Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools announced on Thursday Republican School Board Member Lori Goins Clark’s resignation from the Board of Education, less than two years after she was reelected to a second term.
Clark’s abrupt resignation comes amidst social media rumors that she sent a racially insensitive text message about former interim-school superintendent Kenneth Simington, who is black.
On Thursday morning, Clark told the Winston-Salem Journal she sent a message that some people may have “misunderstood,” but did not comment on the specific contents of the message.
“I made a personal, relational mistake that has been misunderstood and misrepresented by some,” Clark said. “I have apologized for that.”
Simington, who retired Aug. 31, could not be reached for comment. His attorney declined to comment.
Republican Board Member Dana Caudill Jones said she thinks “a lot of people” have seen the message, including herself and other board members. She said she didn’t want to comment on what it specifically contained — saying that it is Clark’s story to tell.
“In any situation I don’t condone any racism or any insensitive behavior,” Jones said about Clark’s controversial text. “It’s her actions, her story, that she needs to share.”
Jones said Clark gave her resignation Aug. 29 and it was effective at 5 p.m. that day.
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Spokesman Brent Campbell cited the Labor Day holiday, the need to tell board members before the public and installing a new superintendent as the reason for the delay in notifying the public about Clark’s resignation.
A statement from Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools did not address Clark’s reasons for resigning.
“We thank Lori for her four and half years of committed service to the students, staff and parents of our district,” Malishai Woodbury, the chairwoman of the school board, said in a news release.
The Journal filed a public records request with the school system for a copy of the message Clark sent.
“Please also know we do not assign board members cellphones and are not the custodian of record of their private devices,” Campbell said in an email. “We can simply alert them to the request.”
Clark said she hopes the school board can now focus on more urgent matters concerning the education of children in the district, rather than her resignation.
“I am proud to have supported and voted for our new superintendent from the start, and I wish her and the board all the best in the days to come,” Clark said.
Lida Calvert-Hayes, a board member, said that the board of education will discuss with its attorney the directions on filling Clark’s vacant position.
“State law prohibits the board or any of its members or employees from discussing publicly issues regarding personnel or legal matters or other topics that are otherwise confidential under the law,” Calvert-Hayes said. “Upon the advice of our counsel, I cannot discuss this matter at this time.”
Clark is one of four Republicans elected to represent District 2, which encompasses most of Forsyth County.
Clark is also the daughter of longtime school board member Jane Goins. Goins served on the school board for more than 30 years, and served as board chair before leaving the board in 2014.
Clark first ran for school board in 2010, getting through the primary election before losing in the general election.
In 2014, she was one of three newly elected Republican women to join the board.
As a child, she attended Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and matriculated at West Forsyth High School. Clark graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a bachelor of arts in music.
On her Twitter page, Clark lists her profession as a “Beautycounter consultant,” and describes herself as a “common-sense conservative.”
Clark has one child in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
Because Clark resigned after being elected, the remaining eight board members will choose a Republican replacement to serve until the next election for school board members, according to N.C. Statute 115C-37.1.
Tim Tsujii, elections director for the Forsyth County Board of Elections, said that because the memberships in the WS/FCS school board elections are partisan seats, the person who replaces Clark would have to be of the same party affiliation, meaning a Republican, based on state statute.
“Unless it is specified in a local act that the appointment should be made by a party executive committee, then the appointment should otherwise be made by the remaining members of the board,” Tsujii said.
The chosen person would fill the seat until it expires in 2022.
Jones said she anticipates the school board will begin the process of naming Clark’s replacement at their next meeting.