School Board hopefuls talk priorities

Van Holmes

STRASBURG – Candidates seeking the District 6 seat on the School Board fielded questions at a forum Tuesday.

Sonya Williams-Giersch is seeking a third term on the board. Van Holmes is running as the challenger.

The Shenandoah Chamber of Commerce, the Shenandoah Forum, the Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah, the Shenandoah Education Association and the Farm Bureau put on the forum at Strasburg High School. The event attracted a few dozen people, including candidates running in other local races and members Strasburg Town Council.

Audience members submitted questions just before the event. Cheri Wright, executive director of the chamber, explained before the forum that candidates could ask for a chance to give rebuttal if an opponent made a personal remark or to clarify a factual point. Each candidate received time to give an introduction and closing statement and two minutes to respond to questions. Chris Boies served as moderator of the forum.

Candidates responded to the following questions:

Sonya Williams Giersch

What are the top three funding priorities for the school system?

Williams-Giersch said instruction, staffing and technology.

Holmes said spending at the classroom level and the matters that affect the classroom; maintenance of buildings and equipment; and to make sure transportation of children is as good as can be.

What option do you support to alleviate overcrowding at the central and northern campuses?

Holmes said he’s in favor of redistricting in combination with temporary classrooms.

Williams-Giersch said she wants to look further into the consultant’s report but voiced concerns about using classroom trailers.

What do you think the top priorities for the school system should be in the next five years?

Williams-Giersch said the system needs to be able to educate its students to be competitive with those from divisions that spend more money per pupil.

Holmes said the priorities should be to make sure school use among the campuses is as even as possible, giving the students in the southern campus a better chance to participate in sports and other activities.

What would you as a school board member do about those priorities?

Holmes said the board needs to decide how to balance the student population.

Williams-Giersch said the board would need to make sure the decisions made are based on the best interest of the children and that it makes the decisions.

Do you think the school system has wasteful spending programs and what are they?

Williams-Giersch said she did not feel the school system has any wasteful spending programs.

Holmes said he doesn’t know about any programs but has heard of some that are not efficiently funded.

Do you think the schools are adequately funded?

Holmes said the schools are adequately funded based on what the system can get out of the county.

Williams-Giersch said she doesn’t think they are adequately funded, adding that per pupil spending is third-lowest in the region and less than the state and regional average.

What transgressions warrant a 365-day expulsion from school?

Williams-Giersch said the student handbook lists such transgressions, including possession of a knife 3inches or longer or drugs. Parents and children review the handbook and they must return a signed letter to the school.

Holmes said he would have to defer to his opponent but added he would like to review the manual. Holmes said a group of students who attack another pupil should be expelled.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com