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Letters to the Editor

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Leabough has the experience, passion for School Board role

Dear Editor,

My name is Laura Kassner, a District 2 resident with three young children in Goochland County Public Schools (GCPS).  In addition to my role as active community member and parent, I am a 18 year veteran educator - having begun my career as a classroom teacher in 2003 in GCPS, later serving as a librarian, new teacher mentor, professional development coordinator in Goochland, an adjunct professor at the University of Richmond and Virginia Tech, an early childhood consultant for a non-profit, a federal grant coordinator at the Virginia Department of Education, and now a senior education researcher and technical assistance provider working on federal contracts.  I know this community, I know the field of education, and I know how to spot someone who puts the interest of children first.

The reason why I write today is to lay out three reasons why I plan to vote for Billie Jo Leabough for District 2 School Board Member in November.  

First, Billie Jo has extensive experience in education as a teacher, counselor, program facilitator and program director. And while professional experience in schools is not a requirement to serve on a school board, it is a valuable perspective.  It is invaluable to educators to know that their leadership understands the day-to-day challenges of their work and will make decisions that are realistic, respectful, and relevant to the actual work - that the policies address the real challenges - not imagined problems in national news or wishful thinking solutions.   I haven’t forgotten how challenging it was to work and support my children’s education while schools were closed in Spring of 2020.  And Billie Jo hasn’t either.  In contrast, Billie Jo’s opponent has no such experience.  She bills herself as a “corporate strategist,” and in a recent mailer said “teachers should teach.  School boards should govern.”  The message implicit: Teachers shouldn’t have a say in making decisions.  Just recently on her campaign page, she posted a screenshot of a GCPS teacher’s back-to-school form because she didn’t like the approach the teacher took to get to know and meet their students’ needs.  Apparently this candidate doesn’t understand the job description - to support and champion students and teachers, not exploit and attack them for political gain.  The messages in her mailer and this subsequent post are dangerous to communicating appreciation to an already underappreciated and quickly dwindling workforce that is the lifeblood of our school system - and a key element of our economic present and future.  Billie Jo believes teachers, students, and parents all have a voice in strengthening the future of our students and our school system.

Second, Billie Jo has lived a life of service and demonstrated investment and care for every child — not just those that fit the mold of the typical Goochland student. Despite being a busy working parent and grandparent, Billie Jo has led Girl Scouts, a church choir, and currently serves on the School Board.  She has experience advocating for children unlikely to have postsecondary opportunities, establishing extracurricular clubs to enrich their education, directing programs to support credit recovery and graduation attainment, taking them on college tours, and paying their SAT registration and university application fees.  In contrast, her opponent seems hyperfocused on providing for some children, while either ignoring or outright advocating for stances that would harm some of our children (non-binary, minority, immuno-compromised). And I firmly believe, there is no such thing as someone else’s child.  Goochland’s children are our collective future and every one of them deserves full inclusion, rights, safety, and a world class education - not just the ones that fit a certain mold.  Billie Jo Leabough deeply holds this belief and has demonstrated commitment to it for decades.  Her life’s work speaks to removing barriers of access for students, whereas her opponent is campaigning on erecting new ones.

And my third reason for voting for Billie Jo is one of representation and lived experience.  In recent years, as injustices against minoritized citizens have become understood in new ways, we all share a collective responsibility to create a better future.  This includes amplifying voices and perspectives which have been historically excluded.  Billie Jo’s presence on our board signals to underrepresented Goochlanders that diverse perspectives are seen, heard, and welcome.  This has immense value to me as someone who takes seriously the responsibility to co-create more equitable opportunities for the next generation.

Thank you for taking the time to read and think through my voting rationale.  I hope at least one or more of these reasons speaks to you and you join me in voting for a career educator with a heart for all of Goochland’s children, Billie Jo Leabough.

Dr. Laura Kassner

Senior Education Researcher and Technical Assistance Provider

Former GCPS Educator, Current GCPS Parent and Active Stakeholder (GES PTA Board, GES Steering Committee, Student Health Advisory Board Member)  

Leabough will continue Goochland’s tradition of educational excellence

Dear Editor,

My name is Richard Verlander and I wholeheartedly support Billie Jo Leabough for school board. I know that she will continue to do an excellent job representing District 2 and also the larger community in our county. William Quarles was my good friend and I feel it is my civic duty to honor his legacy by endorsing a candidate that will carry forth his vision and values for our youth, not only in words but in deeds.

My wife Kathy and I are blessed to have raised two successful sons and both are proud to be products of Goochland County Schools. One, Justin, (38) is a major league baseball player, and Ben, (29) is an analyst with Fox Sports. Both attended Old Dominion University as student athletes and were All-American baseball players. A diverse school system experience helped our boys to prepare for future careers that not only benefited from respect and inclusion, but demanded it. This value in our Goochland school system was championed by Bill Quarles and will continue with Billie Jo.

Kathy and I have authored two books and take the opportunity in both to highlight the very special coaches and teachers who have been such a big part of our family journey. There is a special place in our hearts for those like Billie Jo who spend their lives making a difference by taking special interest in our kids’ success. All too often they just don’t get the credit they deserve. In sports we call them “game changers,” and we need more of them leading our schools. That’s why I’m supporting Billie Jo.

Richard Verlander

Goochland

Leabough’s perspective will help GCPS continue to thrive into the future

Dear Editor,

I’m knocking on the doors of District 2 voters, as early voting has already started. Consider carefully your vote for school board representative. From my years employed in our Goochland School Division, I know about the need for vision from our board.  

Ms. Billie Jo Leabough has represented District 2 on the Board since her appointment in April. She offers a voice of experience from working over 25 years in the field of education as a teacher, counselor, and program director. She and her four children are proud graduates of Goochland Public Schools. Billie Jo knows our community.

Familiarity with Billie Jo Leabough as a concerned parent, an active community member, and a successful educator moves me to be an enthusiastic supporter. Billie Jo knows what an education can do for a child and has the breadth of view to help drive our school administration to stay on the road of excellence. Billie Jo cares.

School Board Representative Leabough will continue to seek an understanding of the issues by maintaining an open mind on all matters before making a decision. Items surrounding a post Covid-19 response, teacher recruitment and retention, the need for a strong College and Career Technical Education Program, as well as, child care access are high on Billie Jo’s agenda. She is transparent and accessible to students, parents, and teachers. Billie Jo listens.

While my white male perspective has served me well, it is not the viewpoint that always produces the best results for everyone. Our county and our schools have a diverse population. Why shouldn’t our school board reflect the makeup of the citizens? Building consensus with everyone represented at the table has always resulted in better decisions that work for all.  

Billie Jo Leabough is already a passionate voice for the creation of policies and practices that will hold our schools accountable to the citizens of Goochland. Let’s keep her!

I strongly endorse and recommend a vote for Billie Jo Leabough on November 2, 2021.

Thomas DeWeerd

Retired Principal & Director, GCPS

Debate highlighted that education partnerships are win for community

Dear Editor,

Do parents or community members have a role in public school education? The recent debate in the Virginia Governor’s race highlighted this front-line issue. There are in surrounding counties educational foundations — including in Goochland— that are privately funded and fund public school educational efforts,  including by accepting teachers’ grant proposals. These proposals are evaluated by a group of students, parents and private citizens. Projects funded provide additional resources that enhance educational collaboration, grow teacher engagement and broaden the educational menu for students. I cannot see anything but a positive outcome for our public educational systems and community engagement in areas beyond which county and state funding exists.

Richard Carchman

Goochland

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