“Thank you for your vote of confidence, and it’s wonderful to have two women in charge,” DeFreece said after she was elected chairman. Lowery will serve as vice chairman and — if tradition holds — will be elevated next year to the chairman’s seat.
Severeo Kerns made the motion to elect DeFreece and Lowery, saying he wanted to be a part of “making history.” While no one can say with certainty that two women have not served as chairman and vice chairman simultaneously for the county school board, Mike Smith, who has been on the board for 20 years, says he can’t remember that happening. And if you go back further than 20 years, the door for a woman to even serve on such a board in Robeson County was hardly ajar.
The position of chairman is largely ceremonial on the school board, but it does come with a bit of clout. DeFreece will work with the central office to establish the agenda for school board meetings, and she will also make assignments to school board committees. The pay is a bit better as well.
The board for years rotated the chairmanship, making sure that each race — American Indian, black and white — got a swing, but that practice was abandoned in recent years, and the board no longer appears bound by what we always believed was an unnecessary policy. The fact that DeFreece being black and Lowery being American Indian wasn’t even part of the “history” made on Monday underlines that point.
This county’s demographics ensure that all races are represented fairly on the school board, and it then depends on the board’s leaders to fairly distribute leadership positions, not only among the races, but between the sexes.
We trust that happened Monday night.