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Colleagues praise Dove

Fellow school board members say they’ll miss working with Buffalo District Representative and School Board Chairman Russell Dove, who didn’t reapply to serve on the Prince Edward County School Board after 15 years of service.

According to Longwood University professor Dr. Alix Fink, the chair of the citizens committee for the Buffalo District — which received and reviewed the applications — only two people applied for the seat — Dr. Wilkie Chaffin and Patricia Bobenrieth.

The names of the applicants were revealed during a recent meeting of the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors, where citizen committees reported applicants for the Buffalo and Leigh District seats.

“It has been a pleasure working with Mr. Dove on the Prince Edward County School Board,” said Farmville District Representative Sherry Honeycutt. “He has worked very diligently on a job that asks a lot of his time and energy, yet he does so without complaint. For that, he deserves our appreciation.”

Dove said the decision to not seek reappointment was based on two key factors: a personal matter and discontent with the actions of others.

“I will not expand or give specific examples of those actions, at least not now,” Dove said. “Instead, I will take this opportunity to mention several initiatives that positively impacted our students and detail some of my disappointments.”

Dove said he is grateful for the opportunity to serve as chairman of the board for the last 11 years, noting that there are many accomplishments of which he is proud.

He cited supporting the expansion of the Career Technical Education Center (CTE), providing new and improved course offerings and implementing security enhancements.

“Those efforts are beneficial as several studies have indicated that performance is significantly enhanced when both staff and students feel an increased level of safety (and) security,” he said.

Lockett District Representative Chapman Hood Frazier said that, as the newest member of the board, he learned a lot from Dove.

“His good nature and sense of fairness served all of us quite well,” Frazier said. “With a long and successful career on the board, he was able to the see the big picture and this, I believe, served not only the school board but Prince Edward schools as well.”

Dove said during his time on the school board, the alternative education program was relocated from Nottoway back to Prince Edward’s campus. The change eliminated the loss of instructional time due to the commute and allowed for customization of the program.

Under his leadership, Dove said, the school board agenda was also changed to reflect the placement of items on the agenda in advance of at least one meeting, and he continuously advocated for course offerings to reflect the preferences and needs of the students.

“It is my belief, and studies suggest, that many non-core academic programs contribute to the overall well-being of children and often produce students who perform better academically,” Dove said.

He also pushed a cost-savings change to the employee and staff retirement policy during his time as board chairman, which Dove said was unpopular with some staff members.

He said the change allowed for the additional funds to be used for instruction.

“He had the ability to critically think through decisions but was open to hearing everyone’s position on an issue before making up his own mind,” Frazier said.

While Dove said there have been many good accomplishments during his time on the school board, there have also been disappointments.

He said all of the county’s schools are now fully accredited, but he does not believe the Standards of Learning tests to be a true measure of the student’s abilities.

Dove said he realizes the accreditation is often looked at by community members as evidence of the successes and failures of the school system.

“As a long-time resident of Prince Edward, I am very disappointed by the recent rhetoric of some,” he said. “Unfortunately, those individuals do not realize the degree to which the often inaccurate information they circulate negatively impacts our community, by discouraging new business and other growth opportunities. It is especially concerning when that rhetoric is disseminated by some who serve in community leadership roles.”

Dove said he believes that Prince Edward is poised for greatness. He said he is not abandoning the school system, just changing roles.

While Prince Edward has many challenges similar to those of other schools, Dove said specific changes are needed to address those needs.

“When some speak of change, if you listen closely you soon discover that change for them is only code for their true desire to reduce funding to the schools, regardless of how it impacts our children and ultimately the future of our economy,” he said.