Elected vs, Appointed School Board Referendum in Richmond County
This Election Day, you will be asked to make an important decision as to how Richmond County School Board members are selected. We ask you to vote “no” to an elected school board, and consider the following when making your decision.
Members of the Richmond County School Board are appointed by a local selection commission. The selection
"The appointed school board members serving now are not there for the money or political gain, they are there for the kids. I definitely am in favor of the current appointed board because politics should never come into our schools or public education system. It should be about the future of our kids and an appointed board has no political agenda." - Ashley Schefflein
commission, appointed by a panel of judges, is responsible for ensuring all five districts have representation. This precedent of choosing people to do a job that should not be influenced by special interest groups and political factions
was created by our founding fathers. Our founding fathers realized a principle that still holds true today: A school board should only act upon the legislative mandates of the federal, state, and local governments and upon what is in the best interest of the students, not political parties or political agendas. School boards do not have the authority to levy taxes. In every locality in Virginia the power to tax is held solely by members of the board of supervisors or like governance.
The appointment process begins each year when the selection commission meets to discuss the status of membership. As seats become available due to term limits, the selection commission places a notice for a public hearing to advertise positions. At the public hearing, any and all citizens are given the opportunity to publicly express their desire to serve. Also, residents for or against a specific individual can comment. The selection commission interviews candidates and makes the appointment based on the best interests of children and educational system. The Richmond County Selection Commission consists of: Richard Gouldin, Mary Headley and Alice Veney. Your current school board consists of: John Brown, Vivian Wood, Brenda Pemberton, Ken Blackley and Pat Pugh.
Why, you ask, is this a good system? The current method of selection allows for an unbiased, politics-free and education-focused process while garnering public participation. It fosters the selection of members based on their qualifications, not political agendas. The current school board collectively represents more than 185 years of experience in public education, including all aspects of the school system: academics, athletics and administration.
Our school system thrives because it isn’t influenced by political and campaign agendas. Richmond County Public Schools has a proven track record in SAT and SOL scores. Richmond County outperformed every school in the Northern Neck and Essex in SOL and SAT scores; this is not only a great showcase of academic achievements by our students but also a reflection of the harmonious working relationship among school board, administration, and teachers. Armed with this information and the obvious success of Richmond County, one must ask the questions “What is the purpose and motive of this referendum?” and “Who are the actors promoting the referendum?”
We recommend you get the opinion straight from the horse’s mouth as they say, and ask a teacher why they support an appointed board. Our current superintendent has said publicly he has been a part of both an elected and appointed board, and one of Richmond County’s assets is our appointed school board. Teachers, such as AP Government Teacher, Hyte Smith said: “I urge the citizens of Richmond County to continue support of your successful school system which is dedicated to the best interests of your children and vote No to an elected school board.”
If the system isn’t broken, and our schools excel then why is a certain group trying to change it?
On Nov. 6, you will be presented with the following question: “Shall the method of selecting the school board be changed from appointment by the school board selection commission to direct election by the voters: Yes or No”. We urge you to vote “NO” to ensure we don’t succumb to the agendas of special interest groups backed by campaign dollars, but instead continue to focus on providing excellent education. We urge you to vote on the issue at hand – the members of the school board. If you have concerns with your taxes contact your board of supervisors member. If you have concerns with public education contact your school board member. These two concerns are two distinct and separate issues.
In summation: Keep Politics out of our schools! You have a voice in the current selection process, use it! The School Board has no taxing authority. Richmond County Public Schools have the Best schools in the Neck, lets keep it that way! VOTE NO to an elected school board!
The writers are members of the Richmond County Community Pride Campaign Committee. They can be reached at www.votenorc.org.
Richmond County voters take heed: In addition to the hotly-contested Presidential, U.S. Senate, and Congressional races and two proposed amendments to the Virginia Constitution to be decided on this year’s ballot, there will be a referendum on whether or not Richmond County should join all of its Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula neighbors and allow the county’s voters a direct voice in the selection of the members of the Richmond County School Board.
Unique to the local area, Richmond County’s school board is currently selected by a school board selection commission, which is in turn selected by the local Circuit Court judges, who are in turn appointed by members of Virginia’s legislature. While commonplace more than 20 years ago, this system for selection of school board members is currently only employed in three Virginia jurisdictions (i.e., Accomack County, Richmond County, and Southampton County).
According to the State Board of Elections, voters in 112 Virginia jurisdictions have approved similar referenda and the school boards in those localities are currently elected. In Virginia’s 21 remaining jurisdictions (five counties and 16 cities), the school boards are selected by elected boards of supervisors and city councils, respectively. It should be noted that in one of those counties, Northampton, a referendum is currently scheduled regarding whether the school board should be directly elected. All told, similar referenda have appeared on the ballots of Virginia jurisdictions a total of 115 times since 1991, with “yes” winning – often handily – on 112 occasions, and on every occasion since 1995. Even the City of Danville’s voters, who had rejected the change in 1994, heartily endorsed it in 2004 with 82.7 percent in favor.
That the referenda for elected school boards have a 97.4 percent overall passage rate – and a 100 percent passage rate since 1995 – should not be a surprise. Virginia, the “Mother of Presidents,” boasts seven of the nation’s first 12 Presidents, as well as the authors of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Here in the Northern Neck, the “Cradle of Liberty,” were born three Presidents of the United States, as well as the only brothers to sign the Declaration of Independence. We, as a Commonwealth forged by the Revolutionary War, strongly believe in the ideals of our democratic republic. The arc of history since that time, in both Virginia and the United States as a whole, has been to expand the franchise and allow important decisions to be made by the voters. Consequently, while nationwide only property-owning white male citizens could vote in 1790, the franchise was expanded to all white male citizens by 1850, to all male citizens in 1870, to all citizens in 1920, and to those citizens as young as 18 in 1971. Furthermore, members of the United States Senate became popularly-elected upon ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913. Similarly, Virginia began allowing direct election of governors in 1851. Elected school boards were even authorized in Arlington County between 1947 and 1956, until Massive Resistance led the General Assembly to repeal the authorizing statute.
To those who may be concerned about the role of “politics” in the election of school boards, it should be noted that elections for school board are non-partisan, by law. All candidates wishing to appear on the ballot must run as Independents and collect the necessary signatures. By extending such decisions to all of Richmond County’s voters, the role of “politics,” in a negative sense, may be mitigated by the inclusion of many different voices. That important public policy posts should be popularly elected is second-nature to most Americans.
The most important job Richmond County has is to educate the leaders of tomorrow. To that end, 58.8 percent of Richmond County’s FY 2012-2013 budget ($12.67 million) is devoted to education.
The arc of history I mentioned above is on full display on this year’s ballot, as Virginia’s voters will be electing a member of the United States Senate to represent them for the next six years. As citizens in a free republic whose liberties have been preserved and protected by generations of military veterans, this is our birthright. So too should be the decision as to the direction and priorities of Richmond County’s Public Schools.
I encourage all of my Richmond County neighbors to have a voice and VOTE YES! for an elected school board on Tuesday, Nov. 6!
About the Writer:
James LeRoy Cupp, a 1996 graduate of Northumberland High School, currently practices law in Warsaw. He was chairman of Northumberland County’s successful elected school board petition drive in 2000.
“I think [the school board] ought to be voted in.The people ought be able to make a decision and if the board is not doing the job they are supposed to be doing, then we can get them out at the end of their terms. I think an elected board would be better.” -Randy Smith, pictured at left.