Five of the seven seats on the Albemarle County School Board are up for election Nov. 3, and while two of those races are uncontested, almost half of the board next year will be composed of new faces.
Both Jason Buyaki and Steve Koleszar, who represent the Rivanna and Scottsville districts, respectively, are running unopposed. The Samuel Miller and White Hall district seats, as well as the at-large seat, are up for grabs.
Squaring off for the at-large seat are Dolly Joseph, Catherine Lochner and Jonno Alcaro.
Ensuring all of Albemarle’s students receive relevant learning opportunities tops Joseph’s priorities.
“It’s going to require looking at businesses or nonprofits to partner with them, because there are some budget constraints and we need to make sure that we’re not solving old problems with the same old solutions,” said Joseph, who has taught in Charlottesville City Schools and holds a doctorate in education.
Among Lochner’s top priorities is special-education advocacy. Lochner, whose son receives special-education services, and who has long-championed special-education awareness in the division, said more can be done.
“Making sure that the county as we move forward has appropriately funded the needs and services for these kids to take part in all of their classes is going to be a high priority for me,” Lochner said, adding that an emphasis on reading instruction also is critical.
While Alcaro said that he doesn’t have an agenda, he wants to make sure the School Board is evaluating programs regularly.
“There are programs that we thought were a good idea at the time, that are just going on and on whether or not they are being effective,” said Alcaro, co-owner of Meritage Financial Solutions.
Dave Oberg, a partner with the law firm Jones, Oberg & Green, and C.J. Hatcher, a former teacher and member of Albemarle’s Long Range Planning Advisory Committee, are running for the White Hall seat.
Oberg said he hopes to turn his attention toward the role of standardized testing.
“I want to make sure that the high-stakes, high-risk testing is placed within the scope that it’s supposed to be,” Oberg said. “It’s simply supposed to be used as a gauge.”
Hatcher hopes she can address the division’s growing capital needs.
“My priority will be to study alternative methods for funding the capital projects that are most important in the district in order to make the older facilities better learning environments for the students,” Hatcher said. “Alternatives such as bond referendums would remove the tax burden on county residents.”
Running for the Samuel Miller District seat — a special election brought on by the early departure of board member Eric Strucko — are Graham Paige, who taught in Albemarle’s schools for 25 years; Mike Basile, who formerly led the Jefferson Area Tea Party; and Brian Vanyo, who works for the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Paige’s focus is on greater parity between schools, as well as preschool access.
“That all of the schools — as much as possible — have the same facilities and the same curriculum,” Paige said. “I don’t think that we can have the quality of life in Albemarle County that we are having currently if we don’t provide for our pre-K kids, because that would be building on the educational aspects really of the county overall.”
Basile said he hopes curriculum changes will help students live more prosperous lives.
“[My] No. 1 priority is teaching our students how to build wealth, how to accumulate property so that they can become financially independent,” Basile said. “I think it would be just amazing to actually build a community that knows how to acquire wealth so that it can do the things that it wants to do.”
Vanyo said he hopes he can improve the board’s communication with the public.
“I know a lot of parents simply don’t have time to follow all of the School Board meetings and the deliberations that are going on,” Vanyo said. “And the School Board’s website does provide a lot of information, but I think that could be improved.”
Additionally, Vanyo said he would like to offer more communication with respect to budgeting.
“Certainly, because the School Board is entrusted with the majority of the county’s tax revenue, and so the board should make every effort to inform residents how and why money is being spent,” Vanyo said.
Buyaki, Koleszar and the winners of the at-large and White Hall races will take office at the first of the year. Because the Samuel Miller race is a special election, the winner will be seated in November.