Southampton school board seats for the taking

Published 10:10 am Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Southampton County Public School Board Selection Commission hosted a public meeting on Tuesday morning in advance of its upcoming decision regarding the ending terms of the Berlin-Ivor and Franklin-Hunterdale seats held by Florence Reynolds and Lynn Bradley, respectively. Each is actively seeking reappointment, and had a number of people speak on their behalf.

Both women are opposed in their bid to return, as Christopher Cornwell (Berlin-Ivor) and Mary Ann Turner (Franklin-Hunterdale) seek to unseat the incumbents. Not much is known about the candidates other than what they personally noted in their introductory comments, however, as Tuesday was the first time that the members of the selection commission met with those in the running.

Cornwell, a lifelong resident of Southampton County and 1998 graduate of Southampton High School, presented a few hundred signatures from teachers, staff members, business owners and other county residents who are “eager for a change” on the school board.

“This is one of the more humbling experiences that I have been a part of, and for their support, I am eternally grateful and blessed,” he said. “Three of my main reasons, their names are Christopher, Tristain and Sawyer. Two of which are enrolled at Nottoway Elementary School, where I find myself almost every day to lend support to them and their teachers in any way I possibly can. My third son will soon join them.

“I’m no stranger to serving others, and, most notably, I’ve been a firefighter for more than half of my life. The selfless, sometimes thankless responsibilities I’m faced with on the job are values I cherish and wish to pass on to my boys. What better way to contribute to their future and subsequently the future of our community and the children of it than having the opportunity to more directly work with the men and women of the school system?”

Turner, a 1999 graduate of Southampton High School, noted that her successful landscaping business and involvement with her two children at Riverdale Elementary School gives her sufficient experience and knowledge to help her improve the school system.

“I’m very involved with the classes, attending parties or attending anything else that goes on there. I’m pretty much there every day,” Turner said. “My husband and I have run our own business since 2002 and have enjoyed watching it grow. I feel like these experiences allow me to make sound decisions and make our schools the best that they can be.

“I would like to work with the board, personnel and patrons to continue the success of the school system by bringing new ideas to make it grow and become a model for other schools to envy. I believe the key issue for Southampton County Public Schools is to create a long-term vision, mapping a course that provides opportunities necessary for students to reach their full potential.”

Mandy Hall, president of the Parent-Teacher Association at Nottoway Elementary School, spoke highly of Turner.

“I’ve known Mary Ann since we were both in high school, and I can attest to her outstanding moral aptitude and character,” Hall said. “As a fellow parent, I have seen Mary Ann display excellent communication skills with teachers, students and other parents. She has the ability to help our school system reach its maximum potential.”

Hall added that she was not a proponent of nor considered Turner’s nomination as “change for the sake of change,” something that Bradley, Reynolds and their supporters urged the commission to consider during their selection with the county and school’s budgetary situation.

“I think we need experience and new ideas, and right now, I think we have a good balance of that,” said school board member Donna Roundtree. “Some of us that are newer on the board are learning from the people who have board for 20-plus years. I feel that’s a plus, and I’d really hate to see that change.”

Board member Carolyn Modlin agreed, saying, “It’s been a difficult spring with the budget — the most difficult that I’ve ever seen. It’s been interesting to see how Lynn and Florence have worked with Dr. Parrish and the county on trying to figure out what to do. Because of the difficulty with the budget and the belt-tightening we’ve had to do … I think if there’s ever been a time that we’ve needed stability on the board and clear thinking, it’s probably right now. We need the same team working together to get through the situation just because it’s such a difficult time.”

Bradley, 58, is seeking her second term, while Reynolds, 74, looks to return for her ninth.

Southampton County Public Schools is among 24 of Virginia’s 134 school districts where voters do not choose school board members. Instead, its the selection commission comprised of past chairman Wayne Cosby, chairman-elect Mark Hodges and Larry Rose. Hodges was appointed to the position on Tuesday. Their decision will be presented on Tuesday, June 16, at 11 a.m in the school board offices, 21308 Plank Road, Courtland.