Seven apply for Albemarle’s vacant school board seat
The Albemarle County School Board has received seven applications from individuals seeking to represent the Samuel Miller Magisterial District until the Nov. 3 election.
The seat is the result of the resignation of Eric Strucko, a two-term School Board member who stepped down last month after accepting a position at Pennsylvania State University.
The candidates range from parents to former School Board members to retired Army colonels.
Robert McKnight, an engineer with children in the division, said he applied based on an interest in the growing student population and the challenges the district has with respect to demographic distribution.
“A school division is an enterprise and it has challenges in front of them,” said McKnight, who has more than 29 years of military service. “I think I’ve got something to contribute, and that’s why I wanted to submit myself for consideration.”
A former School Board member, Madison Cummings represented the Samuel Miller District from 1998 to 2001.
“Once you’ve served on the School Board, you develop a fondness for the schools,” said Cummings, who now has grandchildren in the division. “I just wanted to do it again and I care about the schools.”
Patrick Barnett, a parent of children at Red Hill Elementary, has experience serving on the Parent Council and on a redistricting committee.
“So I’m aware of the good work that our schools do and of some of the challenges, such as growth, parity among schools and teacher and staff development,” Barnett said.
Dolly Joseph is a lifelong Samuel Miller District resident who went to Red Hill Elementary, Walton Middle and Western Albemarle High schools before attending Piedmont Virginia Community College and the University of Virginia.
“I feel very passionate about the Albemarle County, Charlottesville and University of Virginia community and how they can work together,” Joseph said.
“I’m interested in what happens to our students as they transition out of high school,” she added. “I think we need to do a better job making sure that all of our students are prepared with the skills they need to pursue higher education and/or to get a job.”
Graham Paige, also a lifelong Albemarle resident, said he wants to make sure that all students receive the best education possible, and said he’d like to see parity across the division “even by making sure that the curriculum is the same as much as possible across the schools.”
Like Cummings, Jon Stokes is also a former School Board member. Stokes — who served from 2006 to 2009 —said he wants to ensure that the Samuel Miller District has good representation.
“What they need is someone who can get up to speed quickly, and I think I can do that,” he said, noting that he serves on the division’s Long Range Planning Advisory Committee.
Brian Vanyo, an intelligence officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency, has children at Burley Middle and Cale Elementary schools. Vanyo could not be reached Thursday. In his application, he stated a desire to “help maintain the high quality of education provided to Albemarle County students.”
The six remaining members of the School Board are expected to appoint an interim member on June 11. The board also has petitioned the circuit court to hold a special election Nov. 3 so voters can elect a member to serve the remainder of Strucko’s term, which runs through Dec. 31, 2017.
With respect to a formal run for the post, the applicants’ thoughts vary.
McKnight said he would “certainly entertain the possibility,” should he be appointed to the interim post.
Cummings said he would only do it if the district didn’t have a strong candidate.
Barnett, however, said he does plan to run, and that if appointed to the interim position, he would be able to get his feet on the ground that much sooner.
Joseph, Paige and Stokes all said they are undecided.
Albemarle County Registrar Jake Washburne said there are no declared candidates for the special election yet. Candidates have until Aug. 14 to file.
The School Board has scheduled a forum for all seven applicants at 6:30 p.m. June 8 at the County Office Building on McIntire Road.