12/10/18 ‘I’m here to help’

‘I’m here to help’
Board of education welcomes Wayne Beam
By Jessica Williams, The Times-News 12/10/18     
Reprinted with permission.

Wayne Beam is preparing to join the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education after a lengthy career as a teacher and school administrator.  

Submitted photo

Wayne Beam is preparing to join the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education after a lengthy career as a teacher and school administrator.


Wayne Beam is no stranger to Alamance County schools.

He started teaching at Andrews Elementary in 1977, and bounced around as an assistant principal and principal at both Burlington City Schools and Alamance County Schools for the next 23 years, racking up county and regional Principal of the Year titles along the way.

In 2000, he was promoted to the recently merged ABSS central office to take over as the Executive Director of School Administration, a role he retired from in 2009. Since then, he’s served as an interim administrator 15 times.

So, again, Beam is no stranger to Alamance County schools.

He’s hoping that experience will help him navigate his new role on the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education.

“Some people say, ‘Well, you know, you know too much’ or ‘You’ve been too involved with the school system’ and I think that’s poppycock,” Beam said. “You need somebody there that knows the history and knows what it’s like to be where those people are, and I didn’t run to say, ‘I’m out to get this person or this person or this person.’ I’m here to help.”

Having been in all 36 schools multiple times, Beam knows what help is needed.

Aging facilities and overcrowding have dominated the conversation over the last few years, and following through with the $150 million bond issue is going to be a large part of his first year as a board member, but there’s more to tackle.

“I think cleanliness of the buildings and having a proper learning environment and workplace for teachers and staff is very important. But I just have a broad interest in everything [the board does],” he said. “I was in charge of school safety when I was Executive Director of School Administration and I want to look into that and see what we’re doing and what we can do better. The area of curriculum was important to me as a principal, and my learning curve, I think, is going to be biggest in curriculum because things have changed so much and so quickly.”

One concern he often hears is that teachers no longer have control over their own teaching.

Much of that is controlled by the state and federal government, but the board can advocate for change.

“Teachers and assistants and people who work every day with those kids shouldn’t be going home every day just completely stressed out over, ‘Did I do exactly what that learning guide said I had to do today?’” Beam said.

The board of education isn’t the only board that’s installing a new member.

Steve Carter took Commissioner Bob Byrd’s seat on Monday, Dec. 3, turning the board over to conservative control.

Beam ran for the Board of Commissioners in 2016 — the year Amy Galey, Bill Lashley and Tim Sutton won their seats — but hasn’t had much interaction with them otherwise.

He says, despite their political differences, they all got along fine during and after the campaign, and he plans to keep things cordial as they navigate the next steps of the bond process.

“I look forward to a very positive role communicating with the commissioners,” Beam said. “I’ll state my opinion, but when the meetings are over you shake hands and you start over the next day. And the bottom line is: they’re the ones controlling the money, they’re the ones voting with that, and as my mom Beam taught me, ‘You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.’ … You just agree to disagree, and it’s all about looking for common ground about what’s best for the children in this school system. If we can keep it about the kids in this school system, then I have found people to be very reasonable.”

In his free time, Beam volunteers with First Baptist Church, where he’s been a member for over 40 years and currently serves as church treasurer and a Sunday school teacher.

He also works as a “ring man” for two auctioneers on the weekends, meaning he assists the auctioneer by holding up items, describing them, spotting bidders and trying to keep bidding going.

“That’s always been a whole other life for me. I was ‘Wayne Beam: The Junk Man,’” he laughed. “There were many people that would come to estate sales or auctions who had no idea what I did with the school system, and that was just a real joy.”

In addition to volunteer work, Beam owns Wayne’s Attic in Burlington and serves as chair of the Alamance Democratic Party. He’ll resign from that position when the party convenes in March.

“That’s going to take a lot off of me,” he said. “There’s a lot to being party chair and dealing with people and issues and things that come up, but it’s been fun. I just can’t do all of that.”

Weather permitting, Beam is scheduled to be installed on the board at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, and participate in his first meeting that night.