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MIGHT HANOVER have a REFERENDUM on ELECTED SCHOOL BOARDS? UPDATE!

I completely missed this story because I do not read the Richmond Times-Dispatch every day!

Group believes Hanover should elect School Board

This “group” is the Friends of Hanover Schools.  This group is not a friend of mine or friend of any effort to cut spending.  FOHS really is one hand washing another.  Teachers, coaches, administrators and education academics are scattered all through this site.  Check out the Leadership Team for FOHS:

  • Chris Pace, R.E.B. Award winning teacher and coach at Hanover High School. Chris has two children at Pearson’s Corner Elementary School. He is a product of Hanover County Public Schools.
  • Dr. Michelle Schmitt, Director for the VCU Center for School-Community Collaboration. Dr. Schmitt is also the parent of a student at Pearson’s Corner Elementary School.
  • Frances McMillan, National Board Certified Teacher at Hanover High School. She is also an alumni of Hanover County Public Schools.
  • Randy Sherrod, parent of a Pearson’s Corner Elementary School student. He is also a product of Hanover County Public Schools.
  • Lee Naughton, National Board Certified Teacher and R.E.B. Award winner.
  • Cathy Easter, parent of two Hanover County Public School graduates.

Three teachers, a educational academic and two parents.  FOHS just got the endorsement of the retired educators:

The Hanover Retired School Employees Association applauds those who appreciate quality education for students in Hanover County Public Schools and supports the Friends of Hanover Schools in their professional efforts to inform and support the continuation of quality education.

But I agree with FOHS and even offered to help them out on one issue I agree with them:  Elected School Boards.  Elected School Boards will stop something like this:

Robert L. Wood has been Wade’s School Board appointee for the Cold Harbor District for two decades, Wade said, but he plans to recommend a replacement for Wood next month.

That’s largely because Wade believes he might have promised his former campaign manager, Norman Sulser, a shot at a School Board seat.

Wade said Sulser and others tell him that about eight years ago, he promised Sulser he would recommend him for the Cold Harbor seat if Sulser was successful in getting Wade re-elected to the Board of Supervisors.

Wade said he doesn’t remember making that promise but has come to believe it.

I know Elton Wade and he is a man of enormous integrity.  If he promised something, he’d move heaven and earth to keep it.  Wade stands out there at Pole Green Road and then in front of Lee-Davis/Stonewall Middle every school morning and afternoon at some risk to himself directing traffic into each school.  The problem is that this is not a promise that ought to be made.  The appointment system tends produces this sort of thing:

Ashland resident and longtime school system volunteer Lorie Foley said the county’s appointment system quashed her chances of getting a seat on the board last year.

“In my case, it came down to one man’s decision when I went for the School Board last year,” Foley said. “I certainly would have won the popular vote.”

Lorie Foley ought to have the change to try.  Here’s what the FOHS has to do to do the referendum:

To meet the threshold for a referendum that would let residents decide whether to convert to an elected school board in Hanover, a petition would require about 7,000 signatures, 10 percent of the approximately 70,000 registered voters in the county.

Chris Pace, a member of the leadership team, said Friends of Hanover Schools is scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss whether it wants to take on the legal process for getting a referendum on the ballot in November.

I’m ready to help with the petition drive – even for the FOHS!  Why?

I want to open up the process but the supervisors interviewed did not seem to agree:

Supervisor Elton J. Wade Sr. of the Cold Harbor District was first elected in 1992 and says the system has worked well for the county. Appointed school board members are able to avoid the pressure and politics of an election campaign, Wade said, though he doesn’t oppose a referendum on the matter.

“Put it on a referendum. Let the people tell us what they want to do,” Wade said. “That’s America.”

***

Supervisor G. Ed Via III instead picked Henry “Hank” C. Lowry Jr. to represent the Ashland District.

Lowry declined to respond to Foley’s comments but said that, in general, having an appointed board “keeps the politics out of the process.”

I wonder if Robert Wood would agree with Supervisor Via on the assertion that the present system keeps the politics out of the process.  I say electing the school board opens up the process, gives more “entry-level” opportunities for political service, and will make the board members truly accountable to the people instead of to a supervisor.  Appointed school boards in our Commonwealth are also a vestige of Jim Crow set up in the infamous racist Constitution of 1901.

I would suggest that the Tea Party groups, the GOP and the Dems, the NAACP in Hanover and the black pastors should all work together with FOHS to get the petitions for the 7000 signatures.  Let’s have left and right work together.  Let’s ditch appointed school board once and for all and elect ALL our leaders.

But if we win the elected school board referendum, there will be a fierce battle at the polls:  The Friends of the Hanover Schools versus those who want to do real budget cuts and keep liberal nostrums out of the Hanover schools.

UPDATE:  A reader objected to my comment on Elton Wade:  He is not a crossing guard because he has integrity:  He is paid and this reader wondered why a supervisor has two county jobs!  I did not mean to imply that Elton Wade is a volunteer crossing guard.  He is of course paid a small salary for the job.  But it is a dangerous job and a man of his age probably does not need to continue it except for the fact he enjoys the work and feels it is giving something back to the community.  Many in politics would have just filled the position and said nothing about promises etc.  Not Elton Wade.  He’s the real deal.  I just think the system need the change that elected school boards can accomplish.

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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