WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) A New Hanover County School Board member received a prestigious, national award for public service. Elizabeth Redenbaugh was awarded the JFK Profile in Courage Award this morning at a ceremony in Boston.
Redenbaugh joined the school board in 2008. Since then, she has repeatedly voted against proposed redistricting plans to form neighborhood schools.
"Education really is a civil rights issue of our time, and Elizabeth showed incredible courage to stand up and remind the community of that when it's not an easy thing to do," Caroline Kennedy said during an interview today on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Redenbaugh received the Profile in Courage Award for her stance during the county's middle school redistricting. She says she refused to vote in favor of any redistricting plan where the majority of students at a school qualify for a free or reduced lunch. She has also said that neighborhood schools would in most cases concentrate poor, black children, which would set them up for failure.
During her acceptance speech at the JFK Library in Boston, Redenbaugh admitted feeling humbled.
"Like Caroline said, I am an attorney, and I am an elected official, but let's be honest, I am a school board member in the second smallest county in the state of North Carolina, which puts me really at the bottom of the political food chain," she said.
Peggy McKan, who lives in downtown Wilmington, says Redenbaugh's speech was inappropriate. She says she feels Redenbaugh should have talked up New Hanover County, but instead chose to cast it in a bad light.
"It doesn't lend any credibility to her representing the folks who live here," McKan said. "It makes us sound small. I think it's sad that somebody who's representing New Hanover County should kind of demean it the way she did."
Redenbaugh joins the ranks of US presidents and Congressmen who have also been honored with the Profile in Courage Award, but fellow school board member Janice Cavenaugh seems to think Redenbaugh did not deserve such a prestigious honor.
"I don't understand a Profile in Courage award for a board member who won't even send her own children to inner city schools," Cavenaugh told the StarNews last month. "Ms. Redenbaugh espouses one position but does not abide by her own position... When the computerized map based on the Wake County diversity model sent her neighborhood to an inner city school. She vigorously opposed that move. That to me is not a profile in courage."
An Egyptian Google executive who helped start the Egyptian revolution through a Facebook page also received the award, which is named for President John F. Kennedy's 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Profiles in Courage."