DOWNTOWN AKRON — Contemplating which accomplishments in a 20-year profession would possibly rise to the extent of being a legacy might be tough for most individuals. Nevertheless, for lately retired Akron Public Faculties (APS) Board of Training member the Rev. Curtis Walker, he merely has to look out the home windows of the APS Sylvester Small Administration Constructing.
“For one, being right here from the start of the constructing program,” Walker stated of the district’s $800 million building of 36 new neighborhood studying facilities previously 18 years. “I can keep in mind at first [school board work session meetings] the place we used items of fruit to point out the place issues would go.”
Being on the bottom ground of such momentous endeavors grew to become virtually commonplace for Walker and college board colleagues throughout one of the crucial dynamic 20 years in district historical past, he stated.
In his earliest years on the board, Walker and former board members together with Mary Stormer, Linda Omobien, Paul Allison and Helen Arnold and former long-time APS Superintendent Conrad Ott additionally oversaw the hiring of the district’s first African-American superintendent, Sylvester Small; and spearheaded the APS Science, Know-how, Engineering and Arithmetic (STEM) program and Worldwide Baccalaureate highschool and center faculty packages.
In newer years, the event of the district’s Faculty & Profession Academies and the opening of the LeBron James Household Basis I PROMISE Faculty continued that custom.
However as huge as his accomplishments as a college board member could also be, Walker stated his most vital contribution stays pastoral in nature. He stated having the ability to see the direct impression the college board has on college students and households has, for sure, been essentially the most rewarding a part of the job.
A job that, Walker identified, is usually missed when in comparison with different elected posts.
“Not everyone who decides to enter public service is able to ‘pastor.’ You want a deep love of individuals to pastor,” he stated. “And in public service, particularly on a college board, it’s important to have a deep love and keenness for folks, notably youngsters. Nobody does it for the cash. Faculty board members get $125 each two conferences; they aren’t on a wage like another elected officers.”
Born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, Walker graduated from the College of Connecticut in 1976, Livingstone Faculty’s Hood Theological Seminary in 1979 and Emory College’s Chandler Faculty of Theology in 1990, the place he obtained his doctorate of ministry diploma.
Walker cited numerous early influences alongside the way in which that immediately or inadvertently influenced his resolution to enter public service of the secular selection. Most notably, he stated, the late Lewis Fox, a Hartford Public Faculties graduate who served on the Hartford Board of Training for 37 years and established the Jacob L. and Lewis Fox Basis scholarship program, named in honor of his father, Jacob.
Even nearer to house, Walker fondly recalled two influential lecturers, Caroline Dixon and Yvonne Jackson.
“I referred to as her ‘Eagle-Eye Jackson,’” stated Walker laughing, on how little received previous the trainer in her classroom.
A mission of a distinct type
After serving as a minister and pastor at AME Zion Church congregations in Connecticut, North Carolina, New York and Alabama, Walker was appointed senior pastor at Wesley Temple AME Zion Church in Akron in 1992.
Inspired by fellow clergyman the Rev. Ronald Fowler, pastor at Arlington Church of God, and former choose James Williams, Walker determined to run for a seat on the APS Board of Training. He was defeated by Omobien in his first try, however ran once more in 1999 and received.
Over the following 20 years, the pastor, husband and father of 5 and grandfather of 15 served as board president thrice, a job mirrored within the current naming of the college board assembly room in his honor.
In the meantime, in 2009, Walker was named senior pastor of St. Paul AME Zion Church in Dayton. For a yr, he usually commuted between Dayton and Akron, till he was named senior pastor of Beth-El AME Zion Church in Cleveland, the place he has served since 2010.
Walker identified there was a protracted historical past of secular public service, faculty board membership particularly, amongst his denomination. Pastoral expertise, he stated, can convey a pure sense of steadiness, continuity and steadiness within the face of generally tumultuous points.
Walker gave equal, if no more, credit score to the members of the college board that served with him through the years. The power to cooperate and look past private agendas for the betterment of the district and, most significantly, college students and lecturers, has been the APS Board of Training’s most vital legacy over the previous 20 years, in Walker’s view.
“Early going, it wasn’t like that, although,” he stated of his first years on the board. “There have been some who would come out of government session conferences and say issues they shouldn’t have. We didn’t have that belief early on.”
That belief would come, Walker stated, noting notably fruitful working relationships with former board members reminiscent of Tim Miller and Allison.
Having thought of retiring previous to his final run for workplace, Walker stated at the moment he felt he nonetheless had an excessive amount of to finish.
“And 20 years appeared like a very good time,” stated Walker smiling, including he’s wanting ahead to seeing what God has deliberate for him subsequent. Stepping out of public service solely, nevertheless, will not be doubtless, he stated.
Walker stated he and newly elected Ward eight Akron Metropolis Councilman Shammas Malik, a Democrat, “get alongside extraordinarily properly” and will likely be “working collectively in Ward eight.” Walker ran unsuccessfully for the Ward eight seat within the Democratic Major this previous Could, with Malik defeating him and profitable the seat on this previous November’s Common Election.
He stated he additionally plans to proceed volunteering with the I PROMISE Faculty, in addition to different civic teams.
A number of the district’s best challenges, in the meantime, stay. Most notably, Walker stated, is the town’s shrinking inhabitants and funding to assist public training within the face of, particularly, constitution faculties and college voucher packages.
Public faculties, Walker stated, are finally mandated to teach all youngsters — from gifted to challenged.
“However these are additionally nice, world-class faculties,” he harassed, pointing to the district’s Faculty & Profession Academies — a vastly expanded vocational training mannequin designed to shorten the gap between training and profession alternative by partnering immediately with among the metropolis’s largest firms.
“We’ve got to get that message out to folks,” Walker stated.
As one of many longest, and maybe most impactful, chapters of his life involves an in depth, Walker stated he has discovered himself returning, as he typically has, to the very most influential individual in his total life.
“My mom, Emma Theresa Walker, was a single mum or dad to 15 children,” Walker smiled. “She all the time advised us, ‘Do the very best you may.’ I hope I’ve completed my greatest for the [Akron Public Schools] district.”