Gov. Mike Parson has appointed Pamela Westbrooks-Hodge, a board member of the Normandy Schools Collaborative, to the Missouri Board of Education.
“For my entire life, I have strongly felt that education was the great equalizer,” said Westbrooks-Hodge, who heads Information Systems Audit at Edward Jones Investments. “Education has made all the difference in my personal life. Every child in our state desires to live a productive life, and education is the way to do that.”
Westbrooks-Hodge will replace board member Mike Jones in representing District 1. Jones recommended Westbrooks-Hodge’s appointment, he said, because he admired her leadership as vice president of the Normandy Schools Collaborative Joint Executive Governing Board.
“There are three essential qualities required for leadership: intelligence, integrity and courage,” Jones stated in a letter to the governor. “Westbrooks-Hodge possesses a double portion of all three of these qualities.”
Her skills in strategic planning and executive leadership development are “equally impressive,” Jones said.
Westbrooks-Hodge has held roles in senior governance, risk and compliance for Express Scripts, Anheuser-Busch and Bank of America. At Normandy, she was able to lead the school district in establishing a framework for organizational improvements in all departments, said Charles J. Pearson, superintendent of Normandy schools.
“Why is this knowledge and skill set critical to the role of a State Board of Education member?” Pearson said in his recommendation letter to the governor. “Complex problems require strategic thinking, clarity of purpose and goals, and concise steps to be taken for goals to be met. Complex problems require a real grasp of the principles of systems thinking. When you combine these habits of mind with a sense of moral purpose about educational equity for children, you are identifying what will embody Ms. Westbrooks-Hodge if she is selected to serve on the State Board of Education.”
Westbrooks-Hodge graduated from Normandy High School, and her family moved back to the area in 2015. She was appointed to the district board shortly afterwards. She hopes to create a comprehensive state-level education strategy with the other board members, legislators and all stakeholders, she said.
“Pamela’s time on the board in Normandy has given her a front-row seat to the great work happening in our public schools, the challenges they’re currently facing and how the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) supports their efforts,” said Missouri Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven.
“That experience makes Pamela such a valuable addition to our State Board of Education. We are so looking forward to the insight she will bring to our discussions.”
Westbrooks-Hodge believes the number one driver of student performance is teacher quality.
“I’m not sure the investment in our teachers from a salary and benefits perspective is in alignment with that brutal fact,” she said. “If we know that to be true, we need to make an investment in the people who are most instrumental in determining the outcomes of our children’s lives.”
Fortunately, this is a big focus for the governor as well, she said.
A wife and mother of two, Westbrooks-Hodge attended Northwest Missouri State University from 1987 to 1991, where she earned a bachelor's degree in finance. She earned a master's degree in business administration from the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2013. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Beyond Housing. She is also an active life member and former president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Omicron Eta Omega Graduate Chapter (Normandy, MO) and an active member of the Gateway Chapter of the Links Incorporated.
Jones said that Westbrooks-Hodge’s “intellectual curiosity” will be an asset on the state board.
“It’s the quality that causes you to challenge assumptions and avoid obsolete policy paradigms,” Jones said.
She also brings “a deep reservoir of professional integrity,” he said, and tremendous courage.
“Without courage you lack the ability to be willingly at risk on behalf of those for whom you’re responsible,” Jones said. “In an environment where it's easy to overlook the interest of the poor and powerless, I have witnessed her day-to-day advocacy on their behalf.”
Westbrooks-Hodge said, “I do not take this appointment lightly, and I don’t intend to be passive.”