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Public School Forum honors Goodmons for impact to community and education

When the question is: What’s next for North Carolina? Smedes York of York Properties told a packed ballroom at the Raleigh Convention Center that the answer is Jim and Barbara Goodmon. 

For their leadership, involvement, and charitable giving to community causes — and particularly in the education space — the Goodmons were awarded the Jay Robinson Education Leadership Award by the Public School Forum of North Carolina on Thursday night.

“Jim and Barbara Goodmon have been an amazing force for public education in our state,” said former Gov. Jim Hunt.

Added Nicky Charles of the East Durham Children’s Initiative: “Jim and Barbara demonstrate actionable leadership. They are shining examples of creative visioning and share incomparable commitment to North Carolina and have massive mass impact for regionalism. And they do all of this with humility and senses of humor.”

Each of the Goodmons used their moment at the podium while accepting their award to implore everyone to keep pushing for more in the education space. Barbara Goodmon called for more support staff in the schools, drawing heavy applause.

“One of the things that we worked hard to do in the schools,” Barbara Goodmon recalled, specifically about her time as chair of the board for Wake County Human Services, “is that children in schools are whole people. They are there to learn, but they have to be whole. And a whole person needs a nurse. A whole person needs a social worker. … I don’t know how the best teachers can do what they need to do and what they are gifted to do unless the schools are able to have the correct ratio of the whole person.”

For his part, after Gov. Hunt had ribbed him about having been a registered Republican, Jim Goodmon responded with humor to make a point.

“What is political about public education?” he asked. “What is there to argue about as to whether we want to have a great public education system?”

Goodmon called on everyone to consider public education stances in their voting decisions, and he made a strong plea for everyone to vote.

Jim Goodmon was chairman of Capitol Broadcasting Company for nearly 40 years, becoming a media industry leader. Jim’s passion, his friends at the event said, is community engagement and public good. Goodmon served as the first chairman of the North Carolina Partnership for Children and led efforts to establish the Smart Start program to expand early childhood education opportunities for preschool children. In the last 25 years, the share of children in top-quality preschool programs (4 and 5-star programs) has increased from 33 percent to 74 percent.

“I remember when we created the North Carolina Partnership for Children, now called Smart Start,” Hunt said. “…The question was who could lead this new thing? Who could get people on both sides of the legislature to support it and fund it? And the person that we identified to do it was Jim Goodmon.”

Barbara Goodmon has served as president of A.J. Fletcher Foundation since 2003 and was the Foundation’s executive director from 2003-2012. Through her work at the Foundation, she promoted collaboration and capacity-building in the arts, education, and nonprofit sector. Barbara currently serves as president and board member of The Fletcher Academy, a school dedicated to serving students with learning differences.

“I think Jim’s doing a lot of stuff,” Hunt said, “and then I find out [Barbara’s] doing more. Always thinking about the children and about schools, and how we can make North Carolina better.”

Hunt joined in on the call for more, though, recalling his 50 years in public leadership in this state and strides such as implementing public school kindergartens and staffing every first, second, and third-grade classrooms with teacher assistants.

“We can do those big things again,” Hunt said. “Including raising teacher and principal [salaries] and paying for the people who work in these schools and make these schools a lot better.”

Rupen Fofaria

Rupen Fofaria was the equity and learning differences reporter for EducationNC from 2018 through October 2023.