Longtime Cabarrus resident Grace Mynatt officially replaced former school board member Mike Helms during a swearing-in ceremony Aug. 1.
Board member Lynn Shue nominated Mynatt for the position, and the board unanimously approved the nomination during a July 11 school board meeting. No other board members brought forth nominations.
Helms cited health and family reasons for resigning, and his last day was May 9. Mynatt's first meeting with the board followed the swearing-in ceremony. The decision to fill the seat with someone with experience was meant to streamline the learning curve, said Holly Blackwelder, a 30-year Concord resident and board member since 2004.
"(Mynatt) didn't miss a beat," said Blackwelder about Mynatt's first night on the job. "She was right on top of it, she was vocal and involved, a true benefit to the board."
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Blackwelder, also the board chairwoman for three years, said Mynatt was the most appropriate candidate, and her experience will be invaluable.
"Her 14 years as a prior board member and her term as a county commissioner will be extremely beneficial to the board," said Blackwelder. "She has worked with both sides of the processes, especially the budget, and her knowledge and experience in these areas will be very insightful as we begin the new budget process this year."
The board's unanimous decision to appoint Mynatt also spoke volumes, said Blackwelder.
"It expressed that the board has complete and total confidence," she said, adding that the year ahead is a busy one. "A new person would have been completely overwhelmed."
The board is working on a 15-year facility plan; creating a budget committee and other projects throughout the system's 42 buildings.
We asked Mynatt five questions about her new role and what the community can expect as she fills out Helms' term for the next 14 months.
Q. Why did you decide to take on the new role?
"I was approached by a few members of the current board of education asking that I consider filling out the term of Mike Helms. I agreed to allow my name to be presented for approval."
Q. How will your past experience as a commissioner and former board of education member help you, the community and the board?
"It takes some time to accustom yourself to a new board. My past experience, and the relationships I have made, will help me lessen the learning curve. I am familiar with much of the processes and personnel in the system. Having served at the county level, I have friendly relationships there as well. I will be able to look at issues not only from the school system's perspective, but also the county's and the taxpayers' points of view."
Q. Do you have any specific goals in mind as you fill out Helms' term?
"I have no specific goals other than to diligently study the issues that come before the board. My belief is that any item of discussion should involve every board member's input and suggestions. Then it is up to me to advocate and compromise, if possible, in the best interests of everyone always remembering that my first focus is the education of our children, bottom line."
Q. As you see it, what is the biggest challenge faced by the district and/or the board?
"It is too early to identify the greatest challenges ... but I am sure funding, demands on teacher time, finding time to teach, rather than talk about teaching, will continue to be top of the list."
Q. What are your plans after this term ends, and will you run for some form of government any time soon?
"I am serving out this term and do not plan to seek public office again. Among other things, I am involved with the Cabarrus County Education Foundation and want to be able to focus on growing the public's awareness of its purpose and broaden the activities it holds. I am flattered to be asked to serve with the other dedicated board members and look forward to contributing what I can."