No PE Vote On Elected School Board

Published 1:16 pm Thursday, July 16, 2015

PRINCE EDWARD — A Wednesday deadline passed to petition the circuit court to place a referendum on elected school board members on the November ballot.

Because no petition was submitted, Prince Edward voters will not have the option this year to change the selection method for county school board members from appointed to elected.

Prince Edward is one of the few counties remaining in Virginia where the board of supervisors appoints school board members. A petition drive spearheaded by parent Kelly Morgan was under way to have the issue put before voters this fall.

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Morgan, in an email Thursday morning, said that their signature count fell just short of the 1,431 needed.

“We realized going in that we were getting a very late start and would have to work really hard to meet our mark,” Morgan said. “The plan now is to try again. This time we know what we are in for. We know where to go to get signatures and we are motivated by the unbelievable amount of support from the community. Being unsuccessful this time was a setback, but not a complete failure. If we use our efforts from the past couple months as a learning experience and get an earlier start when we try again, we should have no problem collecting plenty of signatures.”

Morgan said that in the time she collected signatures that only three declined to sign.

“Two of these were Prince Edward County teachers citing fear of losing their jobs and the other was an ex-PECPS employee saying she ‘did not want to get involved,’” she wrote. “Aside from those few people, everybody I came in contact with seemed not only willing to sign, but at times desperate for this change. I’ve discussed, at length, the pros and cons of elected school boards, the types of candidates it would attract, accountability issues, and the role of politics that would come with this change. As a mother of three children in the public school system, I believe the pros outweigh the cons immensely and the fight for this change is not over.”

Buckingham and Cumberland are among the many counties that have chosen to elect their school board members.

Referendum seekers are required to have signatures from 10 percent of registered voters as of Jan. 1 of the year they seek to have an issue placed on the ballot. Petitions are due 111 days prior to the general election. That deadline was Wednesday.

There have been several unsuccessful petition drives for elected school boards in Prince Edward. As the process is structured, those wishing to try again next year would have to start from scratch obtaining signatures after Jan. 1.

This is a revised version of an earlier story, revised on Thursday, July 16.