In Virginia, county school boards are composed of at-large members, and one member from each district. Members are elected for four-year terms and are the leaders of the district, in charge of hiring superintendents and setting policies that direct public schools. In Albemarle County, the School Board has seven members, one from each district and one at-large member.
Judy Le is the incumbent and is the only candidate certified by the Department of Elections to represent the Rivanna District on the Albemarle County School Board.
Le has served in this role since 2019 and this will be her second election. She currently serves as chair.
Charlottesville Tomorrow designed a questionnaire based on over 200 responses we received to a voter survey. Le answered these questions by email.
Like many school districts, Albemarle County Public Schools is struggling to hire and retain teachers. How would you as a school board member propose addressing this issue?
Judy Le: As you note, this is a nationwide issue, and we need to support hiring and retaining teachers, in particular teachers who represent our community. I will continue to support collective bargaining as well as competitive pay for teachers in our budgeting process. State funding is woefully inadequate.
I also support the various programs in which we homegrow future teachers right here. These teachers represent our community the best because they grew up here. For retention, we need to analyze information from surveys and exit interviews to see what the problems are at the division level down to the school level.
This district is having a similar issue with bus drivers. How would you propose addressing this issue?
Le: As the governing body over the school division, our job is to allot funds and seek accountability. As has been noted often, the bus driver shortage is an ongoing national issue. Last year the School Board voted to raise the starting pay of bus drivers; it’s the highest starting pay in the area. The division also instituted a step pay scale, which doesn’t sound exciting, but means that bus drivers who have more experience can get paid much more what they’re worth, which helps with retention. We also worked with legislators to allow drivers to come out of retirement after six months to earn both VRS [Virginia Retirement System] and salary.
[Editor’s note: As of August, according to a Charlottesville Tomorrow report, Albemarle pays at least $22.58 an hour for a bus driver. Louisa County Public Schools pays $22.26 an hour, and as of September, Charlottesville’s bus drivers also had a starting pay of $22.26 per hour. Fluvanna County Public School pays $20 an hour, Nelson County Public Schools at $15.75, and Orange County Public Schools offering $16.65 an hour for its drivers.]
The Bellwether report, presented to the Board in June, pointed to the disparities students of color and economically disadvantaged students are facing in their studies. What would you do to support efforts to bridge the gaps? Are there approaches you’ve supported in the past?
Le: The division has begun instituting all of the recommendations of the Bellwether report and I support all of these measures. As mentioned above, we need to adhere to evidence-based practices in teaching, and we need to support our educators in these practices. Closing outcome gaps is the main reason I ran for School Board in 2019, and it continues to be why I serve and run for reelection.
There’s been an increase in violence, particularly gun violence, within the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. What steps do you think the district should take to keep students safe and supported in school?
Le: Over the past several years we’ve added locking systems to our school buildings in order to keep threats away from our students while they are at school, as well as implemented security training that more closely matches the types of violence that have struck schools and public places recently.
The increasing violence outside of schools is just one of the realities our community members face that signal increasing need for mental health supports inside our schools. I’ve always supported funding those positions and will continue to.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin recently released updated model policies that define how school officials should treat transgender or gender nonconforming students — for example requiring teachers to have parental consent before calling students by names or pronouns that are not on official records. Do you support adopting this policy?
Le: As a member of the Virginia School Board Association, our board is looking forward to seeing its interpretation of the model policy.
I, for one, am interested in a policy that will maintain a safe and supportive school environment for all students free from harassment, intimidation, bullying or discrimination. This is a moral commitment. Transgender and gender-expansive students are bullied and harassed at extraordinarily high rates and struggle with more frequent and more serious levels of suicidal ideation. Any policy we enact cannot lose sight of these facts.
The county has seen a steady increase in migrant, refugee and immigrant populations over the past years. Do you support helping these students get up to speed? How?
Le: My parents brought our family to the U.S. from Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon. My mom was three-months pregnant with me. So this, to me, is personal and important. Of course we need to help our students — wherever they join us from — be successful in their education. That’s our job. On the board I’ve sought transparency into the program, seeking to understand how students who come to us with diverse languages learn, and why our English learner outcomes are sometimes lower than statewide outcomes of the same populations. I’ve supported fully staffing these departments, as well as adding metrics to our budget to ensure we are transparent about their achievement.
Are there any other important issues facing the school district that you’d like voters to know about?
Le: No response
More about Albemarle County’s School Board
- Le’s campaign contributions from the Virginia Public Access Project
- Le’s 2019 questionnaire from Charlottesville Tomorrow’s 2019 Voter Guide
- More about Le’s 2019 campaign in C-VILLE Weekly
- Charlottesville Tomorrow report on this year’s school bus driver shortage
- Charlottesville Tomorrow Sept. 1 report on shortages and bus driver pay in Charlottesville City Schools
- Washington Post Sept. 2 report on bus driver shortage, including pay in Albemarle County
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.