Herald Election 2023 Q & A: Buckingham School Board District 6
Published 12:13 pm Friday, November 3, 2023
We have reached November, with just a few days left before Election Day. With that in mind, we’re continuing to reach out to Buckingham school board candidates, as well as other candidates in all contested races, asking them to answer several questions. Each candidate in a race receives the same questions and the same amount of time to send answers in.
This time, we turn to the Slate River District seat, District 6, on the Buckingham School Board. To date, Republican Maynard Ritchie is the only candidate that had filed to run.
Ritchie is a 29-year resident of the district, having raised two sons during that time that attended Buckingham County Public Schools. Before retiring, Ritchie worked with the Department of Corrections, the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Behavior and Disability Services as a Human Rights Advocate for the adults and children admitted to the state hospital.
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Q. A critical problem for Buckingham, and most surrounding districts, is chronic absenteeism. While not at the 35% affecting Prince Edward, it’s still not great here, hovering around 28% at Buckingham Middle, for example. What do we need to do to get more students back into the classroom?
Ritchie: Reach out to parents/guardians of students who are absent frequently to identify and understand the reasons behind their absences, and to provide support as needed. There has been some hypothesis the COVID lockdown perpetuated the lack of interest in school attendance. Whatever the reason for a significant drop in school attendance. It is not only a lawful mandatory obligation, it is imperative to the social, psychological, and emotional development of our children.
Q. Shifting gears for a minute, do we focus enough on workforce readiness and workforce development in our schools? If not, what should we do to change it?
Ritchie: The trades are a financially rewarding career whether one engages in construction, or the home improvement business. As a school board member, It will be my goal to assess the preparation of our students for today’s workforce, and to collaborate with the school superintendent to prepare and assist our students who don’t wish to attend college for a post high school workforce career.
Q. In nearby Prince Edward County, supervisors and school board members are dealing with the result of years of postponing needed renovations and repairs and now face a $43 million renovation bill for their elementary school. How can we avoid putting the Buckingham school board in a similar situation?
Ritchie: A school is like a home. It requires continuous upkeep and repair. School systems are expensive to operate. There isn’t any wiggle room for any unnecessary expenditures. The school board and school administrators need to be good stewards of the taxpayer money, and pay as they go to As a school board member I will not vote for any unnecessary expenditures. I’d like to see a detailed line item budget to see where tax payer money is being spent. I am not supportive of raising taxes, nor building any new school at this time.
Q. Let’s talk about accreditation scores for a minute. On the one hand, Buckingham High improved across the board. Buckingham Middle, however, struggled. In 2022, 67% of Buckingham Middle students passed English. This time around, that number fell to 58%, the lowest it’s been in more than five years. Math passing rates crashed as well, going from 84% last year to 65% this time around. How do we reverse course in a situation like this?
Ritchie: It’s distressing to learn that not only are our children failing, and their academic scores are suffering. There needs to be a re-emphasis on reading, writing, and arithmetic. As a school board member, I would collaborate with the experts (the teacher and teacher aides) to identify areas of concern, and problem solve to elevate the scores of our students to more acceptable national scholastic standards as they prepare for entry into society and adulthood.
Q. Dealing with teacher pay is always going to be a challenge for a rural county like Buckingham, trying to keep good teachers here, instead of seeing them leave for a Lynchburg or a Roanoke. How can the Buckingham school board keep good teachers here? Is it through a pay raise? Or do you feel another idea would work?
Ritchie: I’ve met with school personnel and it appears that the lack of a competitive salary is the biggest motive for teachers leaving the county and transferring to better paying districts. I don’t know what financial incentives have been discussed or offered, however the subject is worth exploring. I’d like to explore the feasibility of a step increase to commiserate with staff length of service.