Roanoke City Council voted unanimously Monday to reappoint incumbents Eli Jamison and Natasha Saunders to three-year terms on the school board.
Over the last few weeks, the council interviewed five people for the two seats opening up July 1. Among them were incumbents Jamison and Saunders and hopefuls Jacqueline Moon, Auraliz Quintana and Christopher Link.
Jamison has served on the board since 2017 and has held various roles in higher education. During her interview, she said learning loss and student population growth are major challenges now and going forward.
Jamison stressed her commitment to cultivating a strong set of younger leaders on the school board to make sure the institution stays effective over time.
Saunders, meanwhile, named the school division’s Equity Task Force as a main priority during her interview. Saunders was first appointed to the school board in 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said her first term has taught her the importance of listening and collaborating.
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Councilwoman Trish White-Boyd said the decision to reappoint Jamison and Saunders was not easy, given the number of qualified applicants. She thanked every applicant for stepping forward and for their enthusiasm in the success of city schools.
The council’s Legislative Committee meeting earlier in the day focused on state funding for public schools.
The divided state legislature has been struggling to pass a revised second year biennial budget, which will affect school funding. If the legislature does not pass a revised budget, the city – and by extension its school system – will receive the same amount of state funding in fiscal year 2024 as it did in fiscal year 2023.
Advantus Strategies Government Relations Senior Director Kathy Burcher said it looks like the legislature won’t pass a revised budget until after the start of fiscal year 2024 – perhaps in July, she said, if not, possibly in the fall.
“How that all plays out will really make decisions around how much funding comes to the local government but also what requirements may be in place for a local match or the local share required for staffing or salaries. … It puts local governments in a really precarious situation,” Burcher said.
Another wild card comes in the form of the November election, which will change the legislature’s composition, particularly with an unusual number of incumbents not running again. With that in mind, Jamison said Monday morning, she won’t be surprised if the schools are “facing very tenuous” budget situations in the coming years.