Surry School Board candidates share views in pre-election survey

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: October 31, 2019 | 3:45 p.m. 

SURRY – Ahead of the November 2019 General Election, The Sussex-Surry Dispatch afforded candidates in contested races the opportunity to take part in a short questionnaire where they could all answer the same questions and have their responses printed for prospective voters.

Candidates received the questions during the same 24-hour window earlier this month with a deadline of October 17 at 5 p.m. for their responses to be returned. The questionnaire was distributed to candidates digitally and sent to the email addresses that were on file in recent Virginia Department of Elections candidate records. If a candidate did not have an email address listed, phone calls were made to the candidates to request their email address so they could receive the questionnaire.

Below are the unedited answers of the Surry School Board candidates who took part in the questionnaire and provided their responses by the October 17 deadline.

1 – Why are you running and/or seeking re-election to local office?

Sue Fibish – Carsley District: My desire to run for a position on the Surry School Board began four years ago when I volunteered to restart the PTO (Parent Teachers Organization) as President at the Elementary School. Having custody of my grandchildren, who have attended the schools since Kindergarten, helped in this decision to serve the schools. Talking with the residents in Carsley, learning what is most important to them in our schools gave me fresh perspective when looking at the current and the future of our schools. My campaign logo is a schoolhouse with the school board as the foundation, supporting every aspect of the schools. This team is a very powerful governing body determining the direction that the schools take. With this foundation, the leadership of our teachers, the engagement of the parents and the partnership with our community, our students will succeed.

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Marion Wilkins – Carsley District: I have been involved in education for 35 years in various capacities (teacher, administrator, superintendent). Serving as a member of the Surry County School Board for the past 8 years has given me the opportunity to use some of these experiences to continue my involvement in education and serve my community.

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Lorraine Davis – Dendron District: As a former graduate of Surry County High School, I am running for School Board because of my desire to want to give back to the community. I was influenced even more to do so when I was approached by concerned citizens to seek the position in efforts to promote positive change within the community.

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Faye Clark Perkins – Dendron District: I am running for this position because of the hands-on experience that I bring to the table. I currently serve on the Dendron Town Council on the budget committee. I was previously elected to the Brunswick County School Board as vice-chairperson, where I served on the budget and personnel committee and was also appointed to the Governors’ School of Southside Virginia. I previously served as Director of Head Start for Surry, Sussex and surrounding counties, wherein I overseen the curriculum and assessed the children’s outcomes and needs. In this position, I was responsible for a 2.5 million dollar budget. I also have years of experience in human resources, finance, budgeting, hiring & firing, and laws related to all aspects of that process. Additionally, I also have experience in grant writing, strategic plans, and comprehensive outcomes and goals. Finally, with the support I have from the current school board member that serves in this district and the repore that I have with Delegates and Senators, I feel that this will be a plus for the School Board, and the county as a whole.

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Harold Jones – Surry District: I still have a desire to serve on the school board to help ensure that the county students can obtain a world class education. This is why I’m seeking reelection.

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Valencia Jones Williams – Surry District: I am running for school board because I feel that it is the best way to help address some of the issues of Surry schools that I have experienced either as a parent or have heard about as a provider in and member of our community.

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2 – What do you feel is the most pressing issue for Surry County Public Schools and how will you address it?

Fibish – Carsley: The leadership of teachers, parent involvement and the partnership with the community are all equally important when it comes to the future of our students.

It is important to support our teachers as they teach our children the skills needed to succeed but is owed to our teachers to re-evaluate their compensation, specifically reviewing the Health Insurance. The School Boards goal in 2018 was to support volunteering in the schools. Allowing parents to be involved is the best way to know how their student is doing and to partner with the teacher. The Surry residents voiced the need for more community involvement. Former students were glad to hear that Vocational classes were offered for those who will not attending college or universities but, suggested having local apprenticeships so more graduates stay in Surry. Homeschooler parents know the Virginia Department of Education encourages partnerships and allows each school board to decide if they will collaborate with the home school student. I believe that finding ways to partner with these students and families will make it a stronger community. Better use of the resources Surry already has in place, such as the Office on Youth Mentoring Program, will help the students succeed.

Wilkins – Carsley: The most pressing issue for Surry County Public Schools is the hiring of a superintendent. The hiring of a superintendent is one of the most important tasks of a school board. Selecting the “best” superintendent for Surry County Public Schools will be challenging. All board members play an important role in this process.

Davis – Dendron: I feel that the most pressing issue is that of teacher retention as is in so many other divisions. To address the issue, I’d look forward to working closely and collaboratively with Board Members and the Division Superintendent to re-evaluate the existing pay scale and consider approving incentive programs that would possibly attract highly qualified professionals.

Perkins – Dendron: The Surry County School Board continues to do an awesome job and has made great strides in the education system. Consequently, the data does indicate that the enrollment rate has dropped; therefore, the school system receives a reduced rate of funding. They are already aware of this situation so I want to work with them to devise a comprehensive strategic plan to address this issue. We have to look at the economic development of the county and work alongside the Board of Supervisors and county officials. Finally, I will be contacting the senators and delegates for support and suggestions.

Jones – Surry: We have a decreasing student body. This requires working with county officials to create opportunities to live in the county.

Williams – Surry: I feel that the lack of retention of our teachers and our students from year to year is our most pressing issue. Improving our retention rates will be achieved by employing the priorities stated below and by working together with our board of supervisors to ensure that these priorities are implemented.

3 – If elected/re-elected, what are some of your priorities once in office?

Fibish – Carsley: First, this candidate would focus and set as a priority to review the teacher and other support staff compensation. It is important to work on getting them back on the reported salary scale, so those who have been working, for example: 19 years will be compensated appropriately at the 19-year scale level. This would then be followed by a review of their health insurance and other benefits. Second, I would focus on developing partnerships within the community collaborating with community businesses such as our Electricians, Plumbers, Carpenters, Heating and AC, Automotive shops, and Farmers in apprenticeship programs. As our students take advantage of classes at Vo-Tech will increase the chances of our students staying here in Surry and growing our community stronger. Thirdly, but not least, I would focus on partnering with our homeschooled children here in Surry. Currently Surry County has 124 home-schooled families who pay taxes for public education, but are not permitted to take advantage of the sports, advanced classes in high school and/or Vo Tech. I believe that finding ways to partner with these students and families will make it a stronger community.

Wilkins – Carsley: Some of my priorities are: to provide a rigorous academic program, to continue to expand our career and technical education offerings, to rebuild our music program (instrumental and vocal), to recruit and retain a highly qualified staff, and to offer competitive salaries and benefits.

Davis – Dendron: If elected, with students being the number one priority, I would focus on addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and will collaboratively work with the Board and Superintendent to approve programs that would assist students and teachers with dealing with such experiences. Today, even more so than before, children are faced with so many challenges and they experience trauma from negative childhood experiences. This in turn affects the whole child and impacts the child’s social and emotional development. Academics are affected and the overall success of a child becomes compromised. To continue to build a productive community, we have to put “Children First.” After all the children are our future. More positive community involvement would also be a priority as the school division continues to strive for success amongst all. As previously mentioned, because I believe teacher retention is an issue, it would also be a priority as solutions and recommendations are pursued.

Perkins – Dendron: Since my theme is “ Building Upon and Enhancing” I look forward to working with the school board to continue the great legacy that is already in place. One of my priorities will be visiting the enrollment status.

Jones – Surry: Support the increase of technical education to be offered to students as a career path.

Williams – Surry: My priorities as a school board member include providing no charge lunch for all students; initiating bi-annual surveys for completion by all students, parents, teachers, and administrators in order to aid in establishing measurable goals for Surry schools and to improve accountability; establishing a step-based salary system for all employees of Surry schools; making more skill-based vocational training available to our students; fostering more student, parent, teacher, staff, and alumni participation in sports, clubs, and organizations; and live streaming of board meetings.

4 – What are some examples of your commitment (personal and professional) to the community?

Fibish – Carsley: I have been in Nursing for 34 years receiving my Master’s from Liberty University, a Bachelor’s in Organizational Management and Leadership from Regent University and for fun, an Associate’s in Automotive Technology (which has come in handy several times). I’m certified as a Faith Community Nurse, volunteering to educate the public on stroke risk while working as the Neuroscience Program Coordinator and a Disease Specific Reviewer for stroke programs in hospitals state-wide for the Joint Commission. My role as a Reviewer is to ensure “Standards of Care” required by CMS (Center for Medicare Services) are met for each stroke survivor. In the same manner that I ensure best outcomes for stroke survivors, I will use this strength to ensure the policies and procedures are followed to provide best outcomes for our students. I am vested in and committed to the school system with raising my grandchildren here in Surry. I believe that School Board members should be visible at all county/community meetings including the Youth Citizens Meetings, Board of Supervisors and spend time in the schools greeting students, talking with teachers and parents, as we seek out ways to advance our schools and promote great education for our students.

Wilkins – Carsley: My personal commitment to my community include: a member of Jerusalem Baptist Church, member of Loving Hope No.9, O.E.S., a charter member of the Surry County Lions Club, Project Joy volunteer, former member of District 19 Community Services Board, and former volunteer at the Surry Area Free Clinic. I am chairperson of the Head Start Education Committee, school board representative for the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School (board and executive board), and school board representative for the Hampton Roads Educational Telecommunications Association (HRETA) Advisory Committee. I am also a member of the Surry County Retired Educators Association.

Davis – Dendron: Some examples of my commitment to the community include being a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission; serving as a past president of the Parent Teacher Association (P.T.A.) of Surry County High School; participating in the town’s “Clean-up Day;” assisting with the Leroy Butler Gospel Hour Scholarships provided to Surry High School Seniors; being an active member of First Baptist Church in Dendron. Personally, as an educator as well as a parent, I have assisted many children in the Surry Community with striving for and attaining their desired goals beyond education at either a post-secondary level or with successfully entering the workforce.

Perkins – Dendron: My commitment personal and profession is the fact that I have worked almost 30 years in coordinating administrative, as well as, community services in Surry and surrounding areas. I was born and raised in Surry County, attended the public schools, and I have a lot of family in this area. Additionally, I currently serve on the Dendron Town Council.

Jones – Surry: I work with other service organizations to showcase student achievements. An example is working with the Surry ruritans to recognize art contributed by students.

Williams – Surry: My commitment to Surry began years ago, playing softball with a local team, though I was in college. Also, despite not having children in SCHS at the time, I continued to support SCHS programs and teams. That commitment continues to this day. During my residency and early years as a practitioner, I volunteered for the Surry Free Clinic. Currently, I volunteer as a board member for Friends of Surry Schools, Inc., as a youth recreational basketball coach since 2012, and am a member of Surry County Democratic Committee.

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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