The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education will be made up entirely of women for the first time in its history.
That is based on Tuesday’s election results, when four incumbents held onto their seats and Democrats took a slight majority.
With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, board member Elisabeth Motsinger was voted into her fourth term in the at-large district with 68,645 votes. She is joined by Democrats Deanna Kaplan (71,396) and Andrea Bramer (60,630) to fill the other two seats. Incumbent Robert Barr, a Republican, lost his re-election bid with 56,743 votes, and Republicans Timothy Brooker and Jim Smith lost as well with 52,056 and 51,627 votes, respectively.
In District 2, which has four seats, Chairwoman Dana Jones (51,683), Lori Clark (51,701) and Lida Calvert Hayes (53,788) secured second terms. Fellow Republican candidate Leah Crowley was able to win her first term with 51,958 votes.
The two Democrats running in District 2, Marilynn Baker and Rebecca Nussbaum were not able to gain enough votes in the race, with 46,133 and 45,416, respectively.
In District 1, the winners were set after the Democratic primary in May. Barbara Burke and Malishai Woodbury will represent the two seats in this district. In the general election, Burke was able to secure 23,822 votes, while Woodbury picked up 22,780.The new board will be sworn in on Dec. 11.
Several of the returning board members and members-elect are looking forward to what the first all-female school board in WS/FCS can bring.
“I think an all-female board will do very well and we serve at the pleasure of the citizens of Forsyth County,” Jones said.
“In today’s society with women holding so few offices across the board, it’s a step in the right direction,” Bramer said. She added she feels having more women in elected positions opens up the chances for others to come to the table for decision making and even running for other offices one day.
The most recent school boards have been represented primarily by Republicans, but this upcoming one will have five Democrats. The big key to that majority was all three at-large seats going to Democratic candidates.
“I tend to think more system-wide, and what happened is that I think Forsyth County is becoming an increasingly blue county,” Motsinger said.
Several of the current members and newcomers said they look forward to working with the entire board in a nonpartisan manner for the benefit of students and educators.
“My position on the school board will be to do what is in the best interest of our students, our teachers and our staff,” Burke said.
The hope is not to build a divide between members based on party affiliation.
“That’s not good for us; that’s not good for democracy,” Motsinger said. “I want us to work together and I want us to put in place structures that do not make us feel like a Democratic board but that we are an excellent school board for all students.”
Education, both locally and at the state level, was a hot topic going into this election. On May 16, thousands of educators and advocates marched in Raleigh. And in Forsyth County, educators drew attention to issues such as teacher pay through social media and their presence at recent school board meetings.
“I think they galvanized teachers and other educators as part of the electorate and energized them, and anyone else who cared about the public education issues, addressing those events, to show up to the polls,” said Tripp Jeffers, a teacher at Parkland High School and a former Forsyth County Association of Educators president.
Jeffers aid he thinks there are some “very admirable” people who have been elected to the board, both new and existing.
“I think that in this political climate right now having a little dose of change is not bad thing, and I think they might be able to shake up some of the issues that our Forsyth school board has been dealing with — most recently the teachers supplement issues.”
“I think they will bring another set of eyes, a fresh look at the issues and the concerns in a different perspective than what we’ve had the last four years,” Ronda Mays, current FCAE president, said.
Mays added she hopes this new board can place a larger focus on equity across all schools in the district, and that they will advocate for more funding and resources from the state level.
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