The unopposed: John Conover, Soil and Water Conservation, Charlottesville
When the Hook started gathering lists of candidates who would appear on Albemarle and Charlottesville ballots, we came up with an eye-popping 38 names of people who want to govern on the local and state level.
These are the folks who will determine the Big 3 perennial issues– the Western Bypass, the Meadowcreek Parkway, and the water plan– but they're also going to be deciding when schools start, what cases are prosecuted, and how federal funding is spent on conservation in this area.
Last week's issue carried the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and General Assembly contenders. Here are the rest of the candidates on the November 8 ballots.
School matters– Albemarle County
Albemarle's School Board meetings frequently attract irate parents, and in the past few years the Board has garnered a lot of criticism for decisions seen as "top down," such as the 4X4 block scheduling implemented last fall to save money. This year's biggest controversy was the purchase of "glitchy" Schoolnet software, a student information system that created errors in student transcripts and which one teacher described as "like trying to text with a rotary phone."
Four of the Board's seven seats are up for grabs, although only one is being contested, giving incumbents Jason Buyaki, Steve Koleszar, and Barbara Massie Mouly free rides to another term in their districts, and leaving Cindi Burket, Ned Gallaway, and Joseph Oddo to battle it out for the at-large seat.
Occupation: Substitute teacher, director of an after-school program, instructional aide and graduate research assistant. Wife, mother and domestic diva. President or officer of several local organizations.
Pet peeve in education: The fact that bullying exists at any level in our schools!!
Skills that make you suited to be on the School Board: I am a doer and a problem solver. I offer common sense leadership and advocate innovative thinking. I have a B.S. in law enforcement and corrections and a master's in public administration.
What do you do better than your opponents? I would rather just speak to my strengths, which include my ability to work with others to identify and solve important issues.
Best decision the School Board has made the past year: The decision to continually improve the Albemarle County Schools' Strategic Plan. This insures that the Board will remain responsive to current and future concerns and issues.
Worst? Organizations make mistakes. Effective boards recognize errors, take responsibility, and institute corrective action. This is the measure of leadership philosophy I would bring to the Board.
Book every child should read by age 12: The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende
What are you reading now? The new James Bond novel, Carte Blanche, by Jeffery Deaver.
Educational hero: My eighth-grade social studies teacher, Mrs. Carlson. She was pivotal in my determination to attend college.
Occupation: Business manager, Brown Automotive Group
Pet peeve in education: Standardized testing
Skills that make you suited to be on the School Board: Parent with children currently attending county schools, former high school teacher, doctoral candidate in education
What do you do better than your opponents? I have been actively involved with our schools, and I am very knowledgeable about county education issues. I am a member of the County Schools Parent Council and the Long Range Planning Advisory Committee, plus I have attended most School Board meetings over the past two and half years.
Best decision the School Board has made the past year: To conduct School Board work sessions with the participation of students, parents, and teachers– the input gained during these sessions has been some of the most valuable and immediately relevant to our schools that I have observed.
Worst? As part of the 2010-11 budget process, the School Board made some major decisions in a top-down manner without following an inclusive process and without effectively communicating the severity of the impacts to students, parents, and teachers. Not acceptable.
Book every child should read by age 12: That first book each child chooses on their own because it has sparked their curiosity to learn more about what is inside.
What are you reading now? Kids First by David Kirp
Educational hero: My grandmother, Margaret Reinbold. She earned her bachelor's degree past the age of 60 and taught me the importance of education and knowledge in living a fulfilling life.
Occupation: Sales manager
Pet peeve in education: Multiple-choice testing criteria
Skills that make you suited to be on the School Board: Management experience, public policy analyst, great listener, rational decision-maker.
What do you do better than your opponents? Participate in my children’s education from the start. That included everything from home schooling to including them in community activities.
Best decision the School Board has made the past year: Efficient use of resources, especially the saving of $1.5 million in transportation costs.
Worst? Book-banning decision.
Book every child should read by age 12: How to Win Friends and Influence People
What are you reading now? Leadership is Common Sense by Herman Cain
Educational hero: Dr. Ron Paul
Occupation: Sculptor, artist, model-maker
Pet peeve in education: Unfunded federal and state mandates, which sap precious resources away from quality instruction, and threatening to cut teachers as a means of garnering public support for revenue increases.
Skills that make you suited to be on the School Board: My education background, my children in ACPS, my previous Parent Council Representative experience, and my eagerness to enter into discourse with stakeholders and develop creative solutions to our challenges.
Best decision the School Board has made the past year: We reevaluated our priorities and key performance indicators to better emphasize how we want to improve and enhance student learning and the success of the Division, rather than emphasize rudimentary performance indicators that didn’t necessarily improve student learning.
Worst? Recently, the Board asked for public input regarding several early start date choices, and we poorly informed the public how the early start dates would be beneficial to our educators and students, thus stakeholders were left trying to guess our intentions.
Book every child should read by age 12: Rather than settle on just one, I would want children to have read a vast number of books that excite them to help them build vocabulary and fluency.
What are you reading now? I have just finished Envy by Helmut Schoeck, a great study of social behavior.
Educational hero: My first and second-grade teacher, Mrs. Preketes, along with my parents, inspired me to succeed.
Occupation: Retired accountant
Pet peeve in education: People with no experience in education promoting simple solutions and easy answers, when improving student achievement requires a lot of hard work.
Skills that make you suited to be on the School Board: Focus on improving education for all children, 16 years of experience on the board, and the ability to listen to all sides and make sound decisions based on the best data available.
Best decision the School Board has made the past year: Improved our process for establishing our annual priorities, so they can be better integrated with school and department improvement plans.
Worst? Purchase and implementation of the Student Information System in 2010-2011.
Book every child should read by age 12: No one book is sufficient. Children should read a wide range of books covering many topics.
What are you reading now? Predictably Illogical
Educational hero: Our custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, teaching assistants, teachers, and administrators, who work hard every day caring for and educating all the children in our schools.
Barbara Massie Mouly
Occupation: Attorney, law professor
Pet peeve: The extent of federal government regulation under the "No Child Left Behind" legislation.
Skills that make you suited to be on the School Board: I am a logical thinker and not quick to rush to judgment. Also, I am a good listener and work to understand all points of view on any given issue before casting my vote or giving my opinion.
Best and worst decisions of Board: Hard to say. One of the best policies is the decision to have a county student council that provides for regular student input to the Board.
Book every child should read by age 12: The classic Charlotte's Web by E.B. White.
What are you reading now? Marbury v. Madison and the Foundation of Law by Jeffrey Tuomala.
Educational hero: Abigail Adams. With no formal education, but schooled by her mother, she became one of the most influential thinkers of her day. The letters between her and John Adams contain numerous conversations on government and politics. She vigorously opposed slavery and championed women's rights.
School matters– Charlottesville
Electing the city's School Board is a relatively recent event in Charlottesville's history. Before 2006, members were appointed by City Council.
Four of the seven seats are open, with current members Llezelle Dugger and Kathy Galvin running for clerk of court and City Council, respectively. Incumbents Colette Blount and Guian McKee want another term, and Ivana Kadija, Amy Laufer, Steven Latimer, Jennifer McKeever, and Willa Neale want a say on issues like school consolidation, lunch menus, and school-issued tablets.
Occupation: Teacher at Burley Middle School
Pet peeve in education: A legislated devaluation of education has gripped our nation for too long. Those most adversely impacted continue to be minorities and those with little to no income.
Skills that make you suited to be on the School Board: Strengths in: analyzing data to uncover trends, examining issues from a variety of vantage points, engaging Board members in discussion.
What do you do better than your opponents?:
"It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood, ...
It's a neighborly day in this beauty wood,...
So let's make the most of this beautiful day..."
Best decision the School Board has made the past year: The clear vision in developing our current Strategic Plan. Our tablet initiative moves us one step closer to equalizing access to education.
Worst? I disagreed with the Board's decision to replace our natural athletic field with artificial turf. I feel this runs counter to the Division's commitment to championing "green" efforts.
Book every child should read by age 12: Before entering the throes of adolescence, rereading a favorite childhood book might be advised. For me, that would have been The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
What are you reading now? At work, Blount v. Ladue School District (on the 14th Amendment); at the beach, rereading James Thurber's The White Deer.
Educational hero: While enduring a lengthy divorce and after raising five children, my mother, at 45, replaced Architectural Digest with law school texts and passed Missouri/New York bars the first time around.
Occupation: Nutrition & wellness counselor, founder yourishment.com
Pet peeve in education: Bureaucracy
Skills that make you suited to be on the School Board: Progressive attitude, critical thinking, evidence-based approach to issues.
What do you do better than your opponents? Cut through the rhetoric.
Best decision the School Board has made the past year: The reconfiguration of schools necessitates fewer student transitions, enhances the pre-school program and strengthens Buford with funding to help address the city's continuing achievement gap.
Worst? Letting Jackson Via's award-winning principal Dr. Elizabeth McCay resign. I'm inspired by her support for landscape architect Jessica Primm's vision for an Outdoor Learning Center.
Book every child should read by age 12: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
What are you reading now? Sugar Nation. A compelling investigation linking America's sugar habit to the nation's leading health issues: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Educational hero: Dr. Yvonne Sanders-Butler, principal of Browns Mill Elementary in Georgia. Made the school sugar-free and, in one year, raised test scores 15 percent, cut discipline problems 23 percent.
Steven C. Latimer
Age: 24 years
Occupation: Library support specialist
Pet peeve in education: Overactive administrators
Skills that make you suited to be on the School Board: I excel at math and have a strong number sense. Customer service is important to me, and I vow to see your needs are met.
What do you do better than your opponents? I admire all of the candidates, but spending is out of control, and this district has done a poor job of living within its means.
Best decision the School Board has made the past year: Consolidation of Walker and Buford. This is a step in the right direction.
Worst? Many parents expressed their concerns over the tablet program's cost, and I wonder how many will be used as hockey pucks on our city streets.
Book every child should read by age 12: Matilda by Roald Dahl
What are you reading now? The Pun Also Rises by John Pollack
Educational hero: My high school history teacher, Dan Landis. He had years of experience as a teacher and a principal, but decided to return to teaching in the classroom. He was very good at providing a "hook" to encourage us to get excited about an academic topic.
Occupation: PTO co-chair Greenbrier Elementary, citizen representative Commission on Children and Families, stay-at-home mom, former sixth-grade math and science teacher, Tandem Friends School.
Pet peeve in education: Declining enrollment in Charlottesville City Schools. It should be common knowledge that our schools are a competitive option to private schools.
Skills that make you suited to be on the School Board: MA in education, math and science teacher, returned Peace Corps Volunteer, consensus builder, open to new ideas, eager to listen, hard working, and go-getter.
What do you do better than your opponents? I am an educator with knowledge and experience of school operations. I worked with community organizations and want to integrate them with the school system.
Best decision the School Board has made the past year: Implementing tablets throughout middle and high school to keep students competitive in the continuously changing technological environment.
Worst? Lack of publicity about the success of our schools. There are approximately 2,300 kids between the ages 5-19 who are not attending our schools.
Book every child should read by age 12: The Chronicles of Narnia, which can be read aloud to younger children and promote discussion about life lessons and problem solving.
What are you reading now? The Paleo Diet. Loren Cordain explores eating habits of our ancestors. Infidel– Ayan Hirsi Ali's autobiography about a Muslim woman’s journey through life.
Educational hero: All the committed teachers, staff, secretaries, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, social workers, counselors, volunteers and parents who support our children everyday.
Occupation: Associate professor of public policy, UVA (Miller Center & Batten School)
Pet peeve in education: The idea that there is a single, silver-bullet solution that will resolve all our problems. Also, the limits that testing puts on our best teachers.
Skills that make you suited to be on the School Board: I have a strong background in the history of public policy– helps me understand how we got where we are now– and how to move forward.
What do you do better than your opponents? By December, I’ll have 14 months of School Board experience. I’m a working parent of children at our highest poverty school. I know the challenges.
Best decision the School Board has made the past year: Buford as the 6-8 middle school. With the Aquatic Center and Boys & Girls Club, a renovated Buford will give us a first-class educational center and anchor the south side of Charlottesville.
Worst? I’m comfortable with most of our decisions. I might point to the decision to install the turf football field during the season, though there were good reasons to do it.
Book every child should read by age 12: Depends on the child– every kid is different. Education should recognize that, and help them find the book that turns them on to reading for life.
What are you reading now? The Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office, David Blumenthal and James Morone. Also, The Name of This Book Is Secret, Pseudonymous Bosch.
Educational hero: James Coleman and Dianne Ravitch– both of them were/are willing to criticize the prevailing wisdom of the moment.
Jennifer L. McKeever
Pet peeve in education: The test-driven environment that rewards success on a flawed test rather than educating and engaging children.
Skills that make you suited to be on the School Board: I am tenacious for an effective process that includes people who are not routinely involved in the decision making. I am also an effective negotiator among competing interest groups.
What do you do better than your opponents? I reach out to various constituencies to identify a range of solutions and collaborate on seemingly intractable problems to find common ground.
Best decision the School Board has made the past year: Implementing the most recent strategic plan with clear objectives and metrics to determine whether the objectives are being met.
Worst? I think the School Board should continue to meet twice a month.
Book every child should read by age 12: Any book that gets a child to read the next book!
What are you reading now? Multiple books, among them: The Mis-Education of the Negro and Elegance of the Hedgehog
Educational hero: My mom, Judy McKeever. While working multiple jobs and caring for two children, she went to school and obtained her nursing degree, ultimately lifting the family out of poverty with her degree.
Willa M. Neale
Occupation: Finance project manager/senior systems analyst, UVA Medical Center
Pet peeve in education: SOLs
Skills that make you suited to be on the School Board: Financial acumen and nine years of relationships with teachers, principals, PTO and Central Office.
What do you do better than your opponents? I combine professional business skills developed over two decades with the spirit and energy of a nine-year city school volunteer.
Best decision the School Board has made the past year: Renewing Rosa Atkins’ contract
Worst? Not obtaining enough input and buy-in from teacher, student and parent stakeholders before spending $2.4 million on tablet computers.
Book every child should read by age 12: Mother Goose, because every child needs to start early reading/listening. (My 11 and 13-year-old both said The Giver by Lois Lowry.)
What are you reading now? The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot, and a stack of education articles
Educational hero: My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Taylor-Williams. She took in a girl who transferred in with below-grade-level math and reading skills and turned her around!
Majority rule– Charlottesville City Council
Common wisdom says this race was decided in August when the Democrats nominated incumbent Satyendra Huja, School Board member Kathy Galvin, and Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan co-founder Dede Smith to fill the three open seats on Council.
That didn't stop the independents from lining up: low-profile candidate Scott Bandy, Socialist Brandon Collins, pro-dredger Bob Fenwick, and youthful insurance adjuster Andrew Williams.
Remember the perennial issues in Charlottesville and Albemarle? Well, the water supply plan continues to fire debate in the city, as does the impending construction of Charlottesville's portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway.
Just about every election cycle for City Council, a buzz campaign starts that independent and Republican supporters are going to "single shot" to break the Democratic hold on Council. That's a strategy of voting for only one candidate even if, as in this race, there are three open seats, because a vote for a majority Dem will cancel out a vote for a non-Dem.
This year, signs in yards for anti-dam candidates Bob Fenwick and Dede Smith are signaling to some a double-shot campaign.
On October 20, Fenwick endorsed Smith, who supported his independent campaign in 2009 and raised a few eyebrows because as a Democrat, she pledged to support only Dem candidates when she voted in the primary.
This year, Smith is sticking with the party line and declined to endorse Fenwick again. "I'm proud to be running as a Democrat on the ticket with Satyendra Huja and Kathy Galvin," she said in a release.
Nonetheless, a Fenwick-Smith ticket picked up a Sierra Club endorsement.
"I'm normally the poster child for voting for three Democrats," says Matt Rohdie, owner of Carpe Donut. "But there was some fishy stuff when the water plan emerged. I can't say how many people will single or double shot, but I'm working with a dozen people who are trying to put that in action."
The last time that may have worked was in 2002, when Republican Rob Schilling was elected to Council.
Paper trail– Charlottesville Clerk of Court
Normally a race about as exciting as Soil and Water Conservation (see below), this year has seen in the Democratic primary incumbent Paul Garrett voted out of the position he's held since 1981, with the nomination going to public defender/School Board member Llezelle Dugger.
That didn't stop distant third-place finisher Pam Melampy, a deputy clerk in Albemarle where her sister, Debbie Shipp, is the clerk of court, from running as an independent for the $112K-a-year job.
Soil and Water Conservation District– Albemarle
This little-known elected position puts two representatives from the county on the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District, which determines how to use millions of federal, state and local dollars to protect water quality and natural resources.
Usually not a hot race, this year three candidates are vying for two slots. Incumbent Steven Meeks faces challengers Lonnie Murray and Dave Norford.
Steven G. Meeks
Occupation: Property management, president Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, co-chair Celebrate 250.
Skills that makes you suited to be a soil and water conservationist: I can listen, observe, and lead on a local and a state level with a thorough knowledge of the district and utilizing a large statewide networking pool of talent.
What do you do better than your opponents? None are as well versed in the workings of the Soil and Water District because I have been in this position for 20 years.
Critical issue in Albemarle: The control and prevention of "nonpoint source" water pollution, specifically along impaired waterways.
Where do you go to enjoy soil and water in the county? Hatton Ferry
Occupation: Computer application developer, University of Virginia Health System
Skills that makes you suited to be a soil and water conservationist: As chair of the Albemarle County Natural Heritage Committee, I've used my skills as a naturalist to document some of our unique places and resources, and partnered with the Board of Supervisors to keep conservation a priority. As part of a farming family, I'm very familiar with the challenges facing local agriculture and the many programs that can help.
What do you do better than your opponents? As one of the founders of Charlottesville Earth Week, I've been a leader in local conservation issues and deeply engaged in advocating solutions that work, such as using native plants and biofilters to treat stormwater.
Critical issue in Albemarle: Preventing moonscapes and the burying of streams in the growth area at developments like Stonefield.
Where do you go to enjoy soil and water in the county? I enjoy gardening, hiking and exploring the biologically diverse southern Albemarle mountains around Batesville where I live with my wife, Sharon, and my daughter, Ariel.
Skills that makes you suited to be a soil and water conservationist: Worked with soil and water my entire life.
What do you do better than your opponents? Run a beef cattle farm that utilizes soil and water conservation programs
Critical issue in Albemarle: Reaching a balance between promoting agriculture and responsible growth while conserving our soil and water resources.
Where do you go to enjoy soil and water in the county? On my farm every day.
Free rides– the uncontested
These incumbents have no challengers and must be doing a really good job– or no one else thought they could unseat them.
Steve Landes– Delegate, 25th House District
Rob Bell– Delegate, 58th House District
Denise Lunsford– Commonwealth's Attorney, Albemarle
Chip Harding– Sheriff, Albemarle
Rich Collins– Soil and Water Conservation, Charlottesville
John Conover– Soil and Water Conservation, Charlottesville