Longtime Lawrence County School Board member Beth Vinson said dealing with consolidation in 2008 was among the toughest decisions she has ever had to make.
Monday night, Vinson, 56, got to say goodbye to her fellow educators at a reception in her honor recognizing her 15 years on the school board. Nearly 100 people attended the reception at the Lawrence County schools gifted education center and former Citizen’s Bank building on the downtown Moulton square.
“We simply had too many stores open and couldn’t run them all,” she said about the decision to consolidate seven high schools into four. Closed were Hazlewood High in Town Creek, Mount Hope High and Speake High. “We could not afford it. Closing some of the schools gave our students a better education. They now have better labs. We didn’t need cross-curriculum teachers any longer. As a school system, we were able to afford to do more for the students. It was better for everybody. We are here for the students. It was difficult to close any of the schools. It is just something the board had to do.”
The school system was seeing falling attendance and rising costs.
Vinson, who spent years teaching third grade at East Lawrence Elementary, said she was thankful the board members during her tenure didn’t become territorial.
“I can’t take credit for anything the board has done,” she said. “It’s a total team effort. That’s why I love it. We have had so many talented board members and, while some decisions weren’t easy to make, we all worked together. We talked through things. We worked through them. Even if we disagreed, we did whatever was best for the school students. It was never about ‘it’s my district.’ It’s not that way here in Lawrence County.”
Vinson, a 1982 graduate of Lawrence County High, began teaching third grade at East Lawrence Elementary School in 1989 after receiving a bachelor’s degree from North Alabama.
She later received her master’s degree from North Alabama and from 1992 to 1994, taught at the University of Alabama while she worked on her doctorate and education specialist degrees.
Her educational studies also landed her teaching gigs in Bogota, Colombia and Lima, Peru in 1993 and 1994. She later taught at Athens State University.
She was appointed to fill the vacancy of Gerry Moses, who moved away, to the Lawrence school board in 2000 by then-Superintendent DeWayne Key. She said former Moulton Advertiser Publisher Luke Slaton encouraged her to apply for the vacancy.
Key said selecting Vinson to the board was an easy decision.
“She knows as much about education as anybody I know,” he said Monday night. “She was always full of good ideas. She’ll be missed on the board.”
She credits her husband Keith for attending many of the workshops with her along the way.
“It was good to have someone with all of her experience and education on the board,” Superintendent Jon Bret Smith said. “She did a lot of good things during her tenure.”
Vinson said she plans to continue working with a curriculum company out of Colorado in her new spare time.
Sabrina Barkley replaces Vinson as the District 3 representative on the board. Barkley ran unopposed in the general election and will serve a six-year term that pays $600 a month. District 3 consists of much of the center of the county.