Granville County residents who may be pondering running for a seat on the Board of Education, take notice: The General Assembly passed a law that changes the terms of school board members from six years to four.
And it only took four years to undo what had been done more than 30 years before as a result of a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice.
As a result of House Bill 30, school board elections will be held in even-numbered years at the same time as primaries for county offices.
Districts 3 and 4 will kick off the new process, with elections in 2024; districts 1,2 and 6 follow in 2026 and districts 5 and 7 will come up for election in 2028.
In 1987, the Granville County Public School system was involved in a civil rights lawsuit brought by the U. S. DOJ. On Feb. 17, 1989, U.S.-District Court Judge Terrence W. Boyle signed a consent decree setting up the election of Board of Education members by seven geographical districts within the county, rather than all seats being at- large. At the time, terms were set for six years.
“Almost every other school system in North Carolina already had four-year terms,” Dr. Stan Winborne, GCPS assistant superintendent and public information officer, said in a statement announcing the change earlier this week.
“The thinking of the board was that this change would encourage more citizens to run for office and for board members to complete their terms of service,” he explained.
But it wasn’t quite so simple to un-do what had been done. Back in 2019, the board began discussions about changing term limits back to four years, Winborne said. But first, it needed approval from the Voting Section of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C. and then ask for a modification of the 1989 consent decree from the United States Eastern District Court.
The process further slowed during the pandemic, but finally, on Mar. 29, 2022, Judge Boyle signed a consent decree to change the term limits to four years.
N.C. Rep. Terry Garrison first introduced the legislation in June 2022, but it failed to reach the House floor.
Then, after the November mid-term elections, a resolution for support of this change was unanimously adopted at the Jan. 23, 2023 school board’s work session and forwarded to N.C. Rep. Frank Sossaman, N.C. Rep. Matthew Winslow, and State Senator Mary Wills Bode. House Bill 30 was filed by Representatives Sossamon and Winslow on Jan. 30 and it became law on Mar. 9.
“The Granville County Board of Education is grateful for the diligence and support of Granville County’s legislative delegation in fast-tracking this much needed change in term limits. It was important to the board that this bill be passed before the next election cycle,” said Board Chair Glenda Williams.