Three candidates seeking to fill a six-month vacancy on the Salem School Board pitched their qualifications to city council during a public hearing Monday night.
The seat’s predecessor, Michael Chiglinsky, died unexpectedly in April. The term for his seat — and one other seat, held by Nancy Bradley — expires Dec. 31, and needs to be filled until then.
“Dr. Chiglinsky, or Mike, was an incredible public servant and a good friend,” said Mayor Renée Turk. “A wonderful person to work with and have on the school board.”
Candidates Teresa Sizemore-Hernandez, Jim Ruhland and Sally Southard were given five minutes each to address the council, which appoints the members of its five-seat school board.
“I keep hearing the word change. I really don’t think it’s about that,” Sizemore-Hernandez said. “I don’t think that should be our focus. I’m here to simply provide a different perspective, not change.”
Sizemore-Hernandez — a Salem High School graduate with three sons, two who are still in the school system — said she wants to continue the district’s mission of providing a loving, engaging environment that inspires children to reach their full potential. Three citizens spoke during the public hearing in favor of her appointment.
“I have extensive knowledge of childhood disabilities, as well as a deep connection to the medical communities that serve our disabled children,” Sizemore-Hernandez said. “I know the importance of inclusion. I have worked closely with many schools throughout our state, including Salem for inclusion and resources. I will represent all children. I wasn’t raised in a wealthy family.”
Ruhland said he served on the Botetourt County School Board for 19 years before moving to Salem.
“My philosophy in public education is very simple… It’s the responsibility of the school board to provide an educational and safe environment for each K-12 student to maximize their intellectual abilities,” Ruhland said. “It’s a short sentence, but it takes volumes of energy and work.”
He cited experience traveling to see other schools, first statewide as president of the Virginia School Board Association, then across America as president of the National School Boards Association.
“I think I can bring a wealth of knowledge to the remaining school board members that sit here tonight,” Ruhland said. “And in such a manner as to maybe ask the right questions to get the proper answers that we’re looking for.”
Southard said the sitting school board does not need the burden of orienting a new short-term member.
“I believe that my previous 16 years as Salem City School Board member, 14 of those as chair, make me the logical candidate for this six-month term,” Southard said. “My 38 years of pediatric nursing experience will provide part of what Dr. Chiglinsky contributed to the school board regarding childhood growth and development.”
City council said they would reach out to the candidates for interviews this week and into next. The vacancy cannot be filled until at least seven days after the public hearing Monday night.
Roanoke County School Board lists candidates
Five applicants submitted their names as contenders to fill a soon vacant Catawba District seat on the Roanoke County School Board, according to an emailed division statement.
The current board member, Don Butzer, is moving away this summer, resigning his seat in June to someone who will replace him until a member is elected by voters in November.
The replacement candidates’ names are Brent Hudson, Deneen L. Evans, Patricia B. Wood, Harriet L. Dhalgren and Tyrel A. Tullis, the statement said.
Candidates will be interviewed in a public work session at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 1. On June 10, the final candidate will be announced, according to the statement.