With less than a week until Election Day, one group of races to keep an eye on is that for the open seats on the Roanoke County School Board.
This November, eight candidates are vying for four open seats on the Board.
The seats for the Catawba, Hollins, Vinton and Windsor Hills districts are up for election.
Here’s a look at who voters in those districts will see on the ballot:
- Catawba: Dr. Deneen Evans, Brent Hudson and Greg Irby
- Hollins: One-term incumbent David Linden and Jerry Canada
- Vinton: Incumbent Tim Greenway
- Windsor Hills: One-plus-term incumbent Jason Moretz and Cheryl Facciani
10 News reached out to the seven individuals running in contested races to ask about their motives for running, their top priorities if elected and their thoughts on the unprecedented challenges brought on by COVID-19 and several other issues.
Below are the responses from Facciani and Moretz, the two candidates looking to represent the Windsor Hills District:
Why are you running for a seat on the Roanoke County School Board? If elected, what will be your top three priorities?
Facciani: When the pandemic hit, I started to pay more attention, like many other mothers, to what was happening in our schools and on our school boards. My concern grew as I watched our children’s learning loss increase from the shutdowns. The shutdowns helped many of us realize that there were large differences in students’ home environments with regards to technology, home-life responsibility, food stability, emotional, social and mental health access and educational support. I knew I could stand up for those who could not.
In no particular order, my top three priorities include:
- Address unfinished learning through innovative programs and platforms which encourage positive outcomes optimizing student performance.
- Create a task force to examine, assess and address current teacher salaries allowing for RCPS salaries to be competitive thereby retaining and attracting new teachers.
- Review and refine current plans for the Arnold Burton Arts and Technology Center (BCAT) with emphasis on monitoring the progress of the Citizen’s Committee, update of the current capital improvements program due in January 2022, and expansion of capital improvements program to multi-year program in consonance with the Roanoke County’s intentions. I’m especially interested in the citizen’s concept for BCAT. I intend to play an active part in the long-run school infrastructure development, use of VA state and federal funding and optimization of grants for funding. I will establish and maintain close ongoing communications with the Windsor Hills constituency through scheduled quarterly meetings with citizens, creating and maintaining a small advisory group composed of members of the Windsor Hills community stakeholders.
Moretz: As a businessman, husband of a life-long educator and father of two RCPS students, what is occurring in the RCPS system is of great importance to me. I am proud of what I have accomplished during my six years on the board:
- Largest one-year salary adjustment in RCPS history
- Voted every year to increase teacher pay
- Restored nurses to full-time status
- Introduced life counselors to help students with social and emotional health needs
- Reinstated benefits to our bus drivers
Moving forward, my top three priorities include; retaining and recruiting high-quality educators to RCPS, construction of a new Burton Center and working with the BOS to update our existing funding formula.
Is there a specific policy you want to change in your school district?
Facciani: Currently, I do not believe there are any particular policy changes that need to be made at this time. Our school board has made a statement saying that Critical Race Theory is not being taught in our classrooms and that all students are treated equally regardless of their genders. My goal is to make sure these policies stay consistent while maintaining core traditional values.
Moretz: I would like to work with the BOS to update our existing funding formula so more dollars flow into our school system. Removing the ADM (average daily membership) from the formula would be a great start. While the number of students RCPS serves has slightly decreased over the past several years, operating costs have increased.
What would you like to see improved in the Roanoke County education system?
Facciani: I would like to see BCAT improved and optimized for our community. BCAT is an economic-education engine with the untapped potential to drive our community to become better and stronger. Our BCAT Citizens Advisory Committee will do an excellent job investigating our options and developing a sound plan. Solar Energy buildings funded by grants show excellent potential. There are a lot of moving parts, but I’m confident that I have the necessary leadership skills, common sense attitude and a solid working relationship that is needed to work with the Board of Supervisors to propel this amazing project forward in the right direction.
Moretz: We need to ensure that our schools are updated on a regular basis. The Burton Center is long overdue for replacement, and I’m happy that our counterparts on the BOS have recognized this. We are currently working with the BOS to come up with other funding options and have established a citizens committee to help us achieve this goal. We also have two elementary schools (Cundiff and Glen Cove) that still have open classroom concepts that are not a good learning environment for our students.
What will be your financial priorities as a board member?
Facciani: Priority should be given to environmental quick fixes in HVAC to improve airflow, dust mitigation and other health-oriented changes as well as improving the use of multi-purpose outdoor spaces.
Moretz: We need to focus on teacher salaries and retaining our existing employees. We also need to focus on attracting talented teachers/staff to RCPS. I would like us to develop a tuition assistance program for our Instructional Assistants/Paraprofessionals in order to further their professional goals. These employees are already invested in our school division. Training classified staff to become teachers is one way we can recruit new teachers and address teacher shortages in hard-to-fill positions.
What do you feel is the best way to address the challenges caused by COVID-19 on students, staff and faculty?
Facciani: We need to continue to seek the guidance of doctors and specialists to make sure we are continuing to follow the guidelines and safety precautions in place so that we can make sure our schools are the safest places to learn.
Moretz: The bottom line is that I believe in our teachers and administrators. Our teachers have always differentiated within their classrooms. Learning loss is not new. We have always experienced learning loss from the “summer slump.” Yes, learning loss from COVID-19 is more significant, but we need to trust in the professionalism of our teachers and staff. They are on the front lines and I look forward to hearing their recommendations on how we can best support the needs they are seeing within their buildings and classrooms.
If you would like to hear from the candidates in the Hollins District, click here.
Click here to see the responses from the candidates competing for the Catawba District seat.