Credit: Credit: Charlottesville City Schools

The Charlottesville School Board will welcome two new members after the Nov. 3 election.

Four of the board’s seven seats are up this year, and there are four candidates — two incumbents and two newcomers.

Willa Neale and Colette Blount are not seeking re-election, while Amy Laufer and Jennifer McKeever are.

Adam Hastings and Sherry Kraft are the newcomers.

Hastings is dean of business, mathematics and technologies at Piedmont Virginia Community College, and formerly directed the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center.

Establishing a funding model that can provide a hands-on, innovative education for all students tops Hastings’ agenda.

“At its core, it’s a bunch of rooms with a bunch of equipment in it,” Hastings said of Charlottesville High School’s new STEM-oriented Sigma Lab — the type of facility Hastings said he believes will transform education. “But what it’s really going to be is a place where students approach learning in a whole new way that uses their hands to get to their minds.”

Kraft, a retired psychologist whose children attended Charlottesville City Schools, said she wants to focus on the division’s oldest and youngest learners.

“What I’d like to see is that for the population that tends to fall behind in the Charlottesville school system, we work on the inputs for that population and I think we need two years, two good years to work on that,” Kraft said about the 3- and 4-year-old preschool classrooms the division offers.

Specifically, Kraft said she’d like to study and address the disconnect between the length of the preschool day, as many parents and guardians are still at work when the children are released in the early afternoon.

Additionally, Kraft said she wants to see high school graduates make a successful transition to adulthood, and argues that CATEC’s current strategic plan, which integrates workforce training into curriculum, is a sound model.

Incumbent McKeever is directing her attention toward the division’s struggling students.

“I continue to remain focused on increasing the reading levels for our neediest children, and the math literacy for our neediest children,” McKeever said. “That’s the highest priority in my mind.”

“I continue to remain focused on increasing the reading levels for our neediest children, and the math literacy for our neediest children. That’s the highest priority in my mind.”

Jennifer McKeever

Last month Charlottesville received almost $240,000 to pilot extended-day learning programs three days a week for students in grades one through six who are reading below grade level.

Among incumbent Laufer’s priorities are improving the graduation rate and increasing professional development for teachers.

Charlottesville High School’s on-time graduation rate this past year dropped by 3.6 percentage points, from 88.5 in 2014 to 84.9 percent.

A professional development push to help teachers concentrate on literacy, Laufer said, will benefit students in all subjects.

“A couple years ago we did a full-on math development for our teachers, and we saw a major increase for our math performance on the [Standards of Learning tests], so we are going to be implementing this year some professional development for reading for all staff members,” Laufer said. “We feel like first-time instruction being as critical as it is, reading is something that’s important to all subject areas.”