Wake County Schools

Goldman leaves school board to head nonprofit foundation

Posted February 3, 2013 1:05 p.m. EST
Updated February 4, 2013 12:03 a.m. EST

— Debra Goldman, who resigned over email Friday from her seat on the Wake County Board of Education, is leaving to head a Wilkes County-based foundation working to raise awareness of strokes and how to prevent them.

Speaking to reporters Sunday, Goldman said she will be working full-time as executive director of the Derie Cheek Reece Foundation in Ronda, to expand the nonprofit and help it become a household name.

"I am so excited about this opportunity. I am so excited about moving forward and so passionate about what this foundation is doing and can do," she said.

Started in 2011, the DCR Foundation is named in memory of Derie Cheek Reece, a 33-year-old mother of two and wife, who died May 25, 2010. Reece complained of severe headaches and sickness but was delayed treatment because her symptoms were not identified as signs of stroke.

Goldman met Reece's husband, Kevin Reece, while traveling across the state last year during her campaign for state auditor.

North Carolina, Goldman said, has one of the highest stroke rates in the nation and that the rate among women under 35 is on the rise.

"Experts say that if we don't change lifestyle and choices our youth are making, then those rates will continue to rise," she said. "It's a grim picture for North Carolinians, and it's about time that stroke awareness and prevention became the forefront of the health care industry."

Part of Goldman's duties will be traveling around the state to promote the foundation and working to help educate others in all walks of life about stroke.

"It's a very exciting time for me in my life, and I want to sincerely thank all my constituents and voters and people in Wake County who have supported me," Goldman said.

Goldman, who represented western Wake County in the school board's District 9, was one of four people elected to the nine-member school board in 2009, creating a Republican majority that implemented controversial changes including an end to the long-standing way the school system assigned students to schools.

Board tenure was not without controversy

While on the school board, Goldman headed a number of committees, including the search committee that ultimately brought state Transportation Secretary Tony Tata to the school district as superintendent, a position he held for just over a year before he was dismissed.

She also served as vice chairwoman twice and , at times, she said, was seen as a "swing voter" when she would vote against party lines on controversial issues, including an October 2010 vote against a Republican-backed student assignment plan.

"Whether people have agreed or disagreed with decisions that I've made, it's been really important that my entire tenure on the school board … that every vote that I have made along the line has been with great thought, great care and a tremendous amount of research," Goldman said. "I have done my best to represent the people of Wake County."

At least one school board member on Friday said Goldman's resignation was "abrupt." But Goldman said leaving for the DCR Foundation had been "in the works" for a few months.

She decided to leave now, instead of finishing out her term, which expires in November, she said, partly because she didn't want to give people the impression that she planned to run again and that the demands of her new job didn't allow for both.

"I would not want to risk that I was doing any type of disservice to the people of Wake County," she said.

Goldman made headlines last fall during her failed bid for state auditor, when a June 2010 police report surfaced that suggested Goldman might have had a romantic relationship with fellow school board member Chris Malone.

Goldman denied the allegations and said the report was somehow leaked to the media to try to derail her campaign against state Auditor Beth Wood.

In September, she again made headlines after she filed a police report accusing another board member of threatening her during heated talks over the board's decision to fire Tata.

Goldman's departure leaves two open seats

Board members, including Chairman Keith Sutton and John Tedesco, were shocked by her decision Friday but both wished her well.

Goldman said she had talked to some board members since Friday and that those conversations had been positive. She would not say with whom she spoke.

Her departure is the second of a Republican board member in recent months.

On Tuesday, the school board expects to interview candidates to succeed Malone, who was elected in November to the state House of Representatives.

Eight people applied for the seat. The appointee will serve until the term expires in November.

Being able to replace two of the four Republicans on the school board could give the Democratic majority a chance to strengthen its control of the divided board.

That's something, Goldman said, that worries her now that she's gone.

"I think it's very important – in fact, I think it's vital – that when there's a vote of the board to replace a missing board member, that the board member who is chosen should have the same mindset as the board member who left – the same leanings, the same views – because that board member, even though they're being replaced by the sitting board, they were elected by the people of that district."