06/23/14 — Former Goldsboro High principal Patricia Burden says he focus will remain teachers and students

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Former Goldsboro High principal Patricia Burden says he focus will remain teachers and students

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 23, 2014 1:46 PM

Patricia Burden might have been sworn in last month to complete the unexpired term of the late Thelma Smith on the Wayne County Board of Education, but she does not consider herself a replacement for the veteran board member.

"Miss Thelma cannot be replaced," she said. "I'm going to serve her time and complete her term of office and see where it takes me."

The respected educator and school board member died March 1 at age 78. The Board of Education was tasked with naming a representative for District 3 to serve the remainder of the term, until November 2016.

Five candidates submitted applications for the position, with Ms. Burden receiving the most votes.

The paths of the two women had actually intersected many times over the years, from the time Ms. Burden was a student at Dillard High School, where Mrs. Smith once taught.

After graduating in 1965, Ms. Burden pursued her own teaching career, in Philadelphia, Pensacola, Fla., and California before becoming an administrator. She returned to Goldsboro in 1990, serving as principal at Goldsboro Middle School and then Goldsboro High School. Since retiring, she has become more active with Dillard/Goldsboro Alumni and Friends, as scholarship chairman, serving on the national board and as a member-at-large of the Goldsboro chapter.

Ms. Burden said said over the years she often sought Mrs. Smith's advice. In turn, as District 3 representative, Mrs. Smith often consulted Ms. Burden about Goldsboro High School.

When the board seat opened, Ms. Burden recognized her own interest in running.

"I think it came about from people talking to me about serving on the board and feeling that I would be a good candidate because of my experience and educational background," she said. "I do have a passion about curriculum and teachers having a voice. I'm an advocate for students because I believe that education is the key to our success and they are our future. We have to do whatever we can to help them be successful in that endeavor."

This is an interesting time for education, she said. While the local focus is on facilities, specifically the construction of new schools for Spring Creek and Grantham, it is also a heated climate around the state and nation, with Common Core, tenure issues and teacher raises sparking much debate.

"I think I would like the state of North Carolina to make up (its) mind about the curriculum they're going to follow," she said. "You need to define what you want to do, accept that program at least for a period of time and see how it works. I don't have a problem with Common Core. But before you implement a plan, your teachers need to be trained."

She said she is very interested in being an advocate for teachers as well as students, while encouraging parents to also have a voice. At the same time, she is keenly aware that much of what is happening in Wayne County is universal.

"We're not the only district in North Carolina," she said. "Other districts are facing the same issues that we're facing and we have to find ways to address them.

"You don't want to be losing good teachers. We have to be supportive of them. We have to offer them the opportunities of staff development, and I think Wayne County goes a beautiful job of that and the support that they give to new teachers, and all of that has to be done along with financial support."

Like her predecessor, Ms. Burden said the mission always comes down to one thing -- children come first.

"You have to represent the needs of your district, but deal with the entire county," she said. "What you do is work hard to make the right decisions to ensure that it's for the good of the county."

The past few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind for the newly appointed board member.

"I am very honored to complete Miss Thelma's term. And I was very happy because it gave me another avenue to be involved in education," she said. "The response around me has been very positive. People immediately started to call and express their concerns, before I was even sworn in.

"I hear them out and I have not forgotten the concerns that they have expressed to me."

Since being sworn in, she has attended meetings, been assigned duties and is readying for applicable board training this summer.

"It's a new language, it's a different parameter," she said of the role. "I think my background leads me to that but there's still learning that takes place and you can always use what you know."