In Virginia, county school boards are composed of optional at-large members, plus one member from each district in that county. They are elected to four-year terms and serve as the leaders of the school district by setting the policies and choosing the leadership of public schools, among other duties. The Cumberland County Public Schools Board has five members, one from each of its districts, and a student liaison.
Everleane L. Randolph is the only certified candidate running to represent District 5. Randolph was appointed in February 2023, after Christine Ross, who served for 15 years, stepped down.
Charlottesville Tomorrow designed this questionnaire based on the more than 200 responses we received to a voter survey. Randolph answered the questions by email.
Tell us about the challenges with Cumberland County Public Schools’ budget. How would you as a school board member handle these challenges? Is there anything you could do to improve funding for schools?
Everleane L. Randolph: CuCPS has many challenges with budgeting. The county is small, poor and rural. The local Board of Supervisors in recent years has funded the school division at a minimal level. As a School Board member, I encourage the school division to pursue grants that would subsidize the local funding. Board members also lobby at the local and the state level for increased funding.
The division has joined the Coalition of Small and Rural Schools of Virginia to ask the Virginia legislature for the following:
- Continue to protect the At-Risk Add-On and fund more items with this methodology.
- Improve resources and financial support to ensure students have access to adequate
- Mental and behavioral health resources.
- Make pay competitive with border states to support teacher recruitment and retention.
[Editor’s note: The At-Risk Add-On funding is part of Virginia’s direct aid to public schools and is included in the budget bill funding the Office of Education.
Like many school districts, Cumberland is struggling to hire and retain teachers. How would you, as a school board member, address this issue?
Randolph: Cumberland is struggling to hire and retain teachers. Many teachers are leaving the field entirely. Others are going to districts that pay more than CuCPS. This year has been a very brutal recruiting season. As a School Board member, I will closely monitor the CuCPS salary scale and endorse a school budget that includes pay raises for teachers — as much as the budget allows. I also encourage the superintendent to engage in conversations with local elected officials as well as state legislators to promote educational funding. Last year, the division also sponsored a Region 8 Job Fair held in Farmville, which is the home of Longwood University.
Districts are also struggling to hire and retain bus drivers. How would you propose addressing this issue?
Randolph: The bus driver shortage is nationwide. Causes generally revolve around difficulty recruiting, drivers retiring, driver pay, drivers going to the private sector, and lasting impacts of COVID-19.
As a School Board member, I support recruiting efforts for the division. The Region 8 Job Fair sponsored by CuCPS was recruiting not only for teachers, but also for support personnel (including bus drivers). We also recruit in multiple ways, including through our webpage and through social media.
[Editor’s note: Here is the listing for the Region 8 job fair, from March.]
Many of our drivers have already retired from previous jobs and quite a few are nearing the age allowing them to retire if they choose. Considering the stressful nature of the job — mentally and physically — it is hard to convince them to stay. I do support the differentiated pay scale that allows long-time drivers to receive a higher pay rate than new drivers.
Driver pay is also an important factor for recruiting and retaining drivers. Again, as a School Board member, I approve paying drivers as much as the budget will allow. This may stop them from leaving to go into the private sector.
I continue to help promote school funding and provide information to the public about the issues facing public education. I also recently attended the Virginia School Boards Association Legislative Advocacy Conference where educators and members of the VDOE [Virginia Department of Education] discussed legislative priorities.
Tell us about the achievement gaps for students in your district. What sorts of programs do you favor to close those gaps?
Randolph: All three schools at Cumberland were accredited. However, we have some areas of focus. Areas identified as needing improvement centered around achievement groups. At Cumberland County Elementary School, students with disabilities did not score as well as their peers in English, language arts or in math. At Cumberland Middle School, several achievement groups did not score as well as expected in English and language arts, including minorities, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students. At Cumberland High School, achievement gaps existed in English with students with disabilities, while math was problematic for several achievement groups at the high school.
To remedy the situation, the division is providing professional learning for teachers, continuing to implement remediation during the school day, as well as having before- and after-school remediation and enrichment through three 21st Century Learning grants. Schools are doing continuous progress monitoring. As a School Board member, I will support the governor’s ALL In tutoring program, and the division is working on securing and training tutors to provide small- group instruction to remedy these gaps. In addition, the division is moving forward with plans to implement guidelines in the Virginia Literacy Act.
[Editor’s note: Here is more about the U.S. Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Here is more about the Virginia Department of Education’s ALL In Tutoring initiative and the Virginia Literacy Act.]
Tell us about student safety in your district. How should the district keep students safe in school?
Randolph: I am pleased to say that, according to our latest discipline, crime, and violence data, CuCPS is considered a safe school. The division has taken steps to keep the schools safe. School doors are kept locked, and visitors must show identification and go through a basic background search using their drivers’ licenses to enter the schools. Halls and other common areas are monitored by staff members. The elementary school has a school resource officer, and the middle school/high school complex has one as well. In the event that threats to self, students, staff, or the school itself are made, the division holds threat assessments to identify and address threatening or concerning behaviors before they lead to violence. Staff members have also received training in dealing with crisis situations.
Youngkin recently released model policies that define how school officials should treat transgender or gender nonconforming students. The policy, for example, requires teachers to have parental consent before calling students by names or pronouns that are not on their official records. Do you support adopting these policies?
Randolph: These model policies released by the Governor have the effect of law. As a School Board member, I will adopt and follow the law regardless of what my personal opinion may be.
[Editor’s note: Here is more about the Youngkin administration’s model policies for transgender students from Charlottesville Tomorrow.]
Tell us about the history and social studies curriculum you would support your district using.
Randolph: The Virginia Board of Education has recently approved the 2023 History and Social Science Standards of Learning for Kindergarten Through Grade 12. The revisions to these SOLs call for the inclusion of several items missing from earlier drafts. Since these standards have been adopted, CuCPS will be teaching these with my full support.
[Editor’s note: Here are Virginia’s 2023 approved SOLs.]
Are there any other important issues facing the school district that you’d like voters to know about?
Randolph: One of the biggest issues concerning school now is chronic absenteeism. Board members realize the importance of having students in school. However, this is an issue that cannot be resolved by the schools alone. Parents must bear some of the responsibility for getting their children to school. CuCPS is preparing to initiate a promotional campaign to let parents and guardians know the importance of coming to school regularly.
More about the Cumberland County Public Schools Board
- Randolph has no reported campaign contributions, as reported in the Virginia Public Access Project
- A May report on Cumberland County’s funding for the school district in the Farmville Herald and more about the funding gap in the Kenbridge Victoria Dispatch
- A January report about the vacancy in District 5 in the Farmville Herald
- The Virginia School Quality report for Cumberland County Public Schools
As you get ready to vote, here are some key dates and links from the Virginia Department of Elections:
Polls in Virginia close at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, night. The Virginia Department of Elections will publish election results in real time, as they arrive from precincts around the state. To view them, head to this link. These are unofficial results until they are certified. Here’s more about how to get election results.
- Sept. 22: First day of in-person early voting at your local registrar’s office.
- Oct. 16: Deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration. You can also register after this date, and on election day, but you will vote with a provisional ballot, could take longer for officials to count because they will verify your eligibility.
- Oct. 27: Deadline to apply for a ballot to be mailed to you. Your request must be received by your local registrar by 5:00 p.m.
- Oct. 28: Voter registration offices open for early voting.
- Nov. 4: The last day of in-person early voting at your registrar.
- Nov. 7: Election Day. Here is where you can find your polling place.
Need to know if you’re eligible to vote? Here are resources from the Virginia Department of Elections.