Mathews School Board candidates take part in MidPenVOTE forum
Candidates for the Mathews County School Board shared their views and answered questions during the Middle Peninsula League of Voters forum Monday night at Mathews Memorial Library.
Incumbents Jen Little and John Persinger were present, along with their challengers Jeanice Sadler and Robert Sherrill. Incumbent Lanell Jarvis was absent.
Little touted the success of local schools under the current board’s watch and said it was her duty to advocate for the children in the community. She said she puts service above self.
Persinger said he cares about the community and that his test in making decisions had always been whether it makes sense and helps students.
Sadler said she would bring a fresh perspective to the school board, would seek to maximize educational expenses while minimizing administrative expenses, and would advocate to be released from state mandates or receive more money.
Sherrill said he has experience in all aspects of education, from teaching to being an administrator, and working with budgets from each of those perspectives—experiences he said are relevant to the current budget problems. He said that putting the budget problem on the backs of teachers is potential trouble.
Asked how many school board meetings they had attended this year, Persinger and Little said they had attended all of them, including other associated meetings, while Sherrill said he had attended four and Sadler said she hadn’t kept track.
With continued cuts to the school budget, candidates were asked what their focus would be in the future.
Persinger said he would prioritize what was vital, holding the instructional curriculum "near and dear." He mentioned using distance and video learning when teachers aren’t available, as well as the possibility of a deal with Rappahannock Community College to offer an associate’s degree to graduating seniors.
Sadler said she would assess the system to improve efficiency and effectiveness, look at different areas of the budget each quarter to see how to enhance or cut items, increase technology and expand education in the trades.
Sherrill said it wasn’t appropriate to cut programs, but he would push for a hiring freeze and cut staff by attrition. He said enrollment has dropped but staff has increased, and the only way to save thousands is to look at payroll, not programs.
Little said the $600,000 deficit the school system is facing next year is worse because of a change in the composite index, and "there’s no fallback." She said cutting programs is not beneficial, but it also wouldn’t benefit children to "just slash the budget."