Wilkes honors board members for service to the school system

Wilkes honors board members for service to the school system
Phenix City outgoing board members, left to right: Rev. Samuel Estrada, Dr. Mesha Patrick, Fran Ellis, Patricia Alexander, Rev. Brady Baird (re-elected), and Will Lawrence. Not pictured is Todd Stanfill. The new board will be sworn in Nov. 5 at 6 p.m. at the Central Activities Center. New board members are Florence W. Bellamy, At-Large; Rev. Brady Baird, District 1, Place 1; Jonathan Taylor, District 1, Place 2; James Elliot Patrick, District 2, Place 1; KeAnthony Brooks, District 2, Place 2; Katrina Collier-Long, District 3, Place 1; Yolaunda Daniel, District 3, Place 2. Toni Stauffer

The Phenix City School District showed its appreciation to outgoing Board of Education members at the last regular session on Oct. 15, held in Central High’s cafe. Superintendent Randy Wilkes led the meeting and had a lot to say about the board members with whom he has served. 

Board members were previously appointed by the Phenix City Council; however, those positions have been changed to elected positions. Outgoing board members are Dr. Mesha Patrick, Patricia Alexander, Rev. Brady Baird, Fran Ellis, Rev. Samuel Estrada, Will Lawrence, and Todd Stanfill. 

New board members, under four-year terms, will be sworn in on Nov. 5 at the Central Activities Center at 6 p.m. ET. Appointed positions were unpaid; however, elected positions come with a monthly salary of $500. The new board members are Florence W. Bellamy, who won over Kendyl Sumbry Tarver for the At-Large position; Brady Baird won District 1, Place 1, winning over Marilyn Brannen. James Elliot Patrick won over Steve Franklin for District 2, Place 1, and Katrina Collier-Long won over Likitca Thomas-Ligon for District 3, Place 1. Unopposed candidates were Jonathan Taylor for District 1, Place 2; KeAnthony Brooks for District 2, Place 2, and Yolaunda Daniel for District 3, Place 2. New board members will be casting votes for a board president in the near future.

Superintendent Randy Wilkes recognized attending city council members and thanked them for appointing the board members who have been serving diligently. Wilkes said he has had the pleasure of serving with 15 different board members during his tenure and that having the same board members for the past two years really made a difference. 

Wilkes listed notable accomplishments by the board, such as the school system receiving its first ever grade of ‘A’, creation of the Dyer Family Stem Center, all grades having access to electronic devices, increasing reserves in the budget, an AdvancedEd score of 340, the new transportation facility, and Meadowlane’s recognition as a National Distinguished School—those were just some of the notable accomplishments Wilkes listed, including $12 million in scholarships awarded during the last two years and a 96-percent graduation rate. 

“Or was it something much more simple,” Wilkes said, referring to their accomplishments. “Something that has to do with positively touching the lives of all who enter our doors…The desire of this board of education is that we become a Premier school district, and that term resonates at every one of our schools today. High expectations, high outcomes.”

Wilkes thanked each board member individually. He noted that board president Dr. Mesha Patrick has been involved in the Phenix City school system for 41 years, including her time as a student and teacher. 

“She is perhaps going to be best remembered for her humility, her desire to pursue excellence and placing student achievement above everything else,” Wilkes said of Patrick. 

Next, he recognized Rev. Brady Baird, who has served as vice-president of the board for the past two years. The pastor of Seale United Methodist Church, Baird has served on the board for a total of four years.

“He has a direct knowledge of what is going on in our school system,” Wilkes said. “He will be best remembered for a lot of different things, but tonight for [his] willingness to serve an additional four years.” 

Wilkes went on to congratulate Baird for his retaining his seat on the board before moving on to Patricia Alexander, who has served on the board for the past four years and worked at Phenix City schools for more than 25 years. She also serves on the Mayor’s Scholarship Committee. 

“She took her talents to Muscogee County and has done well over there. She serves her church and local community so very well. There’s not many events you won’t see [her] at,” Wilkes said.  She’ll probably be best remembered for her diligent review of personnel and other such details as job postings,” Wilkes elaborated.

He referred to Fran Ellis as the Dean of board members since she has served the most years. Ellis has served 10.5 consecutive years and worked for Phenix City schools for 33 years, including time working in the Central office. 

“I don’t think there’s much Ms. Fran hasn’t done in our school system,” Wilkes said. “She knows a lot about our school system, inside and out, because of all that. Perhaps she will be best remembered by this board for her ability to spell check all of the minutes.”

Senior pastor at Bethel Radikal Generation (BRG) Church in Phenix City, Rev. Samuel Estrada has served on the board for two-and-half years. 

“Perhaps he will be best known for his quiet demeanor,” Wilkes said of Estrada. “But he is very much like E.F. Hutton for when he spoke, everyone listened.”

Will Lawrence has served on the board for the last four years. He also served on the City of Chicago’s Board of Education for three years. Lawrence worked for the Chicago Bears for three years and was also a Million-dollar Roundtable member for Prudential Insurance, worked in the banking and mortgage industry for 10 years, and was a behavior and mental health coordinator. 

“Perhaps he will be best remembered for his watchful eye of expenditures and his push to create more jobs for mental health providers,” Wilkes said. 

Todd Stanfill could not be present, but Wilkes still recognized his contribution. Stanfill has served on the board since Sept. 2018. He worked four years in Phenix City schools, an education in public and private schools for 27 years, much of it in Georgia. He retired three years ago as a principal from Harris County High School in Georgia. 

“He is best known, perhaps by this board, for his ability to relate matters to the school house for all his experience in education.”

Wilkes ended by addressing all of the board members. 

“…you were strong supporters of everything in our school system, and we want you to remain strong supporters,” Wilkes said. “If this group ever wants to come into one of our games, I don’t see a problem letting them come right on in. We want you to remain very much a part of our school system…thank you for your candor, phone calls, encourages, and advice…Thank you for, most importantly, always placing students first and foremost.”