Friday, October 14, 2005

Maybe I'm Naïve?

The local TV stations -- WVIR Channel 29 and WCAV Channel 19 -- had reports on their 11:00 o'clock news broadcasts about a forum that discussed the referendum for an elected school board in Charlottesville. Neither report has reached the stations' web sites, however, but I did find this blurb on WINA-AM radio's site:

A Thursday night forum brought out the pros and cons of an elected city school board. The issue will be decided by Charlottesville voters on November 8th. Former county supervisor Charles Martin spoke in favor of keeping appointed school boards. Martin says an elected board would cut down on the number of people willing to serve. He says many people don't realize the time and expense that must be devoted to campaigning. Martin also says changing the system could create bad blood between the school board and city council when a board member promises something that the city can't fund. UVA faculty member Jeffrey Rossman supports elected school boards. Rossman says diversity would continue with an elected board. He points out that African- American candidates received the most votes in the city council elections of 1996, 2000 and 2004. Rossman says an elected board would be more responsive to the needs of the community.
WINA continues to note, without details, that the local chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) has endorsed an elected school board and is urging people to vote "yes" on the referendum.

Fortunately, some details were available through a news release distributed by Citizens for an Elected School Board, the organization led by UVA faculty member Jeffrey Rossman and Charlottesville City Councilor Rob Schilling, announcing the NAACP decision:
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA, October 13, 2005 – The Charlottesville Albemarle Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has endorsed Charlottesville’s elected school board referendum. Dr. M. Rick Turner, president of the local NAACP, said the endorsement vote was unanimous.

Charlottesville City Councilor Rob Schilling, who helped to coordinate the bipartisan effort behind the referendum, was pleased with the endorsement.

"I'm grateful for the NAACP's thorough consideration of the elected school board referendum and their resulting endorsement," Schilling said. "I appreciate the diligence of the NAACP's membership in familiarizing themselves with the intricacies of this important issue."

Jeffrey Rossman, a University of Virginia professor and the initiator of the referendum petition, sees the endorsement as answering a question raised by some members of the community.

"Many thoughtful individuals have asked me: Is an elected school board in Charlottesville going to be diverse? The endorsement of the referendum by the local chapter of the NAACP suggests to me that the answer is: Yes, an elected board will be diverse. The city's voters are committed to diversity — African-American candidates have consistently been the top vote-getters in recent city council elections — and there are many well-qualified minority candidates who would make excellent school board members," Rossman said. "The residents of Charlottesville can vote in favor of the referendum on November 8th with confidence that our school board will continue to reflect the community it represents."

The elected school board referendum question will appear on Charlottesville’s November 8 general election ballot.
In answer to a question I posed in a previous posting, both candidates for the 57th District House of Delegates race, Tom McCrystal (R) and David Toscano (D), have endorsed elected school boards for Charlottesville, where both of them live and work. As reported by Bob Gibson in the Daily Progress on October 6:
Both candidates in the Nov. 8 election endorsed switching to an elected School Board for Charlottesville.

"It's really, really important," McCrystal said of the success of the Nov. 8 city referendum on the School Board. He said the events of the past year in the city school system have made elected school boards "absolutely critical" and added they should be ward-based.

Toscano, like McCrystal, said he had recently come to favor an elected board. "For a long time I was opposed," he said, "but I’ve changed my mind." The Democrat said he favors electing City Council at large but is not wedded to a particular method of electing the School Board.
McCrystal, by the way, has been endorsed by former New Jersey Governor and federal EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, who did some campaigning with the state legislative candidate along Charlottesville's downtown mall last month.

Late-breaking: The Daily Progress has a report on last night's elected-school-board forum by James Fernald in this morning's editions. It says, in part:
Rossman noted that 78 percent of Virginia localities have moved to an elected school board and none has switched back. He thinks it would be a good move for Charlottesville. "We have a density here of civic-minded individuals. Call me naïve, but I have deep faith in Charlottesville voters."

No comments: