School Board Candidates Running Unopposed

Karl Ackerman writes:

November 2009 marks the third election for the Charlottesville City School Board. Three members were elected in the first cycle in 2005 (Ned Michie, Juan Wade, and Leah Puryear), with six candidates running. Four members were elected in the second cycle in 2007 (Kathleen Galvin, Colette Blount, Llezelle Dugger, and Alvin Edwards), with seven candidates running. This year three slots are open and, to date (June 9th is the closing date for nominating petitions), there are only three candidates running for the three open positions—the three incumbents: Michie, Wade, and Puryear.

When they declared their candidacies earlier in the spring they announced that they were running as a team.

Our School Board elections are non-partisan. When candidates (especially incumbents) run as a team, they effectively skirt this provision by making it nearly impossible for a single candidate to win.

I don’t think Michie, Wade, and Puryear teamed up with the goal of limiting their opposition. But this is what they have effectively done.

The School Board is a tough job. It needs to be an elected job so that voters have a measure of accountability that was missing with an appointed School Board, and led to a number of terrible decisions in Charlottesville (the “pairing” of Walker and Buford, the hiring of Scottie Griffin as superintendent). How to get good people to run for this job? I think School Board members themselves need to take an active role recruiting their successors. Michie, Wade, and Puryear haven’t done that. By running as a team they have effectively shut out the competition.

I think their move will weaken the authority of Superintendent Rosa Atkins just at the moment when she needs a great deal of community input and, ultimately, support to bring about the many changes, including possibly closing a school, called for by the recent efficiency review.

If anybody wants to run for Charlottesville City School Board—or better yet, three people who might consider running as a team—please give me a call. I’ m sure many folks in Charlottesville would love to see us avoid a Soviet-style election come November.

I haven’t followed this race at all, but if these three candidates wind up running unopposed, that certainly doesn’t wouldn’t support the notion that elected school boards would lead to vigorous competition and thus a better school board. Candidates should never go unopposed in a general election, I don’t care who they are.

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