Former Roanoke City Council candidate petitions for school board referendum

Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 4:47 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A former Roanoke City Council candidate is pushing for a referendum to be placed on this November’s ballot. It would let people decide how they want school board members to be selected.

Roanoke City Council currently appoints School Board members, but some in the community want that to change.

“Right now, 15 out of the 133 localities in Virginia use appointed school boards. I just think it’s an antiquated process and it’s time at least to bring the question forward,” Luke Priddy said.

That’s why former Roanoke City Council candidate Luke Priddy is petitioning for more than 6,500 signatures - the number needed to get a referendum placed on this year’s November ballot.

“Asking the voters, shall the method of selecting members of school board be changed from appointment by the governing body to direct election by the voters,” he said.

Mayor Sherman Lea, a former Roanoke City School Board chairman, said he opposes the idea of school board members being elected.

“We are a diverse school board ... and I’m very impressed with what has taken place over the last several years, our school graduation rates have increased ... So why break something that’s not broken,” Mayor Lea said.

“The people who are selected now, council does a fine job of vetting them and selecting them, however, it’s very insulated from the public process. I say the process is broken and there needs to be more change,” Priddy responded.

Roanoke City PTA Board member and parent Jennifer Evans added her name to Priddy’s petition Monday.

“There’s only one school board member that actually has a child in Roanoke City schools, and I think if they were elected, then it would give people that actually have a child in the school or grandchild more of an opportunity to get on the school board, where they actually have a vested interest of what happens in city schools,” Evans, who has a second-grader at Fishburn Park Elementary School, said.

The mayor said if Priddy is able to get enough signatures for a referendum, he supports leaving the decision up to the people.

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