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Citizens fight for School board change

Posted on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at 11:04 am

By NATALIE MILLER

H-P Reporter

Some Hanover residents are pushing to change Hanover’s School Board from having appointed members, to elected representatives.

The recently-formed group, Hanover Citizens for an Elected School Board, came together shortly after some members of the group led a successful campaign for a 10-point grading scale in Hanover.

A series of conversations connected several Hanover parents, who individually felt that an elected School Board would be more productive than the current appointed School Board system. These parents joined forces to create and authorize a petition for referendum to make Hanover’s School Board elected, rather than appointed.

Sterling Daniel is one such Hanover parent supporting the referendum for an elected School Board.

“It’s not a signal that you are either in favor or against the referendum itself,” Daniel said. “You are agreeing that it should be put forth for the voters to decide.”

Law requires that the referendum receive signatures from 10 percent of registered voters in Hanover County, or roughly 8,000 signatures. The group is aiming for 10,000 registered voter signatures by mid-July, to fulfill requirements that ballot items be finalized 111 days before the November election.

Some argue that elected School Board members would be more likely to serve the needs of the voters and students, rather than primarily the Board of Supervisor who appointed them to their seat.

“It’s not that the priority of the School Board or Board of Supervisors will necessarily differ, but priorities may shift between the two at any given time. So it’s worth letting the voters decide if they want to have a direct influence there,” Daniel said.

Chairman of the Hanover County School Board John Axselle said in an email that though he could not offer any speculation on the matter, he supports the school system.

“I can tell you from personal experience that under our current system [appointed], Hanover County Public Schools has a well-established tradition of educational excellence,” Axselle said in the email.

“For decades, we have been and continue to be recognized at the local, state, and national level as a leader in academic achievement, the arts, and more,” the email continues. “Without question, we are very proud of our accomplishments and value our unique ability to deliver high quality instruction and programs to our students.”

Julie Stubblefield is another Hanover parent who advocates for the referendum to be on the ballot in November. Stubblefield was a strong advocate for Hanover County Public Schools’ recent grading scale change

According to Stubblefield, the petition was approved in the Hanover Circuit Court just a few weeks ago.

“We’re just excited to have a conversation around civics,” Stubblefield said.

The group has held information sessions for interested residents to learn more about the referendum and how to collect signatures. Stubblefield said that having an elected School Board would create a different dynamic between the officials and County residents.

“It’s about bringing the issue in front of voters,” Daniel said. “Anytime you have a chance to give direct access to the citizens for how the schools are run it’s something worth considering,” Daniel said.

In the surrounding area, the public school systems of Henrico, Chesterfield and Caroline Counties have elected School Board members.

“It’s not a revolution, it’s an evolution,” Daniel said.