By Ryan Cornell
WOODSTOCK -- The newest member of the Shenandoah County School Board might not have as varied of a background in education as the rest of her cadre, but that could prove to be a strength.
Katie Freakley, 32, will be the youngest board member when her term begins in January and said she hopes to learn from the other members.
"They have so much experience," she said. "I hope to get that same experience along the way. Everyone has been so kind and so helpful and so generous with the support, helping me acclimate into the position."
Freakley will represent District 4, which covers Woodstock.
Growing up outside of Richmond, Freakley said she was "always interested in the way local government works," participating in government class and attending school board and supervisors meetings.
She graduated Virginia Tech with a degree in business and is approaching her tenth year as business and human resources manager of the Woodstock-based engineering firm, Regulus Group LLC. She said this background gives her a unique perspective.
"I think, specifically, my qualifications aren't in education, I haven't been a teacher, but I think that's a good perspective," she said. "I have a lot of business experience, running a business, and it kind of works the same way. There's a lot of working parts."
She said her two children, ages 3 and 5, who attend W.W. Robinson Elementary School, let her "see the impact that these decisions make on school-age children" and give her an added interest in serving the community.
In an emotional farewell speech at the school board meeting Thursday night, former chairman Gary Rutz introduced Freakley as his replacement and recapped some of the division's accomplishments.
He noted that the division was one of 16 out of 132 school systems in Virginia that met annual measurable objectives and one of 36 out of 132 that met adequate yearly progress.
"We have a great school system in Shenandoah County with great students, great teachers and great staff," he said. "I would put this school system against any other in the state with comparable revenue flow, composite index and all those other things that go into it."
Freakley said Rutz' departure leaves "tremendous shoes to be filled."
She said the school system could improve on getting more young families involved and increasing its positive and transparent communication with the community.
"We want the message to get out there that having a top-notch school system is an economic driver for having a successful county, regardless of whether you have children in there," she said. "It'll bring business, it'll bring tax revenue, it'll bring all those things that make the county better."
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org