School board should welcome new ideas, but content with status quo

Published 11:30 am Saturday, June 13, 2015

This weekend, the Southampton County Public School Board Selection Commission is set to review the resumes of the four individuals in the running for two expiring seats on the school board. Two are highly known, well-respected members of the school community, hoping to return to their places for a second and ninth term, respectively. The others are relatively unknown outside of the elementary school their children attend, where they claim to be almost every day.

Standing in front of the selection commission, Superintendent Dr. Alvera J. Parrish and other members of the Southampton County school board, all four made convincing speeches about why they should be selected. They each professed their love for the school from which they — or their children — graduated; spoke about what they’d like to implement during their four-year term; and concluded with their their accolades. But even opposed, it is a near certainty that Florence Reynolds and Lynn Bradley will retain their positions.

Reynolds, who represents the Berlin-Ivor District, has served or still serves in a number of positions that affect children including, but not limited to, being a teacher, representing the board on the gifted and talented committee and holding the chair of discipline committee. She said that she also volunteers her time to read to children at Nottoway Elementary, served as a science fair judge, was instrumental in starting the summer school program and credits herself for starting the school’s honor graduates program.

While Reynolds would have a difficult time creating a one-page resume preferred by most employers, she’s more than qualified for the position.

Bradley, on the other hand, did not feel the need to list or sell those in attendance on her accomplishments. Instead, the Franklin-Hunterdale representative chose to let her supporters speak for her. None of them said why Bradley should be able to serve another term, but each pleaded for stability and seemingly regurgitated how change for the sake of change could have negative consequences during the current budgetary crisis.

Now, I don’t believe that the other candidates are qualified enough to be named to the school board, nor do I feel like they are running for the position for anything other than the future of their children; they are simply the type of people that you’d like to see stand up and offer new ideas during citizen’s comment period. But if someone more qualified than Christopher Cornwell and Mary Ann Turner decided to run for the position, would the board be unwilling to change? Would they be receptive to the new ideas that person could bring?

Quite frankly, this apathy toward change is what is holding the Southampton County Public School system back. It’s one reason that the district is one of only three in Virginia that does not allow the county’s residents to vote in the election process of its board members and puts the decision in the hands of an unelected body of three.

If the administration and its current board members care as much about the welfare of the children and making the school district as competitive as they say they are, opening their respective seats to a real election would be the first step.

At Tuesday’s public hearing, Cornwell joked that one of the most asked questions he received while he sought signatures was, “Why would you ever run for the Southampton County school board?”

Yes, Christopher, why would you? You never had a shot to begin with.

Andrew Lind is a staff writer at The Tidewater News. He can be reached at 562-3187 or