CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - 2014-2015 North Carolina Teacher of the Year James E. Ford was recently appointed to North Carolina State Board of Education. Governor Roy Cooper chose Ford to fill a vacancy that was on the board. Ford was a Charlotte Mecklenburg School (CMS) teacher at Garinger High School. He left the classroom to continue his work as an education advocate for Public School Forum of North Carolina.
"I think it's very rare that somebody gets the opportunity to go from being in the classroom," NC State Board of Education Member James Ford said. "Working in education policy to then be in a position where you can impact policy."
Ford says his voice will not be silenced while serving on the board. He says he wants to continue to talk about how inequality, poverty and race all play a factor in students' success in the classrooms.
"We tend to skirt around those issues," Ford said. "That's not really what I am known for - so I intend on pushing conversation but for the purposes of enacting justice and enacting equal opportunity."
Ford says when he got the call from the Governor's officer he was apprehensive about taking the position. He is a husband, a father of four, works full-time and is a part-time PhD student and thought the assignment would be too much. He says he prayed about it and got the answer to serve. He's already been sworn in and is ready to get to work.
"Look very carefully at the students who are not getting the same level of access to quality education and resources," Ford said. "We have to do something to change that and I want to be part of that process."
CMS school board members are reacting to Ford's appointment. They believe it is a good choice and they have great expectations.
"Will be a great advocate for providing the resources that are desperately needed in the public schools." CMS District Four School Board Member Carol Sawyer said.
CMS School Board Chairperson Mary McCray has already been in contact with Ford to set aside time so the two can talk about issues facing education in CMS and throughout the state.
"If you don't let them know where you stand," CMS School Board Chairperson Mary McCray said. "And we don't know where they stand - how can we be effective leaders."
McCray believes Ford is the perfect person for the job. She believes his experience will add value to the board.
"You got a person in that seat who has been in the trenches," McCray said. "Know what the trenches are like and know what's needed to clean up the trench."
The new board member says he doesn't feel the pressure of making education better for those who are often left behind. He says tackling equity will take time.
"Folks ought not be looking for any saviors," Ford said. "Hopefully the expectations are realistic and folks understand I am one person alongside a bunch of other individuals."
When Ford starts he will not concentrate on how long it has taken to make things better for all students. He will also not grade previous state boards of education on their sense of urgency to handle the subject of equity in our schools. It has been a topic that has been discussed for years.
"I can't speak on what's happened beforehand," Ford said. "I can say that while I am there, I am certain we are going to be angled toward equity in everything that we do."
Ford’s first State Board of Education meeting as a board member is November 1st in Raleigh.