Friday, February 21, 2014
In 1979, Carolyn Alston Howard received a letter in the mail with a certificate inside congratulating her for being appointed to serve a three-year term on the Dorchester County board of education.
Thus began her school board career, a tenure Howard is well known for within the Summerville community. She served on the board – what was originally an appointed county board that later became an election-based district board – from 1979 until 2008.
During her 29 years on what eventually became the Dorchester District Two School Board, Howard saw many changes.
It was around 1984 when they started with an elected board and Howard had to run to keep her seat.
“There were 16 people running for seven spots. I came in No. 6 out of the 16.”
She didn’t lose an election until 2008, when she said she “didn’t put [her] whole heart into it.”
While she was not always the only black member of the board, Howard said she was the only female for many years.
For the first 10 years there was only one or two females on the board, she said.
“I’m still the only African American female who’s served on the Dorchester District Two board.”
She said her proudest moment was when she was selected to be the chairperson of the board because she “did not even expect it.”
Howard said she’s enjoyed all of her roles with the school board, though.
“It’s important to me that the students get the best education possible. As board members we had to make many decisions about schooling, about books, about sports and about extracurriculars, all of which leads to a well-rounded student. That was always the interest for me.”
Her goal to provide the best education possible led Howard to get involved with the state and national school boards to learn from other areas’ accomplishments and struggles.
“I learned as much as I could to bring it back so every child, every students, every school can benefit.”
She credits much of her success in re-election to “being there for all the children. They all need the best education possible.”
In her personal life, Howard was a wife and mother. But when she refers to “my children,” she means her students, not her three sons or nine grandchildren.
“I’ve never looked at my accomplishments as what it was for me. Everything I did was always about my children,” she said. “I’ve never been braggadocios about myself, it was just about serving.”
Superintendent of Schools Joe Pye is more than happy to brag about Howard, though.
“She just crosses all groups of people as far as her level of care. She stands up for kids, she stands up for teachers, but also the community. …She practices what she preaches,” he said. “She’s a very special, special lady. I love her to death – I actually love this woman. She’s just a special person.”
Howard worked as a high school teacher until 2009 at a variety of schools in the area. A 1957 alumna of North Carolina A&T State University with a degree in business, Howard taught accounting, keyboarding and other business courses.
She comes from a family of educators; her mother was a teacher at Rollings, she has an uncle and cousin who were school administrators, and she is related to Dr. J. H. Alston through her grandfather. Her oldest son also works in education as a guidance counselor at Summerville High School.
Besides her many educational involvements, Howard is also a devoted member of her sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, a life-long member of Wesley United Methodist Church and an avid reader.