Breaking News
More () »

Newport News School Board races feature battles between three incumbents and challengers

There are four Newport News School Board seats up for grabs.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Three incumbents face challenges for a chance to serve on Newport News School Board. 

There are four seats up for votes in November. 

With the exception of an uncontested at-large seat, each race features an incumbent and a challenger.  

Gary Hunter is running unopposed for an at-large seat. 

In the North District, incumbent Douglas Brown is running against Andrew Hlavacek.  In the Central District, Jordan Gray is challenging incumbent Lisa Surles-Law. 

And in the South District, Incumbent Dr. Terri Best is running against Navy veteran Marlon Pendergraft. 

“I am experienced and engaged,” said Best. 

“I’m going to bring a different perspective, bring a different sense of energy to the school system,” said Pendergraft. 

Best, the board’s vice chair, is a former public school administrator and school counselor within the division. 

So I have an inside view of what is going on inside the schools,” she said. 

RELATED: Virginia leaders discuss solutions for lack of affordable housing

When asked about key issues facing the division, Best mentioned, “safety, hiring staff and retaining staff, accreditation.” She also cited parent involvement. 

Best said teachers need to feel supported in terms of pay and professional development, and she’s an advocate for mental health resources in schools. 

“To me safety is very important. I am a lieutenant in the fire department, so I’ve built my career around safety,” said Pendergraft. 

Safety is a key focus for both candidates, especially after multiple acts of gun violence directly impacted the school division since last year. 

RELATED: Last day to comment on Youngkin's proposed rules for transgender students is Wednesday

Pendergraft said he wants to make sure School Resource Officers are supported, and for the school division to explore its own armed security, among other ideas.

“I want to make sure our entry points are limited. I want to make sure when a person comes to a school, they are ID’d,” he said. 

Best said several measures are already in place, though agreed safety must be a top priority. 

“If students do not feel safe being in school, their attention will not be on learning. If parents do not feel their children are safe in school, they will not send them to school,” she said. 

If elected, Pendergraft said he plans to spend a day with every department in the division during the first 90 days of his tenure, in efforts to learn about issues and develop strategic plans. He also said, once per month, he wants to substitute at the schools, to understand what's going on in the classrooms. 

Best, who prided herself on being engaged, said she attends almost every event she’s invited to, unless a previous scheduling conflict exists.  

Both are parents of current students and graduates of Newport News Public Schools. 

Before You Leave, Check This Out