- Special Sections
- Public Notices
HILLSVILLE — Two candidates who sought election to represent the Fancy Gap District on the Carroll County School Board two years ago will compete for the office again in the Nov. 5 general election.
Incumbent Joey Haynes has been challenged by Phillip Berrier, the former school board member who lost to Haynes in a four-way race in 2011.
Some of the campaigning has brought up decisions made in connection with the countywide school improvement program, particularly improvements at the high school and the grade structure at St. Paul School.
Running unopposed for re-election to the school board are Laurel Fork representative Sandy Hendrick and Pipers Gap representative Brian Spencer.
School board races are non-partisan.
Berrier, as a former educator, school board member and businessman, believes he’s the right candidate to make decisions about Carroll County Public Schools as state and federal governments try to tighten their control on local education.
To Berrier, the federal “Race to the Top” program looks like a bid to take the majority of decisions away from local governments.
The best candidate for the job will be the one with experience and bold ideas on the local level in order to keep the school division performing well.
“We need leaders who can interpret our needs and implement strategies to meet those needs,” Berrier said in a written statement about his candidacy. “I believe I’m the right candidate to move our schools forward during these perilous times.”
Carroll educational leaders need to have a vision in order to meet the challenges of the future and keep the school system strong.
“I will do this within my conservative philosophy of a small government that does not break the budget or cause major increases in taxes,” Berrier said.
Though the federal government only contributes about 10 percent of the funds needed by the Carroll schools, it seems the feds want to control most of the local school board’s decisions, he said.
“Carroll County and Virginia needs to oppose the ‘common core curriculum’ dictated by our federal bureaucracy,” Berrier said in his written statement. “This will eliminate creativity, innovation and quality teaching. And we will surely lose local control of our educational system!”
If elected to office, he would concentrate on implementing the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) academy and work to hire highly qualified teachers and keep the good ones that Carroll already has.
“I think teachers are the key to a good school system,” he said. “We’ve had great teachers — it comes down to that relationship between the teachers and students.”
Both quality teachers and a strong STEM program will better prepare students for the world of work.
In terms of recent grade structure decisions, especially those involving whether sixth and seventh graders should stay at St. Paul or attend the middle school in Hillsville, Berrier shared his opposition to transferring all the middle school students in Cana to the Carroll County Middle School at a public hearing on the matter.
St. Paul serves as a central place in the Cana community, and Berrier does not want to see more changes there. He said he never would have voted as a school board member to cause such a move.
“This will diminish St. Paul’s importance in shaping our young students’ lives in the manner desired by the parents of the Fancy Gap District,” Barrier wrote. “This will place a hardship on these parents as they travel up and down the mountain to the middle school.”
He believes this wasn’t what Cana parents wanted for their children, but the idea was pushed by current school leaders.
“I would have fought to keep the students down there,” he said. “That’s why the school was enlarged — to have an eighth grade there.”
About the Phase III construction project, the school system could have carried out the efforts better if it had gotten the $27 million it sought. In the end, they had to pare down the projects to fit the $15 million in funding they could get.
“I mean, nobody on that board was satisfied with what we got,” he said about the end result.
If elected to the school board, Berrier promised to make sure the Fancy Gap District schools receive their fair share of school funds.
Berrier promised to listen to parents and teachers about matters of concern that effect students. He described himself as favoring open debate and promised to avoid working in secret on ideas.
“Never will I represent a faction or group who has ulterior motives,” he wrote. “I will represent everyone fairly, be you rich or poor, employer or employee, politically connected or the low man on the totem pole.
“I will treat everyone fair and square without any prejudice, and my door will always be open to listen to your concerns.”
Incumbent Joey Haynes ran in 2011 due to his dissatisfaction with the school construction program and difficulties that the prior planning created.
As soon as the construction work wrapped up on the expansions at the high school in order to add the ninth grade there, Carroll County officials had to spend money to replace the heating and air conditioning system, and other needs remain.
Haynes doesn’t like how students have to traipse between the free-standing field house and the main facility for classes. Plus, the high school really needs a second gym to accommodate all the students there.
The high school is now crowded, the gym is overwhelmed, a planned “ninth grade academy” couldn’t be built and funds for the HVAC replacement weren’t there. Yet the prior school board, one that Berrier served on, moved forward with that phase of construction anyway, Haynes said.
People of the Fancy Gap District were disappointed with the decisions to spend money on things like the new high school entrance instead of replacing the aging heating and cooling system.
Phase III of the construction project at the high school cost $14 million and still resulted in “overcrowding and the need for additional construction and spending while ignoring urgent infrastructure needs,” as Haynes put it.
“An area of continued concern for me is the arrangement approved by Mr. Berrier’s board for moving ninth graders to CCHS,” he said in a written statement. “Under their plan, ninth grade students walk to and from the field house to the main building each day. Not only is this a problem during inclement weather, but also poses a significant ongoing safety and security concern. “
The current school board has worked with what it has. “Generally, I think with what we had coming out of Phase III, our staff has really pulled together to make it work,” Haynes said.
The Fancy Gap representative denied an assertion that St. Paul has been weakened or neglected by recent decisions of the school board. Haynes added that the school board action allowed parents to decide if their children should stay at St. Paul or make the transfer.
At the same time, St. Paul remains a strong institution of learning in Cana.
“St. Paul’s a school that’s having funds invested in it,” he said, such as getting a new roof and being studied for installation of more energy efficient wood pellet-fired boilers. “There’s no discussion about closing St. Paul. It’s not being gutted or having funds taken away from it.”
Haynes thinks of himself as a parent of a student that has been affected by these decisions in his work on the school board.
He compared these educational efforts to his work with youth as an attorney serving as a “guardian ad litem” for the courts.
A guardian ad litem is appointed to represent the best interest of children, investigate cases and make recommendations to the court.
“That’s the best work that I do — I’m always on the right side when I’m helping kids,” Haynes said.
In the last two years, Haynes feels this school board has done a lot to repair relations with the county supervisors, who continue to fund schools at more than the minimum state requirements.
School divisions face continuing challenges as state and federal governments create new unfunded mandates.
Carroll County schools need to remain ambitious in offering good programs, like dual credit courses in which youths can earn both high school and college credits at the same time.
Haynes feels that this school board has returned the schools to an open decision process that welcomes input from parents and staff. The school board changed its meeting and public comment times to better accommodate citizens’ busy schedules.
“I feel like I’m in the place where I need to be,” Haynes said. “I hope my constituents are satisfied with the job I’ve done since they put me in office two years ago.”