Karen Myers has spent years working with youth, an experience she describes as valuable for someone with ambitions to serve on the school board.
“I think the reason I want to run is that I can’t remember a time when I turned down a chance to serve children and families in the community,” Myers, 55, said. “That’s what my life journey has been.”
Myers will square off against Linwood Hudson in the race for Montgomery County School Board’s District A seat. Two of the three school board seats up for re-election this year will see contests.
Myers was the last candidate to more formally announce her run for school board and The Roanoke Times was able to catch up with her recently to discuss her hopes for public office.
District A covers a portion of Blacksburg and is represented by Gunin Kiran, who plans to leave the seat this year. Kiran’s first term began in 2014 and her time on the board included some years serving as chairwoman.
Myers alluded to Kiran’s eventual departure as among the reasons that led her to challenge for the seat.
“The opportunity came up, and I believe it’s time,” said Myers, a Blacksburg resident.
Originally from Richmond, Myers came to the area in 1984 to attend Virginia Tech, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She said she has two daughters who came up through Montgomery County Public Schools, which she described as a “phenomenal school system.”
Myers has spent many years in the field of early childhood education, which included 17 years running the now closed Little Saints Day Care Center that was part of Carilion New River Valley Medical Center. She still works at Carilion as an office manager.
Myers has also taught child passenger safety and coached softball at the high school level.
“Now it’s time for me to use those experiences to serve my community,” she said.
Myers said she wants to improve the board’s connection with the community, a point shared by some other candidates. She said she’s not sure if the board necessarily lacks transparency, but that she has concerns the elected body gives off that appearance. She said the board also seems to have become too political at times.
“The perception that the general public has of the board is not a positive one. I really think that’s where it has to begin,” Myers said.
One major issue that Myers said highlighted her concerns has been the board’s response to the pandemic, particularly a debate last month over whether MCPS should require students and employees to mask indoors.
Myers’ stance on the issue of masking in schools is somewhat complex. She said as someone who works in a health care setting, she obviously understands the importance of masking amid the still ongoing pandemic.
Myers said she, like many others, is not personally a fan of wearing a mask, but has worn one every time when needed. Since the appearance of the delta variant and the subsequent surge in cases, she said she has worn a mask in every major public place she’s been in.
Myers said she’s not sure if children masking within the schools should be left up to parental choice amid the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. She, however, said several school board members on the night they voted on indoor masking didn’t seem to truly consider the viewpoints of parents at the time, many of whom she said called for parental choice on the matter.
“That’s not how it was voted,” she said, referring to the narrow 4-3 vote that approved an indoor masking requirement. “It appears we’re not listening to people who are coming and talking.”
Myers continued: “You have to acknowledge it. This is not just about wearing a mask. It’s also about what hardships we’re causing for teachers and students.”
Although the school board approved the masking requirement, the move might have ultimately been a moot point as state officials later announced that Virginia law effectively required indoor masking at schools. The Montgomery County School Board has not since revisited the issue of masking.
Many parents at that much divided August meeting did advocate for parental choice, but several against masking in schools also voiced the claim of masks being completely ineffective. Numerous medical experts, including ones in Montgomery County, have said masks do provide a defense against the spread of the virus.
Hudson, Myers’ opponent in the District A race, said he doesn’t know her personally but that she seems nice. He said he’s not bothered, at all, about having an opponent.
“In any elected [race], you kind of expect to have an opponent, and that gives you a chance to really outline your positions and explain what’s really important to you,” he said.
Other school board members running for reelection this year are Jamie Bond of District D and Dana Partin of District C.
Bond is facing a challenge from Travis Williams, a university relations writer at Virginia Tech and former Roanoke Times reporter.