Next week will mark the first time that the Wake County school board has had two African-American members since 1977.
On Tuesday, Monika Johnson-Hostler, who is African American, will be sworn into the District 2 seat that she won in October. She will join a board that includes one other African American, school board Chairman Keith Sutton.
The last time this occurred was in 1977 when Cliffornia “Cliff” Wimberley and the late Vernon Malone both served on the school board.
Wimberley’s election to the old Raleigh City school board in 1973, joining Malone, marked the first time that school board had two African-American members. Wimberley, a former Raleigh teacher, was on the board when the Raleigh City and Wake County school systems merged in 1976.
The merger led to the creation of new school board lines. Wimberley lost her re-election bid in 1977. She went on to become president of the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association, which has represented the African-American community since 1932.
In more recent years, Wimberley was among a group of 22 former school board members who issued a joint statement in 2010 supporting diversity in schools. The statement was issued at a time when the school board was in the midst of dropping socioeconomic diversity from the student assignment policy – a step that was reversed earlier this year.
Johnson-Hostler, who has been in contact with Wimberley, now 83, said it’s about time that the school board had more than one minority member. She noted how with Wake’s changing demographics that the minority population now makes up a majority of the district’s student enrollment.
“I’m hopeful that the community can see they’re truly being represented,” Johnson-Hostler said.
Race wasn’t a factor during Johnson-Hostler’s campaign for the seat that includes parts of Southeast Raleigh, Garner and Fuquay-Varina. Over the years, minority candidates have run for school board seats but had not had much success outside of the District 4 seat that represents most of Southeast Raleigh.