NEWARK – One of the first things Gary Mumford had to do before he takes over as the new warden of the Worcester County Jail is leave another position that he has held for the past 12 years – member of the Worcester County Board of Education.
At the Board of Education meeting last week, county schools Superintendent Jon Andes not only recognized Mumford on his departure, but also elaborated on just what kind of person Mumford is.
“Unwavering integrity, ethical fortitude and high moral values” were three of the descriptors that Andes employed in recognizing Mumford’s service to the public school system.
“Garry is leaving a legacy of advocating for all students who need a strong and steady voice,” Andes said. “He has been instrumental in promoting services and programs, such as our after school academies, which address unique needs.”
Mumford joined the Board of Education in 1999. He was selected by the board to serve as vice president from 2003 through 2005 and as president from 2006 through 2008.
When reflecting on his tenure as a board of education member, Mumford said he adhered to a policy of putting the best interests of the children first.
A 1977 graduate of Stephen Decatur High School, Mumford is one of nine children raised in Bishopville. His father passed away when he was only 15, while his mother passed recently.
“Looking back over the years on my service to the Board of Education, I hope that my parents are proud of me,” he said. “We didn’t grow up with much, but my parents instilled a lot in me. I was able to be appointed, later elected and then served as president of the board. Everything I did, I trust that it was positive. Everything I did was to make them proud.”
Reducing the achievement gap has been on Mumford’s radar since he joined the board. “Dearest to my heart has always been the reduction and elimination of the achievement gap,” he said. “We have hit the gap head-on and we are seeing results.”
According to Mumford, community is key in providing all children with a high quality education. “We have one of the greatest communities around,” he said. “They give so much in a variety of ways – like time and resources. We have a great community and that is what it takes to be successful.”
When a Board of Education member resigns, state law requires the Worcester County Commissioners to appoint a someone to fill the vacancy for the remainder of a term and until a successor is elected. Mumford’s term will end on Dec. 31, 2012. Mumford’s resignation was effective March 31, 2011, although he continues to serve until commissioners make an appointment to fill the vacancy.
“I have truly enjoyed serving on the board and working with a great group of people for all 12 years, Mumford said. “I am confident that they will continue to advocate for our children and their education, especially during these challenging times.”
Mumford is concerned about what lies ahead for education. “We have to remain competitive,” he said, “Yet, we have diminishing resources. We’ve been maintaining the status quo because of difficult economic times, but this is tough on our teachers and families. We risk losing experienced teachers to retirement and we risk not attracting and retaining the very best.”
With education reform on the near horizon, Mumford fears the continuation of the trend to expect more, without providing additional resources. “School systems have increasing mandates, such as Race to the Top, as well as rising performance standards. The problem is that many of the state and federal mandates are unfunded. With more work and results being expected and less resources being provided, I worry that great teachers will leave the profession.”