To celebrate Black History Month, the Ossining Board of Education created an annual award in memory of the district’s first Black teacher – Hester Bateman Spencer Hines – and presented it to Francine Vernon, a former board member and beloved community leader.
The board also thanked past and present African-American board members for their service, including current trustees Diana Lemon and Melissa Banta, and past members Kadoza Worthy, Marilyn Thornton Tribble, Thomas Knight, Shandi Speller and Charles Cooks.
Spencer Hines, whom the award is named for, worked in the Ossining School District for 29 years, starting as a first-grade teacher in 1949 and teaching every grade before being appointed assistant superintendent. She was a founding member of the Community Action Program and president of the NAACP’s Ossining chapter.
The Board of Education gave Vernon the inaugural Hester Bateman Spencer Hines Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award for her dedication to advocacy and equity on behalf of Ossining children and families; her community leadership and public service; and her work as an educator and school board member. She “embodies the true spirit of servant leadership,” the proclamation said.
Vernon said at the Feb. 24 virtual school board meeting that she was “touched and honored” to be recognized. Her jobs have included teacher, Ossining Community Action Program director, Westchester Community Opportunity Program education supervisor, Library Youth Connections program coordinator at the Westchester Library System; and Greenburgh Eleven School District Board of Education member.
“When I came back to Ossining as an adult in the early 70s, I had two children in the middle school and my youngest child was in kindergarten,” she said. “And it was really the issues of the school system that motivated me and planted the seed. I got involved … and was inspired to be an advocate for opportunities for young people throughout the community.”