Longtime school board member Jonathan Hodges narrowly won the board of education presidency in a 5-4 vote on Wednesday evening. Board members also selected Kenneth Simmons to serve as vice-president.
“He has been a fighter for education,” prefaced Corey Teague, school board member, before nominating Hodges for the presidency. “He has gone against the grain plenty of times.”
Hodges’ triumph goes against the grain in a board dominated by allies of former board president Christopher Irving, who nominated Chrystal Cleaves, former vice-president, to succeed him. Cleaves fell short, securing only four votes from: herself, Irving, Manny Martinez, and Flavio Rivera.
Hodges secured five votes from: himself, Errol Kerr, Lilisa Mimms, Kenneth Simmons, and Teague. Those who voted in favor of Cleaves voted against Hodges and vice-versa.
Simmons, whose votes usually align with board members allied to Irving, defected voting in favor of Hodges. Newly sworn in board member Mimms casted the deciding vote granting Hodges his third presidency on the board.
Teague again put forward his nomination, this time for the vice-presidency: Simmons. Cleaves put forward Martinez. Irving nominated Teague. Out of the three Simmon secured five votes from himself, Kerr, Mimms, Teague, and Hodges.
After the vote Simmon said winning the vice-presidency was “unexpected.” Indeed, the vote’s outcome was unexpected. Irving expressed shock and surprise at Hodges’ victory. He said he wasn’t aware Hodges wished to be board president.
“I still welcome it,” said Irving of the outcome. “It’s a good outcome no matter what.”
Rivera, who voted against the longtime board member, said the newly selected president has a great deal of experience, and will make for a good president.
Hodges promised a continuity in leadership by stating he will build on the achievements of Irving and Cleaves. Both intensely pushed to re-gain local control from state government.
“We’re going to try to build on many of the things they’ve done moving forward,” said Hodges.
Cleaves said the stars simply did not align. “What God has for me is for me. This must not have been my time,” said Cleaves after the vote. “It fell the way it fell.”
Insiders said Hodges lobbied board members for votes. Cleaves said she did not campaign or lobby for the presidency.
Hodges said his main goal will be to improve student performance. “Our kids are nowhere near where they are supposed to be. It is my goal to very dramatically and very quickly change that,” said Hodges.
He said a special meeting will be scheduled in the coming weeks to figure out how to address low student achievement.
“Strap on your boots, we’re in for one hack of a ride,” Hodges told fellow board members.
Teague said Hodges is a rare board member whose sole aim has been to better the school district.
“He didn’t seek any other office. He’s just worked on the board of education,” said Teague. “We needed to put somebody there who is going to stay there.”