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There are no bad choices before Roanoke City Council in filling the unexpired term of the school board chairman. But one candidate stands out.
Sunday, June 2, 2013
Roanoke City Council should find the decision to reappoint Annette Lewis and Suzanne Moore to the Roanoke City School Board is among the easiest calls members will make this year. Both women are active, engaged and contributing members on a school board with an excellent record of tenaciously pursuing programs and policies that place children’s success above all else.
But as easy as that decision comes, council members undoubtedly will wrestle mightily with whom to appoint to fill the very large vacancy created by Chairman David Carson’s exit from the board. Naming Carson’s replacement is difficult not just because his impact on public education in Roanoke has been so tremendous, but because the six men and women seeking to replace him are outstanding candidates.
Council cannot make a wrong choice. Each candidate brings something unique and worthy, but one, financial planner Stewart Barnes, stands out primarily because of the financially challenging times ahead for city schools.
Attorney Mary Nash seems the most likely to carry on Carson’s role of engaging the community and tirelessly advocating for students and teachers. Attorney William Hopkins Jr. impressed with his premise that education rich in humanities is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and developing good, contributing citizens.
The Rev. Timothy Harvey, chairman of the Highland Park-area Congregations in Action group, would work to expand the network of volunteers. Social worker Gloria Manns would bring her former experience of serving on the board. Charles Meidlinger, who works for IBM, would emphasize technology and vocational education.
All stellar candidates, but Barnes’ willingness and ability to pursue new and innovative funding tips the scale in his favor. Barnes realizes that the federal and state governments are not reliable sources, and that while city taxpayers willingly endorsed a temporary meals tax, city council — having recently revised the local funding formula to designate 40 percent of city revenue to the schools — isn’t likely to entertain a new tax.
Instead, Barnes said he would look for partnerships with corporations and employers, a pathway that would prove beneficial to all, as the best workforce is an educated workforce.
Financial acumen is not all that Barnes would bring to the board; as the son and husband of teachers, he also appears to understand well the value of education to the community and to the lives of children who might not have much else. He is on the Roanoke Education Foundation, is involved with the Patrick Henry High School boosters and, as he said, he is a “product, parent and proponent” of city schools.
Council should give Barnes the opportunity to be an even larger proponent.
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