After tense recess, BOE members seat McGregorBy Yasmine Regester / July 20, 2018
Winston McGregor, executive director of the Guilford Education Alliance (GEA), was sworn in as the newest member of the Guilford County Board of Education (BOE) at its July 17 meeting.
The Guilford County Democratic Party (GCDP) selected McGregor at its July 14 meeting to fill the former school board at-large member and chairman Alan Duncan’s unexpired term and to run as a school board candidate in the 2018 General Election in November.
Things nearly seemed to unravel during Tuesday night’s school board meeting as concerns about conflicts of interest raised by District 5 BOE member Darlene Garrett at the Guilford Democratic Board of Elections meeting were raised again at the school board mneeting. Garrett, a Democrat, voiced her concerns about McGregor’s appointment to the school board being a conflict of interest because of her current position with the Guilford Education Alliance. The GEA is a nonprofit that works closely with GCS to offer support and resources to teachers, parents and students. GCS Superintendent Sharon Contreras serves on the GEA Board of Directors, along with school board chair, Deena Hayes-Greene. As the executive director of the nonprofit, McGregor is held accountable by the board of directors. However, recently, the superintendent and board chair became non-voting members of the GEA Board of Directors.
Now, with McGregor’s appointment to school board, she will in turn be expected to weigh in on the superintendent’s performance during the board’s yearly evaluation, which can be considered a conflict of interest. Garrett reiterated those concerns at Tuesday night’s school board meeting, triggering a split vote, 4 to 4.
Garrett voted no on seating McGregor on the board, along with Republicans Anita Sharpe (District 2), Wes Cashwell (District 6) and Linda Welborn (District 4). Leaving Republican Pat Tillman and Democrats Byron Gladden (District 7), Deena Hayes-Greene (District 8) and T. Dianne Bellamy-Small (District 1) voting in favor of McGregor serving on the board.The vote to accept the GCDP’s nomination required a majority vote.
After a 15-minute recess and some side conversations among school board members and the community, a second vote was taken to approve McGregor to the board. The measure passed 6 to 2, with Garrett and Welborn changing to a yes vote.
Welborn noted that because of McGregor’s far-reaching influence as an education advocate, there may be conflicts of interest in voting on certain issues brought to the school board because she serves in both roles. But that is not a new issue on the board. Duncan had to recuse himself from voting on certain issues because of his law firm’s work with various groups.
“There’s going to be some conflict, which everybody has acknowledged. But that doesn’t diminish her commitment to children and the community. It was never an issue on Winston,” said Welborn, adding that another concern is that McGregor would be privy to information that other education nonprofits wouldn’t have the ability to access.
“Clearly the Democratic party felt that this was their candidate, and that’s fine, she’s a great lady. But I made my concerns known. If I have any other issues and concerns I will bring them to the board and hopefully we can work them out,” said Welborn.
BOE District 7 representative Byron Gladden said he voted in favor of McGregor’s appointment because he did not see a conflict of interest and was impressed by her commitment to the children of Guilford County.
“The Democratic party voted for her with overwhelming majority, so the people have spoken. But she also has been a strong advocate for children since I’ve joined the board, and she was very supportive of the schools that were effected by the tornado,” said Gladden. “I truly believe she will vote in the best interests of the children.”
McGregor took her place on the board Tuesday night to serve the last five months of the term, and will run against the Republican candidate, Marc Ridgill in November. Since Duncan is a Democrat, the county party was tasked with selecting his replacement. She beat out the four other candidates with the majority of the votes both times, garnering 453 votes to serve the unexpired term and 457 votes to be placed on the ballot. An estimated 134 executive committee members or proxies attended the Democratic party meeting, according to GCDP Chairman, Nicole Quick. The votes are weighted and split between the chair and vice chair of organized precincts. The number of votes each precinct received was based on one percent of the votes cast for Gov. Roy Cooper in that precinct from the last general election.
“Im ready to get to work on the board and campaigning. I’m just really gratified by the folks who encouraged and supported me. I wasn’t thinking about running until about three weeks ago, people started talking to me about running,” said McGregor, who has served as the executive director of the GEA for the past five years. She is the former executive director and president of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Greensboro. McGregor has also been credited as one of the people that helped introduced the Say YES to Education program to county and school leaders.
She said she was initially approached by Guilford County Commissioner Melvin “Skip” Alston, N.C. Rep. Amos Quick, and Greensboro NAACP president Cardes Brown to run for the vacant seat. For the Democratic at-large nomination, McGregor beat out retired educator Alfred Kraemer, former principal Keith McInnis, BOE District 6 Democrat candidate Khem Irby, and former GCS Western Region superintendent Angelo Kidd.
McGregor later said she does not believe there is a conflict of interest, saying she had the support of the GEA executive board to do both jobs. She added that she is looking forward to working with all the school board members, not just certain ones.
“I look forward to working on the board in the way its supposed to — working on policies, strategy, and looking at the goals the board has already adopted. I’m looking forward to really moving us forward on the course we’ve already charted on the strategic plan,” said McGregor.
She continued by saying the board already has the strategic plan in place and that’s the blueprint she intends to follow.
“I think we have the leadership, the strategic plan and the people in place in this district to get us through these stuck points, where we are with achievement and consistency in excellence across the district,” McGregor said. “I’m not interested in charting a new and different vision for the district than the one the board has already wholeheartedly adapted.”
Duncan resigned from the Guilford County school board and withdrew from the race in June in order to focus on his new role as a member of the N.C. Board of Education, District 5 representative.