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Candidates polled on future

Candidates for the November Prince Edward County School Board election, the first of its kind, recently weighed in on the upcoming election and communicated their hopes for the future of the division.

Elections will be held for the Leigh District, Buffalo District, Prospect District and Farmville 701 District. The Prospect District will see competition on the ballot, while the remaining three will have only one candidate appearing on the ballot.

Buffalo District Candidate Lucy Carson, a former principal of Prince Edward County Middle School, said she was excited about the board’s change from being appointed to being elected.

“I am hopeful that this change will move in ways that will bring people who are advocates for our students, schools and community,” Carson said.

She said of changes she’d like to see that being an elected member to the school board would be a change within itself.

“I want to work with all school board members, the superintendent and school community, along with the Prince Edward community towards making our schools successful,” Carson said.

Farmville 701 District Candidate Cainan Townsend, the interim director of education and public programs at the Robert Russa Moton Museum, said that if elected, he hopes to assess what already is happening in the county and continue all the good things that are happening already.

“As a graduate of Prince Edward County Public Schools, I am honored to have the opportunity to give back to the community in this way,” Townsend said. “It is a humbling experience, and I hope to attain the position and continue the good things happening in Prince Edward County.”

He noted that the term would begin halfway through the school year.

“So I would have to transition into the role before trying to make substantial changes,” Townsend said.

Elzora Stiff, one of the candidates for the Prospect District, said when she decided to run, she didn’t realize it was the first election.

“The idea of being involved and being able to do more and help got me going,” Stiff said.

Stiff is a former R.R. Moton High School student and has been a teacher at Prince Edward County High School. She has 48 years of experience in education spread between roles as a teacher, administrator, staff developer, program coordinator and curriculum developer.

“My issue is making sure that students are engaged, parents are engaged and instruction is engaging,” Stiff said regarding what she looks to bring to the board. “Those three things will propel me into doing whatever I need to do to succeed.”

Leigh District Candidate Dr. Timothy Corbett, a current member of the Prince Edward County School Board, said his main focus, if he’s elected for another term, will be continuing to improve.

“We’ve got room to improve, there’s no doubt,” Corbett said. “We’ve made some strides. I’d like to emphasize those, but we also need to, you know, look at the improvements that we still have to make.”

He described the schools as not being “really where they need to be.”

“I’m not trying to be critical but, you know, we just know that, we know that we got our work cut out,” Corbett.

Regarding being a part of the first election, Corbett said he has mixed feelings about the change in general. He said having to campaign means that there’s one more thing to do that may get in the way.

“There’s some good to it as well,” Corbett said. “If you’re appointed, there’s always in the back of your mind whether or not you’re doing what the supervisor that appointed you wanted you to be doing.”

He said those elected are able to look out over the people they represent.

The other Prospect District candidate Dione Jennings did not reply to messages prior to deadline. 

According to County Registrar Lynette Wright, those seeking candidacy must be qualified to vote for and hold office, must have been a resident of Virginia for at least one year immediately preceding the election and must be a resident of Prince Edward County by the time of filing.

In a previous interview Wright said many people had picked up packets for candidacy.

“There’s no party affiliation,” Wright said in a previous interview regarding those seeking to be on the school board. “A person can be supported by a party, but they can’t be a Democrat or Republican or anything like that. All of them are independents as far as that’s concerned.”

She said prospective candidates had to file four forms, including a certificate of candidate qualifications, the declaration of candidacy, a statement of economic interest and a petition of at least 125 qualified voters.

The election stems from a referendum that was on the November ballot due to the efforts of a group of county citizens who obtained the needed amount of petition signatures for the referendum to be considered.

The referendum to elect school board members, rather than having them appointed by the board of supervisors, passed with 76.28 percent of the 8,350 voters choosing “Yes,” and the remaining 23.72 percent of voters choosing “No.”