In less than a month, the ballot for local elections will be finalized. While 10 people already have declared that they are running for one of five seats on the Albemarle County School Board, one race still has candidates filing their paperwork.
Currently, three candidates have declared for the Samuel Miller District seat, which this year is being determined by a special election to be held on the same day as the general election, Nov. 3.
For some of those candidates, ensuring Albemarle County Public Schools keeps its spending as low as possible tops the priority list, while others feel strategic investments could improve education throughout the division.
“The school district is entrusted with by far the largest portion of the tax revenue that the county receives, so it is incumbent upon the board to responsibly manage the budget,” said Brian Vanyo, 39, an intelligence officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency who has children at Burley Middle School and Cale Elementary School.
“My primary aim will always be to facilitate quality education at the lowest cost to county residents,” he said.
Graham Paige, 69, who taught science in Albemarle for 24 years and is on the Long Range Planning Advisory Committee, said the visits he’s made to the division’s school buildings have led him to prioritize investing funds to improve parity across the division in both infrastructure and educational opportunities.
“These visits have allowed me to see that some of our schools need extensive renovations in order to bring them up to par compared to other schools,” Paige said. “I realize that the funds for renovation and modernization may be limited, but finding funding for renovation will be a top priority for me.”
What’s more, the retired teacher said he’d like to see Albemarle’s smaller schools offer the same specialty courses — such as elementary foreign language instruction and higher-level math courses in middle school — as the larger schools do.
Patrick Barnett, 48, a parent of children at Red Hill Elementary who has experience serving on the Parent Council and on a redistricting committee, agreed.
“Educational success has no single path, but every child should have a comparable prospect through curricula, quality teaching and the learning environment,” said Barnett, a retired Army colonel, noting that he’d “apply a forward-looking, responsible approach to fiscal decisions.”
“I would like to work closely with the [Board of] Supervisors to address current needs and responsibly accomplish the objectives set out in the ACPS Strategic Plan,” he said.
The candidates are hoping to fill the seat of former School Board member Eric Strucko, who resigned in April to take a job with Pennsylvania State University. Strucko’s term ends Dec. 31, 2017.
In June, the School Board appointed Jon Stokes, who represented the district from 2006 to 2009, to fill the seat on an interim basis. Of the six candidates who applied for the appointment, only Stokes said he was not interested in running for the seat in November.
Originally, seven applied for the seat, but Madison Cummings, a former School Board member, withdrew his application.
In addition to spending, Barnett said he’d engage the area’s business, nonprofit and higher-education communities.
“I would seek out leaders in each of these sectors to capitalize on areas of mutual interest,” he said.
One interest central to the future of the division, Paige said, is the physical buildings.
“The roles of the Internet as compared to a brick and mortar building will be areas that will have to be studied,” Paige said.
To run for School Board in the special election, potential candidates must live in the Samuel Miller District and produce 125 petition signatures from voters in that district.
Those interested in running have until Aug. 14 to file their paperwork.
“I want to ensure that the money we spend sustains or increases the quality of education provided to our children,” Vanyo said.
“If elected to the board, I will work to the best of my ability to make sure that the county continues to have the best possible system and that every student in every school will be exposed to the best that we can offer within our system,” Paige said.