November 9, 2005
Charlottesville residents now have their say when it comes to representation on the city school board, but when will it happen, and how?
When people are asked if they should get the option to vote for anything, odds are they will say yes because they feel it's their right. Our neighbors in Charlottesville voted to have an elected school board for the first time in city history.
"We really need to have greater accountability for educational policy in this city," said Rob Schilling, a member of the Charlottesville City Council.
Several people in the Charlottesville community agree. All of them have a greater control than ever before since 73 percent of voters chose 'yes' to an elected school board referendum.
"It's now required under law, so the city has to abide by that," said Sheri Iachetta, the Charlottesville Registrar.
The voters may have spoken, but is it a done deal?
"It's a done deal to a point. Don't forget we are a voting rights state, so anything that we do that has to do with elections has to be approved by the justice department," added Iachetta.
In fact, the DOJ's approval was needed when deciding how to word the referendum question on the ballot. Now, another decision is needed to figure out if members will be elected-at-large, or by ward.
"Now, that it's a binding referendum, and we know we have to do it. Now it is up to the city to decide how they are going to do it, and there are some decision to be made there," said Iachetta.
While Councilman Rob Schilling was a big proponent of electing school board members, another councilman who also supported it, had big concerns.
"I think there are pros and cons going either way. The important thing now is that we address the challenges that an elected school board will have for the community, and make sure that we address those so it is a net plus for the community," said Councilman Kevin Lynch.
While officials are awaiting the decision of whether school board members will be elected-at-large, or by ward, voters should know an election will happen either way in May 2006 when city councilors are elected.
May 2006 will be the last election outside of an odd year for Charlottesville. However, following a May 2006 election for the school board, there will be another for the board in November 2007.