Having weathered two elections, a two-day orientation and four-day training conference, Darla Sexton Light is ready to fill the District 4 post on the Forsyth County Board of Education.
“I feel prepared, I really do,” said Light, whose term began Thursday. “I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve gotten to know a lot of the people.
“It’s going to be crucial that we all work together to create a budget that we can all live with, that will still keep Forsyth County as one of the best school systems in the state.”
Board member Mike Dudgeon said Light’s Forsyth County roots are a valuable attribute, specifically because she will be succeeding Ronnie Pinson, who's also a lifelong resident.
“It’s very useful to have that long-term knowledge of how a county has operated and all the different people,” Dudgeon said. “It seems to me like she has a lot of energy and seems to me like the kind of person who will be pretty dedicated.”
Pinson chose not to seek a second term. Light defeated Democrat Sheila Elliott in the Nov. 4 General Election, a victory that followed her July 15 Republican primary win over Fletcher McCone.
She's the only new face on the five-member board, as incumbents Nancy Roche and Tom Cleveland were re-elected in July. The seats of Dudgeon and Ann Crowe were not up for re-election last year.
Dudgeon noted Light's arrival means he will no longer be the rookie board member, something he's “already been teasing her about.”
“She’ll go through the same kind of thing I went through the first few months, which is asking a whole bunch of questions trying to understand everything… and coming up to speed, because it takes a long time to come up to speed,” he said.
With the state’s planned funding cuts, Light said the budget is going to be the top priority for next year. Cutbacks are inevitable, but Light said her goal is to find savings from nonclassroom expenses.
“I’m hoping that we can cut our budget without there being any kind of sacrifice for the kids,” she said. “The things that directly affect the kids, like instruction in the classroom, need to be a necessity. And I hope we can take that into consideration and continue to give the best education possible, even with the budget cuts.”
Light and her husband David have two sons, Christopher, 23, and Payton, 21, who were both educated in the Forsyth County school system.
Their daughter Carlin, 14, is currently at North Forsyth Middle School, where Light has previously served as a basketball lay coach and member of the PTA.
Her experience as a parent in the school system will be valuable in making decisions as a board member, Light said.
She’s also received a helping hand from some of her future co-workers.
“They’ve gone out of their way to get to know me and show me the ropes, which is really nice," she said. "They’ve really welcomed me and tried to help me to where I’ll be able to hit the floor running.”