until there’s a satisfactory process for selecting her replacement.
However, on Saturday, she sent a letter to chairman Ellington-Graves and superintendent Dr. Dain Butler announcing her resignation, effective immediately.
“It saddens me to resign,” Simpson wrote in her resignation letter. “However I know when it’s time to leave and move on with helping our community in other ways. I’m very proud of the many changes in our school system and I pray the board will follow the leadership of Dr. Butler and create a system of high academic standards, equity and inclusion that represents our student population. Each student should be given the opportunity to reach their highest educational endeavor possible.
“…As I said at the last board meeting, it’s important to have representation for our black and brown children and staff,” Simpson continued. “I not only became their voice but I served in many capacities in that community and I know there is still work to be done.”
The six remaining school board members did not discuss Monday night the next steps for filling Simpson’s seat for the remainder of her term, which expires in December 2024.
Simpson, who retired from her 37-year career with the IRS in 2014, was first elected to the school board in 2008 and is currently the second-longest serving board member, after retired ABSS administrator Steve Van Pelt, who opted not to seek reelection prior to the expiration of his fourth term in 2020.
Simpson holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science/Criminal Justice from North Carolina Central University in Durham. She and her husband of more than four decades, Larry Darnell Simpson, Sr., have seven biological, adopted, and foster children.
Simpson is a member of Ebenezer United Church of Christ in Burlington and has been active in numerous civic organizations, including Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the parent teacher organizations and boosters clubs at Graham Middle and Graham High schools. During her tenure on the school board, Simpson also served three, one-year terms as vice chairman, most recently from December 2021 until December 2022.
Simpson subsequently disclosed to The Alamance News that she underwent surgery last week to remove polyps from her vocal chords, preventing her from speaking until she has fully recovered. “It’s nothing serious,” Simpson assured the newspaper by text.