By RANDY TATANO
Special to Atmore News
He’s been an English teacher, a minister and a US Marine, and now Coleman Wallace has a new job title: President of the Escambia County School Board.
Originally from New Jersey, Wallace spent much of his life in the Garden State before retiring to Alabama in 2008. He spent time working at Drexel University and Antioch University in admissions and counseling. Years later he moved to the classroom, teaching 8th grade English. Along the way he picked up a Masters of Divinity and took a small church with just 47 members and grew the total to 400. He also has a PhD, so he carries the title of Dr. Rev. Coleman Wallace.
His wife of fifty-two years, Katrina, was an elementary school teacher and math coach for thirty years, so there’s plenty of education experience in the household. Since her family is from the community of Freemanville just outside of Atmore, the Wallaces decided to retire here.
In 2012 a friend who also happened to be an ex-Marine encouraged Wallace to run for a position on the school board. “I recognized it as an opportunity.” He has served on the board ever since. Wallace was nominated for the position of President by fellow board member Mike Edwards, and was unanimously elected. Edwards was also nominated but immediately withdrew his name from consideration.
“I did not like being the opposition to a man who is on my side,” Edwards said. “We are both solidly behind new Superintendent Michele McClung. That puts us on the same team. Going in the same direction to achieve major improvements to our school system to provide great learning opportunities for our students. Seeking to reach those children who have not been reached and pull them up. Coleman Wallace is a true servant of the community.”
Wallace is excited about working with the new superintendent, and said it’s important that board members keep an eye focused on the future.
“We should not be pointing out things that happened before she got here,” he said. “We need to stop looking in the rear-view mirror and address her concerns with an open-minded response.”
He added that McClung’s vision is the right one to improve the levels of literacy in the schools.
As president, Wallace believes the board as a whole should be putting out only one message with all members on the same page.
“Consistency will unite the board,” he said. “We won’t have inconsistent messaging going out. It starts with me. The role of the President is to be the spokesperson for the board. Once we establish that, unity will follow.”
Wallace said there are three keys to any school system. “Communication, governance and code of conduct. Students knowing what is to be expected is the key to learning.”
Brewton resident Randy Tatano is a veteran TV news reporter and network producer, and is currently a novelist and freelance writer for the Escambia County School System.