Hanover parents pushing for elected — not appointed — school board

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC)  — There is a grassroots effort in Hanover County to change the way the school board is chosen.

Right now, the Board of Supervisors appoints people to fill those seats, but a group of parents is pushing to let voters make the decision.

Hanover Citizens for an Elected School Board is trying to gather 10,000 signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.

“When a school board member is only accountable to one, who is the supervisor who appointed him, it’s a little different dynamic as opposed to being accountable to a community that they’re representing,” Julie Stubblefield explained. “It changes the game completely.”

Many of the people rallying behind the effort are the same folks who successfully fought to change the district grading scale to a ten-point system.

They insist this isn’t an attempt to oust the current board. Instead, supporters see it as an opportunity to ensure the school board represents the interests of the community.

Current School Board Chairman John Axselle III says he and the other board members can’t offer an opinion on having an elected school board since they don’t have any experience with one.

But he issued a statement that reads:

On behalf of the Hanover County School Board as the board chair, thank you for contacting us.  While I understand your interest, I’m unable to speculate or offer an opinion on elected school boards since that has not been our experience in Hanover County.

However, I can tell you from personal experience that under our current system (appointed), Hanover County Public Schools has a well-established tradition of educational excellence.  For decades, we have been and continue to be recognized at the local, state, and national level as a leader in academic achievement, the arts, and more.  Without question, we are very proud of our accomplishments and value our unique ability to deliver high quality instruction and programs to our students.

Adds Stubblefield, “People want to keep things the same because they’re not broken and I would lodge the argument that what if they could be better.”

Appointed school boards are unusual in Virginia. Out of 133 school districts, only 16 still have appointed boards. Residents in 4 of those 16 are voting on the issue this fall.

Hanover Citizens for an Elected School Board has a Facebook page with more information.

The group is hosting two informational meetings this week: The first at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Atlee Library and noon on Friday at Roma Ristorante Italiano in Mechanicsville.

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