Senate kills Southampton school board selection bill

Published 9:47 am Friday, February 15, 2013

RICHMOND—A Senate committee on Thursday voted 15-0 to table a bill to allow Southampton County supervisors to choose school board members.

“That means it’s dead,” said Del. Rick Morris, R-Carrollton, who introduced the legislation approved 98-0 by the House on Feb. 1.

The bill was aimed at changing a more than 20-year-old practice that allows three county residents to pick Southampton’s school board. Southampton is one of three school districts in Virginia that allows the process.

Speaking on Thursday against the bill for a second time this week were Southampton Public School Superintendent Dr. Alvera Parrish and School Board President Chris Smith.

Both also appeared before the Senate Education and Health Committee on Monday. The only two members present then — including State Sen. Harry Blevins, R-Chesapeake, who represents Western Tidewater — voted to kill the bill.

On Tuesday it was determined the Senate committee did not have a quorum, so the matter was heard again on Thursday.

Parrish and Smith opposed the bill because they didn’t hear about it until last week. Parrish also said the change would no longer allow voters to change the process by placing a referendum on the ballot. Signatures from 10 percent of the registered voters in Southampton County would be required.

“The citizens can go forward with the referendum,” Morris said after Thursday’s vote.

He continues to believe in the democratic process and doesn’t believe any government should not be held accountable to the voters.

Morris has no regrets.

“It’s being discussed in the community,” he said. “It was nothing derogatory against the superintendent and school board. They are very fine people. My problem is only with the process.”

Parrish could not be reached for comment.

Until 1991, school boards in Virginia were appointed. A year later, the General Assembly gave localities the option of having voters elect school board members. That’s now the practice in all but 24 of the state’s 134 school districts.

In Franklin, the city council chooses the school board, and in Isle of Wight County, the voters.