We’ve certainly heard a number of accolades and brickbats in response to this week’s announcement from long-time school board member Patsy Simpson that she will be stepping down at the end of May. Simpson has frequently been commuting to areas near Lynchburg, Virginia in order to care for some elderly relatives.
Simpson has openly discussed in recent years the possibility that she would ultimately leave the area to move to Virginia to be near family there and care for some of them. Once her husband retired a few years ago, that discussion accelerated.
Simpson has been a member of the school board for 15 years, first elected in 2008 and reelected in 2012, 2016, and 2020.
We have found her to be consistently one of the most conscientious, diligent, attentive, and participatory members during those 15 years. We cannot think of many people who would consider her a wallflower.
She has also been one of the most independent board members, often seeking, and frequently challenging, information from school system bureaucrats, many of whom historically have chafed at being questioned by elected representatives who have the temerity to do their own research or confront them with better information – or sometimes any information at all.
She hasn’t minded challenging even superintendents who she did not think had done sufficient research, or adequately explained, a particular position or policy.
For the most part, she has been a champion for equal treatment of all students – all socioeconomic, racial, or other characteristics – rather than showing favoritism or preference toward particular schools.
We grant that in recent years, she’s become somewhat more animated on so-called racial equity issues, rather than the equality of opportunity and access that had traditionally been the benchmark by which she measured progress.
Still, we’d also have to say, she has prevailed in elections because of her broad, multi-racial, bipartisan/nonpartisan appeal. She has not been simply a predictable black school board member.
We do concede that her political philosophy, especially on national politics, as often expressed on her social media platforms, is often pretty crazy, venturing far afield from the common sense approach we think she’s evidenced on the local level.
Simpson is a Democrat on the ostensibly non-partisan school board, which has also given her, perhaps, an excuse to challenge (even ridicule) Republicans who have dominated the county’s board of commissioners during her term, even when she didn’t have a particularly well-reasoned rationale for her hyperbole.
Still, on balance, we think Simpson epitomizes the type of school board members this county needs, if we’re ever going to see real academic improvement in the Alamance-Burlington schools.
There have been plenty enough of the go-along/get-along members, the “anything you say” members who reflexively endorse whatever the latest Ph.D. educrat happens to utter, and, on the other end of the scale, those with loud voices but little understanding of how schools, or school systems, actually work – or, at least, are supposed to work.
No one has worked harder, and we wish her well in her upcoming retirement. She can take solace in the fact that she served well.