Three new faces will join the Amherst County School Board following the Nov. 5 election as a majority of the seats are on the ballot.
The lone contested race for an at-large seat will determine who is the third to join the seven-member body undergoing just its second election since a November 2016 referendum passed to move to elected members. Previously, the board of supervisors appointed board representatives.
Ginger Burg and Charlotte Fluharty are running for the at-large seat. Francisco Mayo, who has represented the seat since July 2016, decided not to run. Chairman Mike Henderson, a 5-year veteran of the board representing District 1, and Craig Terwilliger, who has represented District 3 the past three years, also are not running again. John Grieser and Christopher Terry are running unopposed for those two seats, respectively.
Amanda Wright, who was appointed last year following a vacancy, is running unopposed in a special election for the District 2 seat and Priscilla Liggon, the board’s current longest serving member in her 20th year, is running unopposed in her first election for the District 4 seat.
Burg and Fluharty each answered questions from the New Era-Progress on the lone contested race.
Q: What inspired you to run for the school board?
Burg: I believe that I can offer a different perspective on the education process. I am a mother of six extremely successful children. Two went to the US Naval Academy and one is a graduate of Longwood University and works in cybersecurity. The other three are in Amherst County Public Schools, two of whom are on the honor roll. My youngest has a disability and is actually the reason that we moved to Amherst from upstate New York. Her needs were not being met and I truly believe that had we stayed in New York, she would have dropped out of school. The Amherst County School system has given my daughter confidence in herself and a pathway to success. I am so thankful to Amherst County for giving my daughter this opportunity that I want to give something back by serving on the School Board.
Fluharty: Two years ago I resigned from my second grade teaching job at Amherst Elementary to pursue other interests and start a new career. Even though I embarked on a new career path as a Realtor, I knew I wanted to stay involved with education. When the openings were announced, I decided that this was my opportunity to give back to the community and still have a role in shaping the lives of our young citizens. Representing my fellow educators and support staff in the schools gives voice to a group of people who are typically governed by a group that often does not have any idea of what it’s like to be in the classroom or behind the scenes in the schools. I feel called to serve my community in this way.
Q: Do you have any background, experience in and with education you feel helps prepare you for this role?
Burg: My experience with my children has taught me that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all in life. I was disabled as a child and spent over three years hospitalized. My school provided teachers either at the hospital or at my home depending on where I was at the time. After I acquired enough credits to graduate, we received notice from a new superintendent that my credits were no good and that I would have to start over in the eighth grade. I was refused over three years’ worth of hard work while battling my illness. At that time parents didn’t question schools’ actions. I had no one to fight for me and I was denied my right to graduate. I now have my GED. When I started my family, I knew that I would never allow anyone to take their educational rights from them and I would do whatever it takes to make sure every child receives an education and opportunities to be successful in their life journey. As a parent I have had children in public schools, private prep boarding schools, private colleges, public universities, and military academies. We talk about an alternative to college and how a GED should not be stigmatized. I am that walking testimonial.
Fluharty: I have 30 years of experience as an educator of preschool to adult students. After graduating from Sweet Briar College with a BA and completing requirements for licensure in Early Childhood education, I started my career in the Nelson and Amherst county school systems while working on my Master’s degree. I took a year off and completed my Master’s of Reading Education at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. I returned to ACPS to work as a reading specialist and first/second grade teacher. During this time I also worked as an adjunct instructor for UVa teaching continuing education courses to teachers. My teaching career continued when I moved to Colorado where I worked as a nature instructor, a science teacher at Keystone Science School, a preschool teacher for a inner city Denver daycare, and a 3rd grade teacher at Colorado Academy. When I moved back to Amherst to raise my family, I again worked as a reading specialist and taught kindergarten and second grade. My career has given me experience with writing curriculum, leading staff development, designing programs, and managing budgets.
Q: What do you feel are the most pressing issues facing public education and how will you work to address them?
Burg: We have what I would call marketing issues. Students and parents need to be made more aware of the current opportunities available to our students. We also need to create more opportunities. I recently spoke to Congressman Ben Cline about the need for a junior ROTC program at our school. He was willing to help us and I put his staff in touch with [Assistant Superintendent] William Wells to assist with the application process. This is being done now. Our schools also need to be updated not only for safety but also to help accommodate our disabled students and community members. I am also very concerned with the current trend I have been watching nationally and here in Virginia with parental and religious rights being stripped away. We need to make sure our voices are always heard when it comes to our children and I would like to update some of our policies to emphasize that. Special ed parents need to feel more comfortable and I want to start a parent advocacy group made of volunteers to help parents navigate the IEP [individualized education program] and 504 processes. Del. Scott Garrett is retiring and I will continue the “Back to School Drive” for Amherst County Schools next fall to make sure that not only our students but our teachers have the supplies they need for their classrooms.
Fluharty: As a parent and a teacher, I see education from both perspectives. My two sons are students in Amherst County so naturally I want them to receive a quality education and be prepared for the real world as a young adult when they graduate. An issue in which the current administration is working on is providing more opportunities to high school students to learn a trade in school and take courses that have real life applications. Not everyone is college bound and we have many tradesmen who cannot find adequately educated workers to train further.
I enjoyed being involved in theatre as a student in Amherst County schools and when my son worked with the spring musical last year, he made me aware of how lacking the facilities and resources are. We have many talented students who deserve to express their creative talents in up to date facilities and with resources they need. The Arts should be equally funded as our sports programs. The safety of our students, teachers, and staff should continue to be a focus so we can provide an environment conducive to learning. I want to see ACPS continue to be proactive in this area.
Literacy will likely always be an area that I focus on. From early literacy acquisition to early intervention and adult literacy, these are areas we need to stay on top of. It’s documented that a literate society contributes to economic growth and reduces poverty and crime. I would like to ensure that every 4-year-old has some form of preschool education, whether it’s in a public, private, or home environment. By informing the citizens of what programs are available in both ACPS and the private sector and offering resources to home school students, we can lower the number of students who enter school at a disadvantage and struggle to catch up.
Another major issue is attracting and keeping highly qualified teachers. We have to be competitive and provide salaries and benefits that more than adequately compensates our talented, dedicated, and hardworking teachers.
Q: What do you want voters to know about you?
Burg: I love Amherst County and our schools. I want the opportunity to make sure that Amherst County families and students will always have a voice and someone in their corner creating opportunities for everyone. I’m not the stereotypical School Board member; I was that non-traditional student and I understand those challenges. As a mother of six, I understand that the schools are only part of the educational process; we must work to make sure that the home environment of our children supports their educational success. I am tenacious, fair and I will be an active advocate for our students, parents, teachers and our schools. I urge you to contact me should you have any questions.
Fluharty: Voting for me means that a person who has both experience in education and business and has a pragmatic approach to problem solving will be representing all citizens as a school board member. From the empty-nester taxpayer to the family with school-aged children to the teacher and student, I will have everyone’s best interests in mind as I work with the other members to guide ACPS into a promising and productive future.
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.