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Accept Longwood’s ‘golden key’

By Jim Wilck

In a speech to county leaders last week, Gov. Terry McAuliffe encouraged leaders to “be bold, be creative and be innovative when it comes to education and preparing the commonwealth’s students for the future,” according to news reports.

He told the capacity crowd to “Try something new. The old stuff doesn’t work anymore.”

He must have had Prince Edward County in mind.

Realizing the vital importance of the next superintendent to the children and economic development of Prince Edward County, Longwood University President W. Taylor Reveley IV offered the university’s services to do a nationwide search free of charge for highly qualified candidates for the school board to consider.   

Our school board has a poor track record in hiring quality superintendents who last more than one term, and in the last few years, have allowed our school district to fall to a ranking of 126 out of 128 school districts in Virginia, as reported by one nationwide rating service. In a five-year period, 455 students have left our school district to go elsewhere, most to neighboring counties while they still reside in Prince Edward. If our school district could have just maintained its enrollment, it would have received more than $2 million a year in additional state funds.

Friday’s Farmville Herald reported that our local school board had voted 4-3-1 to ask Longwood and Reveley to handicap themselves by joining with a private search firm in the effort.

This will waste time and money (the search firm will charge $13,500 plus expenses) and force Longwood to confer with this other firm on a nationwide search — something Longwood is involved with on a daily basis.

It seems the newer members of the school board, who voted against this search firm addition, are more insightful than the longer-term members who each seem to have an axe to grind or want to put their personal stamp on this project.

Some examples include concern that the new hire will have more allegiance to Longwood than the board (that would be stupid); the confidentiality of the vetting process and the racial diversity of Longwood’s students and staff. What does any of this have to do with referring candidates? Believe me, Longwood is a lot more professional in these areas than the school board.

For once, accept the golden key that Longwood has offered and hire someone who can clean up the mess that school boards here have created. I now understand where to look for the root of the problems we have with our schools.

I have found Reveley to be a special person, someone who can conceive of a vice presidential debate here and then be astute enough to use his network to make sure it happens. Hundreds of colleges would have wanted this debate, but only Reveley could pull it off.

My money’s on him to find us excellent candidates and someone to turn our mess around.

JIM WILCK represents Farmville District 701 on the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors. His email address is jwilck@embarqmail.com.