Prince Edward supervisors look to the future at NAACP forum

Published 1:13 am Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Dr. Odessa Pride and Mrs. Patti Cooper-Jones are running for new terms on the Prince Edward Board of Supervisors. While both are running unopposed in their respective districts, Dr. Pride in District 401 and Patti Cooper-Jones in District 801, both showed up to answer questions and hold discussions at the NAACP’s community forum. That was held on Monday, Sept. 18 at the Robert Russa Moton Museum in Farmville. 

I was the moderator for the night and over the span of one and a half hours, we covered three questions each for the different candidate groups who showed up. To be clear, there are other seats open on the Prince Edward board of supervisors. In District 101, Peter Gur will face off against the incumbent Harrison Jones. And in District 201, Rex Williams will challenge the incumbent, Bill Jenkins. None of the people from those two respective races showed up at the NAACP forum.

The Herald will hold a written Q & A later this month, where we’ll hope to hear from all of the supervisor candidates. But for this piece, answers are limited to those who showed up at the forum. 

Q. What is one resource we don’t lean on enough in Prince Edward County, to develop and strengthen us? 

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Cooper-Jones: I think that it is important for us to use the assets we have, like Longwood University, Hampden-Sydney College, that we tag on to that. The thing about it is, Prince Edward has truly become a progressive county and we have some businesses in the works. Truly, it is a team effort from all the supervisors, the school board, all of our constitutional officers. It’s important for all of us to work together. So I say we lean on and use the strengths we have and encourage each other and be out and support each other. 

Dr. Pride: I’m a former educator, former teacher and former high school principal. As Ms. Patti Cooper-Jones said, we have two colleges. Those colleges are willing to help our school system through volunteerism. I look at the Career and Technical Center. That has to get much stronger. Instead of students just being academic graduates, they could take some of those career and technical courses. And not just take them, but get involved with a business who is willing to give an internship, so you can learn those fields and you’ll be certified when you leave that high school. I look at some students who leave college and can’t even get jobs with some of those degrees. But mechanics, plumbers, those contractors, they’re the ones getting the jobs, they’re the ones making the big bucks. We have to work together. Now, we supervisors provide the money, because the schools get the majority of our budget. We can’t tell them how to run our schools, but we can meet together and share ideas. Each of the board of supervisors has a school board member that they work with, meet occasionally and talk over different situations. 

Q. We’ve seen businesses moving into Prince Edward. How do we continue that growth in the year to come? How do we expand and improve that? 

Cooper-Jones: First of all, I’d like to say for the staff of Prince Edward County, they’re very inquisitive, they’re seeking businesses at all opportunities. We’re trying to make sure that our developed business parks are in order and ready for new business if it chooses to come here. And it’s important for us to reach outside of where we are right now. Just because one business says no, we don’t think you have enough to support us, just keep traveling, keep trusting God and just keep on searching for what’s gonna be here. Developing that Sandy River [Reservoir] into a water supply is going to be a main avenue for us, because once that water is there, we can show we have everything they need. We know we have the fiber, we have the power from Dominion and from Southside Electric. We’ve just got to make sure we have enough room for [businesses] to come here and that we’re prepared. 

Dr. Pride: To bring in businesses, you need enough workers. Where are the workers? It’s up to us as supervisors, it’s up to us as school board members, it’s up to you as constituents to encourage these people to go to work. And they’re always saying well, we don’t have the money, we can’t make any money. They’re increasing salaries, but why don’t they go to work? These businesses, they’re coming, but if you don’t have people to employ, are they going to be successful? Again, it goes back to the school system. We can’t tell them what to do, but we can communicate with the superintendent, with the administrative staff and say c’mon guys, you’ve got to encourage this career and technical piece, encourage students to participate in it, because we have the businesses, we have people who are going to be looking for students to do internships and you’re gonna have to work with us.  

Q. One of the challenges we’ve encountered in building a renovated elementary school is the cost involved. Currently, the total bill for Prince Edward’s chosen renovation option is $43.5 million. One way the county has tried to cover that cost is through a 1% sales tax. However, the state keeps rejecting our request for one. Is there a way we can get the state to approve the 1% sales tax and if not, what options are there to cover the elementary school cost? 

Cooper-Jones: Unfortunately, you’re in the clique or you’re out of the clique. There’s certain areas that got the 1% sales tax without a problem. We have been fighting now for three years to try and get that sales tax and believe it or not, we’re not going to give up, because we’re taxpayers in the commonwealth of Virginia and we deserve to have that tax that will help our schools. Regardless of whether or not we get it, we’re looking for ways forward. We’re gonna keep working on it and we’re going to fund as much as we can. And there are grants available as well that just became available so we’ll be applying for those grants as well. 

Dr. Pride: Two years ago, I went before the General Assembly, fighting for that one percent. Let me tell you, this administration is going to do what it wants to do. I sat there and watched that committee not listen to our county administrator, not listen to me as a board of supervisors member, not listen to the superintendent. A senator got up and spoke on our behalf, she said before we go, I’ve got to say something. And you could see the members on the committee just flinching. They didn’t want to hear what she had to say. She said I want you to hear from this young lady. It was a third grader from our elementary school, whose father works at Longwood University. He had brought his daughter to speak before the General Assembly. They said well, we’ll give her a minute. And that young lady had prepared a speech that she memorized. And you know what the head lady said after a minute? Are you finished? And we left. We are going to keep fighting and that elementary school is going to be built, whether we have that 1% or not. [The school is] going to be over $39 million. One thing people have to understand is this is not going to happen overnight. We have met as a board of supervisors and school board, but it’s going to take time. We have to set up modular buildings for the students, so it’s not going to be quick, but it is going to be done and people need to realize that. It hurts me so much to come by the intersection some mornings and see parents waiting with their children for buses from Charlotte County to pick up their children because they don’t want to go to Prince Edward anymore. We have got to continue to work on this district and this county to be one of the most striving counties in the state of Virginia