Candidates hearing held

Published 1:47 pm Thursday, May 12, 2016

Prince Edward County supervisors heard from citizens and questioned school board nominees during their Tuesday meeting.

The board held a public hearing on the nominees — Patricia Bobenrieth and Dr. Wilkie Chaffin for the Buffalo District and Dr. Wayne McWee and Dr. Timothy Corbett for the Leigh District— during its regularly scheduled meeting, which drew four speakers during the hearing. One speaker, Val Montgomery, spoke regarding the appointments during public comment.

Corbett, the first-term incumbent, is seeking reappointment, and has been endorsed by the district’s citizens committee. Longtime school board member and chairman Russell Dove, who represents the Buffalo District, didn’t reapply for the position.

School board members are appointed by the board of supervisors in Prince Edward.

Montgomery asked the board to appoint McWee, who she said was a person of integrity and intelligence.

“I just speak well of him for you,” she said, noting his academic tenure at Longwood and in Indiana. “He’s a very hard worker, and he expects that of others.”

“This just might be one change that you just may want to consider for different results,” she said.

Bobenrieth, who spoke during the hearing on the appointments, said she is a retired educator of 30 years, and taught in Prince Edward, Lunenburg, Nottoway and in Pennsylvania. “With my classroom experience and the relationships that I have in the schools and community, I can provide the board with insight on the challenges and support needed in our schools.”

She said she wanted the county to become a “top educational center while keeping the focus on the student’s’ achievement … Our children are our future,” she said.

Bobenrieth said that two of the board and division’s biggest challenges were communication and participation by stakeholders.

Kathy Biggers, a librarian at Prince Edward Elementary School, supported Bobenrieth. “I have known Patricia Bobenrieth for 11 years. During these years, I have found her to be a very dependable, caring person (who’s) also a good listener. She is also good at expressing her opinions.”

Biggers said she was involved with and concerned about Prince Edward’s school division. According to Biggers, she volunteers in the classrooms reading and working with students, assists with book fairs, helps with picture and field days, author visits, Read Across America and tutors students at all grade levels. “We need someone at our school board (who) knows what it is like to be in the classroom, someone (who) is involved in our schools and has a vested interest in our students’ education.”

Chaffin said he had done “a tremendous amount of research on Prince Edward County Schools, on a lot of different things about it. On performance, loss of students, how the budgeting works.”

While Chaffin said he had ideas, he admitted that “you’re never going to learn about how a school system works by reading numbers or words off a page. You’ve got to be involved. So, if I am to be appointed … the first thing I’ve got to do is start walking around.”

Chaffin said that two of the largest challenges to the division were student achievement and the enrollment decline.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the test scores in Prince Edward County Public Schools,” he said.

Chaffin said that transparency is important to him, and that he is seeking to make a contribution to how the school board operates.

“I’ve been involved in public education one way or another all my life,” Chaffin said. He said he’s been involved in educational activities and an educational foundation, where he’s served in several leadership capacities.

“I’ve been here for 20-some years now. It’s important to me what goes on in Prince Edward County. All I can say is if I’m appointed, I will do the best I possibly can.”

“I’m not such a big fan of private education. I’m not a great fan of homeschooling, frankly. I think public education, overall, is the best option for at least most students.”

He said the question was how to make every student know more and feel better when they graduate.

“This would be my second term on the school board,” Corbett said. “I’m optimistic about our schools. I believe that we’re headed in a good direction. …”

He said one of the biggest obstacles for the division was pessimism.

Corbett said he thought his biggest accomplishment while on the board was “…just rallying the board members to look at things a little bit more optimistically.”

Farmville District Representative Dr. Peter Gur, a member of the school board, spoke in favor of Corbett.