Venus Cain and Helen Minchew weren’t intending to make history by becoming the first women to hold simultaneously the seats of president and vice president on the Richmond County Board of Education.
Now that they have, they’re preparing for big changes to come.
“It’s sort of exciting,” Minchew said. “It’s the year of the women.”
Minchew and Cain said their main priorities for the rest of the school year will be dealing with the budget, student achievement and school safety. They plan to meet soon to discuss the direction of the board and inspire more communication among board members and with the community.
Cain, who served as vice president last year, was elected president during the board’s reorganizational meeting Saturday, by a vote of 8-1. Board member Barbara Pulliam was absent, and Patsy Scott cast the dissenting vote. Minchew received all nine votes for vice president.
As president, Cain will lead meetings, set the agendas and represent the board at events and official matters. Both will see an increase in pay; board members receive $6,800 a year, the vice president receives $7,400 and the president is paid $8,000.
Cain said she would like the board to look at ways to restore the roughly four furlough days planned for the rest of this school year, although the slash in state funding and budget demands may prevent that.
“When your teachers are out like they are, how are you supposed to work on student achievement?” Cain said. “It’s a two-edged sword. They want us to be competitive, but we’re not.”
Minchew said a discussion about school safety will likely be added to the agenda for the Jan. 15 meeting, which will focus on how to monitor access to the schools.
After the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school in December, board member Barbara Pulliam said she was concerned about how easy it is for visitors to bypass the main office and wander the campuses.
Again, Minchew said board members will have to determine what changes can be made within the confines of the budget.
Cain said through all the issues, her goal is for school officials to work together to continue the success of the district. It also helps that two women have the chance to take the lead.
“It’s exciting and we are looking forward to the challenge, but I’m still Venus,” she said. “I’m just an ordinary person that goes to work everyday that tries to make the community a better place.”