Letters to the Editor: Week of May 9, 2013

I may be wrong, but I may be right

I have received some strong negative criticism for my May 2 article, “Mrs. Smith’s reign has come to an end.”
Basically I have been charged with misrepresenting the facts and not having respect for the current school administration. Neither of these accusations are true.
My facts are primarily based on Hanover County’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, dated June 30, 2012. The most startling fact is that the County has decreased funding to the public schools by 23 percent between 2003 and 2012. This 23 percent is in inflation-adjusted dollars. Part of this decline has been in capital expenses and, in recent years, a large share has been in cutting the operations budget.
It is certainly possible that my conclusions are wrong. But the facts are correct. And, if I am wrong, why are our teachers, while not asking for a pay raise or threatening a walk-out, so concerned about their schools and their students? These are the people who happen to be in the front-lines of our education system.
I don’t think the Board of Supervisors heard the voices of these teachers as they expressed their concerns.
As to the charge of  disrespect for the school administration, let me clarify the point. I have great respect for Superintendent Jamelle Wilson and her staff as they work so diligently with the funds provided to them.
The School Board works hard and is well-intentioned. Recently, some members of the School Board “discovered” leaking roofs in our schools. But I fail to understand why the Board, both past and present, fails to formally advise supervisors of the funding shortfalls.
I believe Glenn Millican, in the recent school budget reviews, attempted to send a supplemental letter to the Board of Supervisors underscoring this funding shortage. The other Board members apparently did not support this idea. Why not?
I want to see our community  and Hanover County engaged in this issue. I believe education is critical to the future of this country. I believe our teachers are the key to a great education system. I think the county, perhaps unwittingly, is slowly starving our schools of critical funding.
I may be totally wrong. But, at the moment, I think I may be totally correct.

Ragan Phillips
Ashland

Help save the Firehouse Theater

For the past nine months, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as the Executive Director of the Firehouse Theater. In the past year, we’ve hosted a foreign film festival with Randolph-Macon College, partnered with the town for Train Day festivities, the Alzheimer’s Association, Friends of Hanover Schools, Ashland Main Street Association, the Ashland Museum and Relay for Life, in addition to hosting hundreds of movie fans to our theater.
It’s a working theater that will host a live theater production this weekend for three performances geared towards children and their families. In fact this theater project intends to create a following and put on a production each season for all Hanover and Greater Richmond residents. We are the only working theater in town. We believe our theater is getting better traction and is in a position to do more. We need your support, though, and ask you to help us.
The town is considering using the theater space for storage space. To myself and the members of the Firehouse Theater board this seems unfortunate. Consider that the Firehouse Theater is the place where a typical Saturday night can bring preteens and adults together, which is a special thing for a small town. Raising money for cancer is a special thing. Raising awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease is a valuable community partnership that we’re so proud to help spread the word.  Storage is not a special thing, and doesn’t offer any opportunity for community partnerships.
We urge you to consider this valuable asset and decide that it’s irreplaceable. If you agree with us, please contact the council members and let them know that the Firehouse Theater is too big an asset to end the story.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

Megan Mudd
Firehouse Theater Executive Director

Choose children over campaigns

Cold Harbor District Supervisor Elton Wade says that next month he will be replacing the District’s long-time school board member because he apparently promised the $8,000-a-year job to someone else–his campaign manager, Norman Sulser.
Wade explained that while he himself did not remember making the promise, Sulser and others reminded him that he made the promise eight years ago…that he would nominate Sulser for the Cold Harbor seat on the School Board if Sulser was successful in getting Wade re-elected to the Board of Supervisors. So it’s payback for his work on the campaign trail. And it’s a chance to build up Sulser’s resume before he runs for Wade’s supervisor seat the next go round.
These are not the right credentials for selecting the best school board representation for our children. They actually deserve School Board representatives who understand the education system and Hanover’s needs.
Ironically, the Cold Harbor District is the home of an excellent candidate who understands education and is committed to the youth in Hanover County. Paul Cash has served Hanover’s school system for 14 years before retiring. He first served as a teacher for alternative students and then as a high school assistant principal at Patrick Henry before going to the central office to work as the director of maintenance for the division.  Mr. Cash understands the Hanover education system from the chalk board to the school board office.
Another crucial credential for school board appointees is having the fiscal savvy to manage a multi-million-dollar school budget. Here again, Paul Cash is our man. In addition to his education credentials, Mr. Cash is a retired Naval Captain and Naval Aviator who served his country for 27 years. In that capacity, he was in charge of the assignment of thousands of U.S. naval aviators and oversaw a $40 million budget.
If Mr. Cash’s incredible credentials don’t impress Mr. Wade, there certainly are other Cold Harbor residents whose credentials trump a forgotten campaign promise. Hopefully, the other members of the Board of Supervisors and Hanover residents will nudge Mr. Wade to help him recommend a candidate who is best for our children and our schools, not what’s best for the campaign trail.

Toni Radler
Ashland

Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 12:42 pm