Accomack 'elected school board' referendum gets resounding 'yes' from voters

ONLEY, Va. (Delmarva Now) -- Accomack County voters Tuesday overwhelmingly voted in favor of changing to an elected school board.

The referendum question was, "Shall the method of selecting the school board be changed from appointment by the School Board Selection Committee to direct election by the voters?"

Nearly 72 percent of those who cast a ballot said "Yes" to the question, which was approved 7,485 to 2,940, according to unofficial results.

"We have been victorious in our quest to make this school system better. Thank you so much for all of your patience, understanding, and support. Great job ACCOMACK COUNTY," said elected school board advocate Connie Burford in a Facebook post.

A group advocating for the change from an appointed to an elected school board gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition at Accomack County polling places on the last Election Day, Nov. 8, 2016.

A spokeswoman for the group said petitions with 4,676 signatures were turned in to Accomack County Clerk of the Circuit Court Sammy Cooper. Around 2,400 signatures were needed to get the question on the ballot as a referendum.

Accomack County is one of only a handful of localities in Virginia where the school board is not elected. Instead, the Virginia General Assembly appoints the Circuit Court judge, who appoints a school board selection commission, which appoints school board members in the county.

That system will change, after the outcome of Tuesday's referendum.

Voter turnout in the county was good, Accomack County registrar Patricia White said.

"Everybody has been pretty steady," she said Tuesday mid-afternoon.

As of 4:24 p.m., 338 of Wachapreague precinct’s 767 registered voters had cast their ballots— a good turnout, poll worker Cathy Bell said.

Tammy Taylor of Wachapreague, cast her ballot for the Republican ticket.

“They want to actually do things that are the way it should be,” Taylor said.

Taylor also voted against the elected school board referendum.

“They seem to be doing well for Accomack County,” Taylor said of the current, appointed school board.

Nathaniel Atkinson III voted for the Republican ticket.

“I always vote Republican,” said the Wachapreague resident, who described himself as a “middle-of-the-road conservative.”

“That’s just my political belief,” he said.

He voted in favor of an elected school board “just to cut out some of the old-school, ‘Good Old Boy’ system,” he said.

Vernon Bell of Wachapreague, voted for the Democratic ticket in the election.

“There were good candidates all the way around, but I just thought that we had the better candidates,” said Bell, who was Ralph Northam’s sixth-grade teacher.

“We really care more about the average person… we, being the Democratic Party,” he said, adding, “There are good people on all sides.”

Bell voted against having an elected school board.

Currently, the board is appointed by the School Board Selection Commission, on which Bell serves.

“We vet the candidates very, very carefully. We listen to all sides. I think we’ve made good decisions through the years,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be upset either way, but I know what a good job that the commission does,” he said.

Clara Vaughn contributed to this story.

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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