29 October 2013
Fluvanna citizens got two chances to hear candidates Frederick “Rick” Kelly., a Republican, and Tony O’Brien – who are running for the Rivanna Board of Supervisor seat – when they spoke during candidates’ nights at Lake Monticello and at Fluvanna High School.
Candidates for the Columbia Board of Supervisor seat, Elizabeth Franklin and Mike Sheridan, also spoke at the candidates’ night at the high school.
However, candidates running for the School Board have not had such a public forum to express their views.
William Hughes is trying to win back the Cunningham seat he was appointed to in October of 2011 but lost to now-incumbent Charles Rittenhouse in a special election held in November of 2012.
Columbia incumbent Camilla Washington is fending off a write-in campaign launched by Claudia Thomas.
Carol Tracy Carr is running unopposed to retain her Rivanna seat.
The Fluvanna Review asked each School Board candidate three questions. Below are those questions and the candidates’ answers.
1. Why did you decide to run for the School Board?
Charles Rittenhouse: I decided to run for the School Board again because of my continued desire to see that our children’s educational needs are met, as well as listening to and providing for the needs of our teachers and school employees. I believe that I have the ability to work with the Board of Supervisors in a positive way, rather than what we have seen in the past. In addition, accountability to parents and taxpayers is a priority.
Bill Hughes: I am running to be a strong advocate for Fluvanna’s education, and to ensure that the schools maintain the best possible environment for learning. This includes enhancing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), there is still a need to develop the EMT (Emergency Medical Technicians) and other career and technical education opportunities for our children in Fluvanna County. I will provide a strong voice in support of our students, teachers and staff, providing a high level respect for those who are employed in our educational system. I support the efforts of our children in the classroom, as well as keeping with the mission and vision of our schools.
Camilla Washington: Being a member of the School Board has given me the opportunity to not only contribute but to improve the community. Over the past four years, I have been receptive to parents, staff, students and the community at large, encouraging open communication, but there is still work to be done. I want to foster a public education system that embraces and celebrates all of our children and facilitates their ability to reach their full potential; whether that be through the arts, sciences, mathematics, humanities, or music. We need to make fiscally responsible decisions that prioritize directing resources back into the classroom.
Claudia Thomas: Our county boards have dug us into a very big hole of debt. It’s so big our children’s children will be repaying it. Because of the debt, instead of offering students opportunities, we have drastically reduced their options. Instead of going on field trips, instead of buying classroom supplies, instead of staff raises, the county will be paying off the debt. The digging needs to stop; and, I’m willing to fight for the right of those who are paying the bill.
Carol Tracy Carr: I’m running for the Rivanna District seat on the School Board because important decisions face the Board, as it deals with the challenges of providing a high quality education for our students and salaries that adequately compensate our teachers within the constraints of a limited budget. After a year and a half on the School Board, I now have the experience to understand these issues and make these tough decisions, and I believe that’s the best way I can contribute to Fluvanna.
2. What is the single most important issue facing Fluvanna Public Schools that the School Board has the ability to affect?
Charles Rittenhouse: The single most important issue facing our schools (that the School Board has the ability to affect) is getting the most out of the money allotted to us by careful planning, common sense, and listening and being open to suggestions on ways to be more efficient.
Bill Hughes: There are several issues facing our schools, but the most pressing issue to me is finding ways to obtain a sustainable budget, that over time will raise our school’s ranking to be in the top ten percent of overall academic standing in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I strongly believe that the entire community needs to participate in this process. Parents need to express their views at every opportunity to make sure the sustainability of our schools is possible. In order for this to be transparent, the parents need to ensure that our elected officials are budgeting properly in accordance with the priorities of our community and the mandated regulations of the Commonwealth of Virginia and federal government.
Camilla Washington: A key issue for School Boards is to create a long-term vision and map the course that provides the necessary opportunities students need to reach and maintain success. The board is responsible for establishing and maintaining a structure that supports this vision, empowers the staff, and provides leadership. It is difficult to provide leadership and carry out a vision when a district has to respond from crisis to crisis. I strongly believe that we have tremendous teachers and staff working with our children. We must re-establish morale among all district employees, and work to spread it throughout the division. Education takes place in the classroom and the board’s efforts must focus on enhancing and enriching this experience.
Claudia Thomas: We, as a county, are entrusted with schooling students. But, what is paramount for them to know? It’s a staggering question in its breadth. Reading and writing and arithmetic seem obvious. And, if there is less and less funding in the future, we have to define clearly what they need verses the superfluous. Having experienced my own public schooling, I have a pretty good idea what is valuable and what can be deferred.
Carol Tracy Carr: The single most important issue facing Fluvanna Public Schools that the School Board has the ability to affect is addressing the needs of our teachers to have the tools they need to teach, and to feel respected and valued for their important role in the education process. I am very concerned about all the sacrifices our teachers have been asked to make over the past years, and the Board needs to do everything it can to make Fluvanna County Public Schools a desirable place to work.
3. Why should someone vote for you?
Charles Rittenhouse: I ask for the people of the Cunningham district to vote for me. I have lived in Fluvanna for most of my life, attended Fluvanna County schools, and know the people of my district. In my year on the Board, I believe I have gained the trust, and proved to those who have called, emailed, or talked face to face with me, that I am there to listen and to be their voice. Thanks to the Cunningham District for allowing me to serve you this past year.
Bill Hughes: I will be a voice on the Fluvanna School Board – not just an empty seat. I will be engaged, as I have been, since becoming a resident of the Cunningham District of Fluvanna County. My past history and career experiences has qualified me to be on your School Board. In the past year I have continued to be involved with our schools; I am on the Board of Directors of the Family Learning Together Project, a Member of the Youth Advisory Council (appointed by the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors), and I am on the Career Education and Technical Advisory Board (CTE). I also have past extensive managerial and financial experiences, which included being Executive Director of a Community Action Program, President and Owner of a Personnel Agency, and worked for employment programs that were set by local, state, and federal governments, and served on other community boards.
Camilla Washington: For the past ten years, I have been deeply involved in Fluvanna public schools, as a parent of two, a representative on regional School Board task forces, not only as a local but national public education advocate. I want to be a part of leading our school district in a positive direction with richer and more solid curriculum to promote creativity, collaboration and learning opportunities for our students. As your School Board representative, I will make sound decisions and choices to ensure that we meet the educational needs of all children and provide a safe and nurturing environment that promotes success and growth.
Claudia Thomas: I am earnest in my desire to affect change. Public school systems (which are quasi-governments) like all governments are a “sacred fire”, as George Washington stated. They can do such good if controlled and such bad if left unattended. For many decades, now, we’ve left government to someone else, anyone else, because we were busy leading our lives doing what we wanted. As a result, the fires have gone wild. Like a good fireman I’m hoping to stem the damages.
Carol Tracy Carr: I bring years of experience in education and law that have already proven valuable for dealing with many of the contract and budget issues that have faced the Board. More important, I relish the opportunities it brings to be closely involved with the schools, the teachers and the students, and I’m willing to spend the time needed in the schools to better understand the issues brought before the Board.
Voters in Fluvanna will also choose a new governor, attorney general and lieutenant governor. Terry McCauliffe (D) and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) are running for governor, Ralph Northam(D) and E.W. Jackson (R) for Lt.
Governor and Mark Herring (D) and Mark Obenshain (R)for Attorney General.
Robert Bell (R) is running unopposed to retain his house seat in the 58th District, while William Quarles (D) is challenging incumbent Lee Ware (R) in the 65th House of Delegates race which includes the Columbia and Fork Union precincts in Fluvanna.