Would Wards Work?

By: Philip Stewart
By: Philip Stewart

May 18, 2006

After the first city school board elections, some in the community are recommending the idea of dividing Charlottesville into wards for future elections.

Thursday night the school board election task-force held an open forum at city hall to hear from the community on the issue.

Right now Charlottesville is made up of one group of voters that elects a candidate to the school board. But some are proposing that the city be divided into wards, which would guarantee board members from varying areas of town.

Leah Puryear was elected this spring to the city school board and said the current system worked best for getting the best candidates on the ballot.

"You have an opportunity to be concerned with all of the students- which any school board member should be concerned with. In addition to what other things may be of importance to you as an individual," said Puryear.

Plans displayed Thursday night divided the city into anywhere from two to seven wards. One plan would divide the city based on the current elementary school districts.

Sue Lewis was another candidate earlier this year and she said she favored a mix of both at-large members, as well as members from wards.

"It satisfies both parties," said Lewis. "The people who think everybody should be elected at large and have to have the support of the city as a whole versus those who feel that it would make them feel better if they had somebody closer to them."

The city has only held one city school board election and some said it was too early to start making changes to the still very new elections themselves.

"We need to look at several elections before we make a determination as to whether what we have currently is not working," said Puryear.

Wednesday was just one of several public forums on this issue. The task force has been meeting since March to evaluate different ward models, and will present their findings to the city council this summer.


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