This news release just came across my desk, courtesy of Charlottesville City Councilor Rob Schilling:
CHARLOTTESVILLE ELECTED SCHOOL BOARD REFERENDUM
QUALIFIES FOR NOVEMBER 8 BALLOT
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA, August 9, 2005 – Charlottesville General Registrar Sheri Iachetta has certified a referendum for an Elected School Board for the November 8, 2005, general election ballot. For ballot placement, as required by Virginia State Code, 10 percent of the registered voters in the city of Charlottesville have signed the Petition of Qualified Voters for Referendum.
The certified referendum language will appear on the ballot as follows: “Shall the method of selecting the school board be changed from appointment by the governing body to direct election by the voters?”
Jeffrey Rossman, a University of Virginia professor and the initiator of the referendum petition, applauded the grassroots effort of scores of volunteers who gathered signatures over the past six weeks.
“Thanks to the hard work of our dedicated volunteers, voters will have an opportunity to decide in November if Charlottesville should transition gradually from an appointed to an elected school board,” Rossman said. “Judging from the response to the petition, a majority of Democrats, Independents and Republicans believe that the city should do what 78 percent of other Virginia localities do, and elect its school board.”
City Councilor Rob Schilling, who worked alongside Rossman to coordinate the referendum effort, was pleased with the broad-based community support for an elected school board.
“This is a nonpartisan issue with multipartisan support,” Schilling said. “From Primary Day forward, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians and Republicans have worked side-by-side, knocking on doors and canvassing public gatherings. It’s been our collective experience that over 80 percent of those approached to sign the petition, favored an elected school board for Charlottesville.”
Both Rossman and Schilling look forward to the educational benefits an elected board will bring to Charlottesville.
“Evidence from across the state indicates that elected school boards function well and are responsive to the concerns of the community,” Rossman said. “An elected school board will reflect the priorities of our community, and our community is committed to excellence, fairness and diversity.”
“An elected school board encourages innovation and active public participation in the educational policy process,” Schilling said. “Direct public accountability will help to promote greater achievement for all students in our City schools.”
Resident-volunteers collected over 3,000 signatures in support of Charlottesville’s Elected School Board referendum.
The news release fails to mention that the General Registrar's office stopped counting signatures at the required 2,331 (10 percent of registered voters as of January 1, 2005), which indicated a validity rate of about 85 percent, a remarkable accomplishment for unpaid, volunteer petition circulators. Perhaps this lacuna is best explained by the modesty of the petition organizers, who deserve congratulations for this achievement, especially considering their original aim was to collect the signatures of 10 percent of active voters (or just over 2,100), until they learned the correct number was the higher figure of registered voters.