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Another candidate eyes School Board seat

South Boston News
Shotwell / June 07, 2021

Another candidate for local office has emerged in Election District 6, where Lacey Shotwell, mother of two students in the system, announced she will be running for the seat now held by School Board Vice Chair Todd Moser.

Shotwell’s expected candidacy brings the number of contested trustee elections to two, with elections set Nov. 2 in ED-2, ED-3 and ED-6 for School Board and Board of Supervisors seats. The ED-2 School Board race has attracted three announced candidates, with the filing deadline for the fall ballot coming up Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Moser has submitted his paperwork in ED-6 and is certified to be on the November ballot. Shotwell has until tomorrow night to submit 69 more signatures and candidate paperwork to the Halifax County Voter Registrar Heather Harding. Candidates need 125 signatures from residents who live in their district.

Shotwell has lived in the county for a little over 15 years and is a project manager for IBM. She works remotely from home. She has two students, one who is enrolled in Cluster Springs Elementary and the other who would have attended HCMS, but attended Virginia Virtual Academy (VAVA) as schools were largely closed the past year by the pandemic.

Even though she works from home and can supervise her kids’ learning, “I think in-person instruction is much more effective and teaches other skills in addition to academic learning,” said Shotwell, adding both her kids will be attending in-person this fall.

Shotwell said she chose VAVA for her seventh grade student because she wanted a virtual learning program that was established and prepared.

“I figured if he was going to be required to do virtual schooling, then I preferred he do it through a system that has experience with it,” said Shotwell. She praised the state’s virtual platform, which provided textbooks, science experiment supplies, a well-organized website and information that parents and students need for learning.

“I think our [HCPS] local version of it [virtual learning] fell short ... Our teachers and school staff worked so hard to try and make it work,” said Shotwell.

Shotwell expressed her son’s fifth grade teacher at CSES was a dream, and worked so hard while juggling her own kids’ educations at home, too.

“Most of them [CSES teachers] definitely have my respect, but I’ve heard some parents never heard from their teachers, some kids didn’t do their own work, and we just don’t have the infrastructure and resources in our community for virtual to work for most families,” said Shotwell.

Shotwell said two factors over the past year inspired her to run for School Board. One, she said, is the “conversational connection” with the community was broken when parents appealed to school trustees to allow their kids back in class full time last year. Shotwell, who spoke at one School Board meeting in hopes of getting students back in school, criticized what she described as rude behavior by one board member which she said should not be allowed.

“I knew through the surveys they were debating whether to bring the kids back to school or not. I felt it was important to speak up and voice my concerns about not bringing the kids back in person. I felt they listened, and several members and other staff were very supportive, but it felt like they [a majority of trustees] had already made their minds up to be fully virtual and it didn’t matter what the surveys reflected,” said Shotwell.

Shotwell and a few other parents addressed School Board members at their July 2020 meeting.

“It felt like we weren’t really heard and the negative impacts on our kids, our families, and our community as a whole weren’t given enough consideration,” said Shotwell.

Shotwell didn’t speak at any of the other meetings but she watched and listened to trustees’ meetings streamed live.

“I firmly believe we need to bring a little more professionalism back into the meetings, and more respect be shown between the board members, to the speakers, and to the folks watching the proceedings,” said Shotwell

Serving the community and stepping up are all reasons people run for public office, Shotwell said, including her, but in addition to that “the motivating factor for me to run now is that the last two years have really demonstrated we need some changes in our School Board. The lack of respect shown by some members of the board is a disgrace to our community and is not the example our leaders should be setting,” said Shotwell.

The second factor is that, “I know the board had some extremely difficult decisions to make and they voted according to what they thought was best, however I don’t think they truly listened to the community based on the results of the surveys and the feedback that was given,” said Shotwell.

“I think the last year has really put the public school kids at a disadvantage and we’re going to have a hard time getting them caught up, but it’s essential that we do. So, I am completely out of my comfort zone, but I’m willing to step up and try,” said Shotwell.

Other candidates running for School Board include Sandra Garner Coleman for re-election in ED-3. Other announced candidates in the race are Thomas Lee and Melissa Hicks. Both Lee and Hicks have a few more things to turn into the registrar to qualify for the ballot.

“Mr. Lee needs to turn in one more form and Hicks needs one more signature. I feel like they will get them in by Monday or Tuesday,” said Harding, the voter registrar.

ED-2 trustee incumbent Roy Keith Lloyd still needs to turn in his candidate packet, Harding said.

Through a text message Lloyd answered “yes” when asked if he will have his documents turned in to run for re-election.

For the Board of Supervisors, ED-3 incumbent and Board chairman Hubert Pannell is certified for the ballot, as is Amy Gautier, also running for the ED-3 seat. Larry Roller is running for Board of Supervisors in ED-2. Roller currently serves as the board’s tie-breaker and is seeking to succeed Jeff Francisco, who is stepping down. In ED-6, county supervisor Stanley Brandon has yet to submit his candidate packet, but confirmed in a phone call on Friday he will be turning in his packet today or tomorrow.

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