In advance of Election Day on November 5, Charlottesville Tomorrow has mailed out in-depth nonpartisan voter guides, featuring exclusive one-on-one interviews with all the candidates for Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council.  In advance of the election, we will also feature their responses to important questions about their qualifications, priorities, and key quality of life issues so that our citizens can compare candidates’ answers and make an informed choice.

Charlottesville Tomorrow’s 2013 Election Center website features links to the full written transcript and audio of candidate interviews, copies of our 2013 voter guide, information on where to vote, and more.  All the following passages are excerpts from our interviews.


Business leaders and social service agencies have told the Albemarle Board of Supervisors that new investments are sorely needed in the area of early childhood education. Will you make pre-K education and quality childcare a priority and if so how?

Jack Jouett District

Diantha McKeel (I-Jack Jouett)

Absolutely I would make it a priority and I think this community has been hearing that a long time from the Chamber of Commerce.  I think the Chamber has said it should be a priority in our community. 

One of the reasons people lose jobs and have trouble finding jobs literally is childcare.  They either don’t have anyone to take care of their children that is affordable or close by, or they lose their job because their child is sick and they are off [from work].  This could help support our problem with workforce and getting people back into the job market.  I think it’s critical for the families and the children as well, certainly it supports education.  I think it it levels the playing field for a lot of children.  So I would join the Chamber in their belief that this is something we ought to be looking at as a priority for our community–quality, quality programs.   

Having said that, from the viewpoint of the schools, we probably don’t have the space right now.  So this would be a real opportunity for public private partnerships, for the business community, for the education community, for county government, and even for city government, perhaps an opportunity for all of us to work together a little bit more closely.  Even the University is building a brand new daycare program right now off of Whitewood Road.  So it may be a good opportunity for the three entities to get together and say in order to support our employees, whether they work at UVa, or the city or the county, and our families that live in all these areas, let’s take a look and see how we can really improve our pre-K education and at the same time help all of the families in this community.

Phillip Seay (I-Jack Jouett)

It will definitely be one of my priorities.  Being from and education background, I see the advantage of getting young people involved in education-type programs, whether it is to learn a skill or whether it is to socialize.  For example, I know that we have partnerships, and from what I understand money has increased over the past several years from the board to these programs.  

I know that there are partnerships with the Boys & Girls Club, a fine organization.  There is a partnership with the First Tee.  The First Tee of Charlottesville actually does programs for [Albemarle County Public Schools’] Enterprise Center.  The First Tee also does programs for children ages 5-6.  When you watch a child that comes to the program for the first time at age 5, whether they attend a six-week session or whether you see them 12-18 weeks throughout the year, and then afterwards as they get older, you see how that initial involvement, understanding, the structure, and watching them grow and develop.  It gives them more experiences, it gives them more opportunities.  It’s really neat to see it happen and it’s just got to happen.  

Rio District

Brad Sheffield (D-Rio)

I definitely support more money for the schools because they are the foundation for economic development and a strong workforce. And as a planner, I know that the quality of our schools is a prime indicator when we are attracting businesses. So being that strong foundation for the community and the economy, I think it is important that we invest in the early years. Giving our children that one step above where they are today, giving them that ability puts them one step closer to being better prepared for going into the work force, or going into college, or in my case going into both, the workforce and college.

Rodney Thomas (R-Rio) * Incumbent

Automatically I am going to say yes because programs like Bright Stars are just fantastic.  I know from your experiences being on the school board, you saw that when these children went to these early programs, how they did excel when they got into the public school system.  

I would like to increase it a lot because it does help the children.  In today’s world, I really hate to say this, but the pre-K education is sort of a babysitter for the parents.  I don’t want it to be that.  I would rather say that it is to the benefit of the children, not to the benefit of the mother and father having to work.  While a lot of that is true, it sure benefits the children when they get to kindergarten age.  

Samuel Miller District

Liz Palmer (D)

Yes I will.  Investing in our children is the most important investment we can make.  All the studies point to early childhood education as extremely important for the success of children later on.  

As far as what I would do specifically, I think we have a great number of people in this community with expertise in this area and our school administration is already on projects to expand those efforts.  I would want to talk with them to see what the best choices are and what their needs for funding are and go from there.  

Duane Snow (R) * Incumbent

Well you asked me to mention my top priority a few minutes ago. And schools have always been my top priority. As we talked about the Pre-K programs like Bright Star, ESCS, and Head Start – Bright Stars I think is from ages four and up, and Head Start is 2-5. We funded Bright Stars last year and increased it. But after hearing later that there are still kids on the waiting list I would go back and add additional money into that area.

I strongly feel like all kids that are eligible for that program should have it. And the reason for that is that if our children go into school on grade level, equal to kids that have advantage of early education because of what their parents do and where they travel and do things as children, I think there will be less crime, there will be less welfare, and we will have more productive citizens. To me that is essential, to any community, is to make sure the future of their community, which is in their children, has a good start. If they ever get labeled, that they ignorant, dumb, stupid, whatever kids are called, at an early age, they come to believe that. And if they believe it, then so it is.

Scottsville District – Special Election

Cindi Burket (R)

Understanding that programs like Head Start, where their funding from federal government and other places are decreasing, not just Head Start but a lot of programs that took care of those children. I think we should consider putting some money into that but as far as individual programs, they would all need to be evaluated on their own merits and include every facet of what would make good early childhood education, particularly with childcare. Those are all issues that we all as a community need to do but we may have to get creative in figuring out how to fund them.

Jane Dittmar (D)

I think that in some sense the board of supervisors should look to the school board for guidance on this and see what kinds of programs they are looking at for pre-K.  If that’s a funding priority for the schools than I think we should seriously consider it.  

Additionally we have non-profits that are doing wonderful things in the area of pre-K and we need to make sure their funding is protected.  One group, besides Head Start, that comes to mind and is being considered for placement in the southern part of the Scottsville District is the Boys & Girls Club.  And I have already told the folks in Scottsville that I will help with that project if elected. 


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