By Wil Crews
LEE COUNTY —
The Lee County Schools Board of Education appointed Napoleon “Sonny” Stringer to the District 7 seat Thursday, Oct. 6, by a majority 4-to-2 vote from the board members.
The seat was left vacant due to the passing of previous District 7 seat holder, Brian Roberson, on Sept. 7, 2022.
According to state guidelines, when a board seat becomes vacant, the board has 30 days (until Friday, Oct. 7, in this case) to fill the seat.
“If that vacancy’s not filled within 30 days of becoming vacant, then the state school superintendent, which would be Eric Mackey, would make an appointment of the board member,” said Lee County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mac McCoy.
The board held an earlier meeting Tuesday, Oct. 4, interviewing Stringer and another candidate for the opening. With one board member absent from the meeting, the board failed to reach a majority vote on the day and scheduled to reconvene Thursday for a re-vote with all board members present.
Stringer is a life-long resident of Smiths Station. He, his wife of 48 years, Sylvia, and both of their children are Smiths Station High School graduates. Stringer also serves as a church clerk and deacon at Mount Olive Baptist Church.
“I have been around this community all my life,” Stringer said to open the interview. “I’ve been in the public schools. I know a lot of people from public school, and I just know that the schools in Lee County — it’s a very good school system. I know that from previous experience.”
Stringer noted his training with the Alabama Association of School Boards as further support for his candidacy.
“That training helped me a lot to learn what the state laws are and how the school board should operate, so it means a lot,” he said.
Stringer said he sees the primary work of the school board is working together to improve the school system as a whole.
“We have to work together as a board — not only with the board, with the commissioner … to come together and get things done,” he said. “Different school systems need different things, and so we try to do the best that we can to try to make that happen and make a great school system even better.”
Stringer made clear he believes the role of the board is to work with the superintendent or administration, not supersede it.
“The school board makes the decision … the superintendent makes the recommendation,” he said. “The board is not in the day-to-day operations of the school system. The superintendent is, and his staff, so we work with him.”
If posed with a difference of opinions between board members, or between the board and administration, Stringer said it would be his job to find common ground, not to sway opinions one way or another.
“I’d like to talk to the board member about what we’re disagreeing on and why and hope we can get that resolved,” he said. “If we can’t, then we would have to get the superintendent involved and try to find out what it is we’re disagreeing on and see if we can work that out.”
Stringer explained that he would be a team-first board member, supporting the decisions of the group over that of his own.
“It may not be what I think it ought to be, but if the board makes that decision, I will support it,” he said. “We are a board; we should be together, and not separate. When you start going separate ways, that causes problems down the line. We all may not agree on everything; I understand that, but that’s OK. That’s part of it.”
Lastly, even though Stringer will be representing District 7, he stressed that it will be his job — along with the rest of the board members — to represent the best interests of the county as a whole.
“Even though we have a different school system — I know you have different areas, constituencies, but I’m a constituent for the entire school system,” he said. “I would be a board member that would for the whole Lee County Schools, not just where I live, everywhere.”