On Tuesday morning, Yvonne Folkerts, the Alexandria School Boards newly elected chair, moved from her usual seat at the end of the dais to the center seat where the gavel resides — a spot previously occupied by Claire Eberwein.
And I think this is where we switch chairs, Deputy Superintendent Cathy David said after the board elected Folkerts unanimously.
School Board member Sheryl Gorsuch was also elected to vice chair in the reorganization after Eberweins recent resignation, which went into effect Monday.
Folkerts brings leadership experience to her position. According to her profile on the Alexandria City Public Schools Web site, she is a former public relations executive, has headed the PTA at MacArthur Elementary School and headed a multimillion dollar capital campaign for the Westminster Presbyterian Church.
On the School Board she has been instrumental in financial reform and making the budget more transparent, as well as helping to set reading standards for the school system.
Shes very gracious, School Board Member Arthur Peabody said of his colleague. Shes a very hard worker who produces solid results.
Folkerts said one of her aims as chairwoman is to work with the board and the newly hired superintendent, Dr. Morton Sherman, to produce a comprehensive plan for the citys schools.
A goal is to get us all together and get a strategic plan, Folkerts said. [The Board members] all said wed do that. Its an honor to be voted in and have your colleagues have the confidence in you. We all want this year to be a really productive and positive year. And they think I can help deliver that.
A mother of two children in the school system, Folkerts was elected to the board in 2006. She sits on the Curriculum Committee and is a member of the Education Association of Alexandria.
The leadership change means a new beginning for the board, which was divided on many issues under Eberweins command. The current board also dealt with former superintendent Rebecca Perrys abrubt resignation, which was fueled by a divided panel in January, as well as a superintendent search in April that balked at finding a replacement before Dr. Morton Sherman was hired.
But Folkerts is looking toward the future with the new superintendent. All of us want to roll out an outstanding year for Dr. Sherman, she said.
Folkerts was one of the board members who interviewed Sherman in Tenafly, New Jersey, where he will continues to head the school system until he takes his post in Alexandria August 15.
She has an excellent choice in superintendents, Sherman joked. Shes articulate, cares deeply about each student and has a sense of the district. Im looking forward to working with her.
Of the boards new composition, Sherman emphasized unity. My overall impression is that this board will come together and work hard to do whats necessary for the kids, he said. What I hope for is a board thats united around purpose and around students. The board has told me that they very much want that to happen.
Were ready to turn the page.
Folkerts said that it was important to start from a clean slate this year as it is every year when the board reorganizes. Of her success she said confidently, Well see. Everyones watching.
The school boards transformation is not yet complete. Eberweins resignation left a vacant seat on the board to be filled by the winner of a special election this summer. The board will also help in the search for a new TC Williams principal, athletic director and basketball coach.