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Martin, Jordan Voted Norfolk School Board Leaders

By Leonard E. Colvin

Chief Reporter
New Journal and Guide

Two months after narrowly winning a re-election bid to retain his seat on the panel, Rodney Jordan has been elected the Vice-Chair of the Norfolk Public School (NPS) Board.

What is deemed a surprising change and for some perhaps, a welcomed change in the board leadership, after two years of bickering and tension, Dr. Noelle Gabriel has been replaced by Adele Martin as the board’s new chair.

Jordan replaced Carlos Clanton as the Vice Chair. Both Gabriel and Clanton served one term in those respective leadership positions.

The recent vote was 4-3. Both new leaders will serve in those positions until 2022.

The leadership change came during the reorganization meeting of the Board via Zoom, which usually occurs after a spring election in May. This year’s COVID-19 pandemic delayed the meeting.

Serving before as Chair in 2015-2016, this is Jordan’s second round as Vice-Chair of the panel.

During the last reorganizational round two years ago, Jordan was ousted by Gabriel with the votes of newly elected Clanton, Martin, and Lauren Campsen. This allowed the new chair to maintain a controlling

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4-3 voting bloc on the school board.

But this time, Jordan, Christine Smith, Tonya Bhasin, joined Martin, who nominated herself, to turn the tables to elect Martin Chair and him Vice-Chair.

Since Gabriel replaced Jordan as Chair, he, Bhasin and Smith have been the ardent and vocal opposition to Gabriel’s loyal voting bloc.

This situation frustrated the public who would sit for hours, during board meetings paralyzed by endless disputes over policy and positions between the two voting blocs.

When citizens could speak on various issues facing the NPS, the Gabriel-Clanton duo often was targeted for angry criticism for a lack of a clear vision to resolve a divisional problem, such as minority student achievement.

Sources familiar with some of the details which caused the sudden shift in leadership say tensions between Gabriel and Martin over an issue, may have caused her defection.

Media reports noted that Martin said she had lost confidence in the former Chair’s ability to curtail the warfare between board members.

The Board has several critical issues to address in the coming months, including a plan to reopen the Norfolk Public Schools this fall as the state and nation are seeing a spike in the COVID-19 viral infections.

Martin is the executive director of the Slover Library Foundation. She has a BA in French and International Studies from The Ohio State University, a master’s degree in Public Administration from Louisiana State University (LSU) and is a Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy at Old Dominion University.

The longest-serving member of the board, Jordan first joined the board in 2012.

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Jordan is a Digital Inclusion Visionary and Technology Consultant.

Recently, he received the 2020 Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award from the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA).

This award is presented by the National School Boards Association Council of Urban Boards of Education to a school board member who, for the span of his/her lifetime, has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to representing the educational needs of urban school children through his/her service as a local school board member.

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