With Eight Open Seats, Makeup of Board Shifting
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Next week, the School Board will change very little, or drastically.
Technically, the board's membership will transform just slightly. Two of the board's eight open seats are being contested, and one of those races features a well-known incumbent.
From a broader perspective, the School Board will lose a fundamental component, because 16-year member and Chairman Lucy S. Beauchamp is running for Prince William County clerk of the court. Beauchamp, who won three countywide elections, has served as the public face of the School Board and is credited with helping the school system navigate years of rapid growth alongside late Superintendent Edward L. Kelly.
Milton C. Johns, a School Board member representing the Brentsville District, is running unopposed for Beauchamp's at-large chairman seat.
In Neabsco, board member Julie C. Lucas, the owner of a financial services company, is being challenged by Belkacem Hacene-Djaballah, who runs an independent foreign language school, and Manes Pierre, a former Prince William teacher who recently has come under public scrutiny after it was revealed that the School Board did not renew his contract this year because of internal investigations into his aggressive interactions with teachers and students.
For Lucas, some of the bigger challenges are raising Prince William's SAT scores, getting rid of trailers at crowded schools and boosting the standardized test scores of students whose first language is not English.
Asked whether she thinks Prince William should test students in Spanish, as other districts have proposed, Lucas said: "I think students should learn English and should be tested in English."
Critics have questioned her loyalty to the school system, after she started the year running for a seat in the House of Delegates but dropped out after she lost the Republican nomination.
Lucas deflects the negative buzz, saying the statewide office "would have been an incredible opportunity do more for public education."
Pierre, who was born in Haiti, said he wants the School Board to make it easier for employees, parents and students to voice concerns.
"There is a tendency to turn the School Board into a country club where the feedback of teachers is not always welcome," Pierre said. "We cannot have a progressive School Board where teachers, students and citizens are discouraged from sharing their views."
He said he wants to reduce the teacher turnover rate by boosting salaries and shrinking the number of administrators.