First black president of the Laurel School Board reflects

By Karrie Leggett

LAUREL, MS (WDAM)-  The straight and narrow path Barbara Brumfield-Pruitt, former president of the Laurel School Board,  had to live by came from a no nonsense upbringing.

"There were rules and regulations in the house hold. There we're things you did not do. Certain things that were not acceptable and you knew those from the beginning; therefore, you didn't bother to even go outside the rims of even asking," said Pruitt.

Its that same outlook which brought Pruitt to the teaching field. She first went to Florida A&M University then came back home to Jackson State.

"Basically, those schools were noted for education and teachers. There were educators in my family. My grandfathers sister was a teacher, my aunt was a teacher that was pretty much ingrained in me and I didn't really know it," said Pruitt.

The innate ability of teaching lead Pruitt to her first teaching job at Oak Park Junior High, then as one of two black teachers at Lamar Elementary School. Pruitt says in that time begin an educator was held in high recognition.

"In the profession, as far as blacks were concerned, a teacher was highly respected and was one of the professions most people who went off to college aspired to do," said Pruitt.

While teaching at Ellisville State School in 1979, Pruitt received a phone call leading to her next role in education.

"I received the call one day at work, and they told me I had been selected to served on the Laurel School Board," said Pruitt.

In time Pruitt became the secretary of the board then received the nomination to become chairman. Pruitt says as the chairman she faced her biggest challenge.

"This particular board member made a motion that we would consolidate the schools. It was three to two to consolidate the school districts. Those were very trying times for me," said Pruitt.

The difficult time didn't end soon for the board. The consolidation issue went to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Pruitt says those who were against the consolidation including received threats.

"And the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals returned the Laurel School District back to its separate district. Those were very scary times," said Pruitt.

Pruitt says as daring as that period was it only prepared her for the task as the first black president of the Laurel School Board. Pruitt says she was dedicated to making sure students excelled beyond Laurel's School District.

"We had students at Princeton. We had students to go to Yale. It was just fantastic," said Pruitt.

For 28 years Pruitt devoted her life to education but in 2007 Pruitt was not reappointed as president.

"It was bitter sweet, because I had done it for so long its like its in your blood," said Pruitt.

Now, Pruitt says she speaks at schools to children about the importance of education and that for her its all about seeing them succeed.