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Seat remains unfilled

JACKSON – Despite voting two more times, the Northampton County Board of Education did not manage to fill their vacant seat at their regular meeting here on May 10.

Four candidates submitted applications to fill the seat left open after board member Josephine Dunn passed away at the end of February. A candidate must receive at least four votes in order to be appointed to fill the vacancy.

After interviewing the four candidates—Clinton Williams, Franklin Williams, Melissa Simmons, and Garfield Johnson—at a meeting last week, the six remaining members of the board found themselves deadlocked with the decision and unable to reach the necessary majority.

Board Chair Rhonda Taylor gave the board time at Monday night’s meeting to discuss their choices ahead of their next vote.

“Something that somebody might say might persuade another board member to change their vote,” Taylor said before the discussion.

Board members Lucy Edwards and Barbara Stephenson both cast their votes last week for C. Williams, who previously has served 12 years on the Board of Education. Most recently, he lost his reelection bid last March by a total of 19 votes.

Both L. Edwards and Stephenson cited that close vote as one of the reasons they cast their vote in his favor. They also mentioned his previous experience and knowledge of the position as a positive as well.

“He won’t need any on-the-job training. He can jump in and move forward,” Stephenson explained.

Board members Theresa Scott and Tony Burnette spoke in favor of F. Williams, who is a pastor, licensed guidance counselor, and currently employed as Northampton County’s Economic Development Director. They both noted he was a strong advocate for the local school system.

“He worked with [Northampton County Schools Superintendent] Dr. Chamblee before in the past at Northampton High School-East,” explained Burnette, “wherein that time Dr. Chamblee and her team turned Northampton County-East into a school of distinction.”

The remaining two board members, Taylor and Dr. Marjorie Edwards, explained their votes for Simmons, a local insurance agent who is a parent of two current students and a former PTO president. She also received over 300 votes as a write-in candidate during the previous election.

They both acknowledged Simmons’ strong support of the school system by regularly attending the BOE meetings and being involved in other school activities.

Taylor also said, “I have the utmost respect for every candidate that came here the other day. Even if my vote was not for you, it’s not because I don’t respect you or think you can’t do a good job.”

Following the discussion, the board voted again. This time, F. Williams received three votes (cast by Burnette, Scott, and M. Edwards). C. Williams once again received two votes (cast by L. Edwards and Stephenson). Taylor cast the sole vote for Simmons.

The fourth candidate, Garfield Johnson, did not receive any votes.

A second vote by the board produced the same results. Without the necessary majority, the board will vote on the candidates once again at their regular meeting next month.

Taylor also explained that whoever is appointed to fill the vacant seat will hold it until the next election, which is March of next year. Whoever wins the election will then serve the remaining two years of Dunn’s original four-year term set to expire in 2024.