PORTSMOUTH — Clarence Parker served on the Portsmouth City School Board for 16 years, and president of the board for about 13 of those years. In 2015, Parker realized that his service on the PCSD was done and departure eminent.
Pursuing a position on the PCSD School Board was something Parker thought he would never do, having five children in the district that influenced his decision.
“For a long time I felt I would never get involved with anything that was close to politics, and in my mind that included the school board at that particular time, because it meant that you would have to campaign and that type of thing,” Parker said. “The other issue was that I had five children, and all of them went through Portsmouth City Schools. As I watched and observed some things that were going on, as a parent they were always questions, and always issues, and things that you are not necessarily thrilled with. I heard people complaining, and griping about some things, and I had some complaints.”
Parker learned that complaining would not produce anything, that being proactive was the solution.
“Over time you come to the realization that you don’t have a right to be griping and complaining about how things are going if you’re not willing to get out there and make a difference,” Parker said. “So that was my motivating factor. I had children in the system, I love kids, and have been working with The Counseling Center now for a number of years working with kids, so I knew a lot of the kids in the district. That is what lead me to pursue running, and actually getting the position on the Portsmouth City School Board,” Parker said. It is a pretty simple process, you have to get so many signatures on a petition that say that they feel you are a worthwhile candidate.”
He said becoming a school board member was a relatively simple process.
“After you do that then you start the process of putting out flyers, talking to people, trying to encourage people to vote for you,” Parker said. “We developed an election committee, you had to have so many people who were on the committee that helped pass petitions and get them signed for you. It wasn’t an extremely tedious process, but it was interesting and challenging to get out and talk to people, and to share with them what you’d like to see going on if you had the opportunity to be elected.”
As with all positions, board membership can present challenges, particularly in the area of abstaining from micromanagement.
“There is always a challenge as a board member. Our responsibility is the oversight of the district, and not the day to day functioning of the district,” Parker said. “So, the challenge of not trying to micromanage, what the superintendent and the principals, and staff are doing, but to simply try to support and encourage, and make sure that things are going in a proper direction as far as the school system is concerned. That is always a challenge. Having kids in the system, wanting to be close enough to see what was going on, not just to be hearing reports, but to actually to be able to observe how things are being done, that required you to be in the buildings, and you have to be around things that are happening in the system. At the the same time you are doing that, you are a bit apprehensive, and hope that people do not question your motives.”
The highlight of Parker’s tenure on the PCSD Board was seeing the new school buildings built in the district.
“The greatest thrill of my tenure was acquiring the new facilities. The process though was very stressful, and challenging, and very interesting,” Parker said. “One of the most unsettling things about being on the school board is understanding the whole process of how school finance works. It is very complicated, and confusing, and very difficult process to comprehend, knowing how it functions, and understanding what you can and can’t do with the monies that are given by the State and Federal Government are probably the most challenging thing about serving on the school board. From the outside looking in I didn’t know that.”
Garnering the support of the community, and getting the community engaged in the process on the road to the new facilities was something he greatly enjoyed.
“What are really enjoyed most though about the process of obtaining the new buildings was engaging the community. We did a lot to try to get the community involved, getting their opinions, their suggestions, their ideas as to what they wanted to see these new facilities look like, and how they wanted them to function,” Parker said. “That was really exciting, because we did a lot to make sure that the process was honored to give the community an incredible amount of opportunity to invest in it.”
Making student and community interests top priority is paramount according to Parker.
“The biggest responsibilities of a board member is thinking about what is in the best interest of the students, what is in the best interest of the community, is the probably the major focus of a board member,” Parker said. “We have had some very good board members that have served well. This last group of board members that I served with I really enjoyed my tenure with them. It was hard to step away and say 16 years is enough, that’s four terms, but I just felt that it was just time to do that.”
Scott Dutey, Superintendent of Portsmouth City Schools, said Parker has been an anchor for the PCSD.
“On behalf of Portsmouth City Schools, I would like to thank Clarence Parker for his 16 years of service as a member of the Portsmouth City Schools Board of Education,” Dutey said. “He has been an anchor and stabilizing force for the board and our district as a whole and will be greatly missed. I value his friendship and will continue to rely upon his guidance and vast experience throughout my tenure at Portsmouth.”
Now that Parker is no longer on the PCSD Board, he said he will direct more of his time and attention towards his family with wife Patricia, children and grandchildren. Stepping away from the board will also give him more time to dedicate to the ministry, as Parker serves as Pastor of Pleasant Green Baptist Church.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.