Woody joins Jackson Board of Education

Gayle Woody (center left) was sworn in as the newest member of the board of education on June 25. Hannah McLeod photo Gayle Woody (center left) was sworn in as the newest member of the board of education on June 25. Hannah McLeod photo

The Jackson County Board of Education will look a little different at its next meeting after Chair Elizabeth Cooper departed and incoming board member Gayle Woody was sworn in last month. 

“She has without a doubt been vocal in her role to show her desire for progress and improvement and the betterment of every student and every staff member and even our school buildings,” Superintendent Dana Ayers said of Cooper after her last meeting. “I’m honored to share the experience with her and thankful for her support during my tenure.” 

Cooper first joined the Jackson County Board of Education in 2010 but has been a part of Jackson County Schools for much longer.

“I have been here a while,” said Cooper. “They wrote in my church bulletin that Jackson County public schools had me since the day that I walked into smoky mountain elementary school in kindergarten.” 

During her tenure on the board, Cooper served as both vice chair, and chair. In 2021 she oversaw the hiring of Superintendent Dana Ayers.

“Having walked into this role as a new superintendent … she really made me feel welcome,” said Ayers. “Elizabeth has been a superb advocate for public education and Jackson County public schools. She shares common goals with educators and is diligent about supporting staff in any capacity no matter what that is.” 

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Cooper came to the board from a business background, which she said helped with finance and personnel.

“It is a lot, and I don’t think people really truly realize how much it does take to have a successful system, but I think Jackson County does have a very successful system,” Cooper said. “It’s been an adventure, and I will miss it. But I will be around. Thank you very, very much.” 

Woody was sworn in as the newest member of the board of education at its June 25 meeting. Woody is a retired educator who spent almost 25 years teaching in Jackson County Schools. She served one term as a county commissioner, volunteers at United Christian Ministries and has served on the Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center Board, as well as the Arts Council. Woody’s husband also worked in Jackson County Schools, and her two children were educated in the system.

Woody won the election to represent district one in March, beating out her opponent Rainy Brake with 61.5% of the vote.

Wes Jamison, current vice chair of the board of education was also up for election this cycle and won his race against challenger Clint Irons to represent district three.

While the race for Jackson County Board of Education currently takes place during the North Carolina Primary Election, there is a push to change the race to the November General Election in order to produce better turnout.

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