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Here's who is running for Portsmouth School Board in 2022

Two newcomers are fighting for seats on the school board, facing off against three incumbents.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — There are five options are on the ballot in the race for the Portsmouth School Board, but only four seats are up for grabs.

Two candidates are political newcomers facing off against three incumbents.

School board chairman Dr. Cardell Patillo and board members Tamara Shewmake and Dr. Melvin Cotton are seeking re-election. 

Quniana D. "Q" Futrell and Arnette McSwain are the new names.

Business owner Arnette McSwain served in the army and is a former sheriff's deputy and substitute teacher.

“I am approachable. I want to hear from you," McSwain said.

She said her focus is on making sure children are equipped for life beyond high school. 

“Can we come up with a system where tutoring is mandatory for our children that cannot read?” McSwain questioned.

As a sheriff's deputy, McSwain said she worked with high-risk youth and learned what children need to succeed. She said she wants to invest in technical and trade skills to prepare high school graduates for jobs at the shipyard and ports.

“I want to make sure - if we can’t reach those who are slipping through that we can equip them with something that they will be able to do to make a living," McSwain said. "I don’t want our children graduating and giving up on life.”

Quniana "Q" Futrell is active in the community as an entrepreneur, author, public speaker, and consultant.

“I’m a trusted voice. I can definitely be googled,” Futrell said.

She also taught at Tidewater Community College and owns a childcare facility. Having written several books, Futrell said literacy is a focus for her.

“I’m really big on early literacy," Futrell said. "I think it’s important not only for our children to read but to comprehend the things they’re reading.” 

She will also address learning loss, pursue full accreditation for Portsmouth schools, expand mental health and trauma care for students, and address teacher shortages with increased pay.

“I definitely want competitive pay for all our staff because they deserve it," she said. "There is no other greater job than education and educating our children.”

Portsmouth school board chairman Dr. Cardell Patillo is seeking a third term. One of his priorities is addressing the teacher shortage with competitive pay

“Implementing a compensation study to see where we are on a state and national average with our teachers and staff with the compensation," Dr. Patillo said. "And see if we can put a plan in place with our city council, as well.”

He said other priorities for him are introducing an afterschool program to address learning loss and expanding a trade and technical education partnership with Tidewater Community College.

“Our desire now is to bring those programs from Tidewater Community College and bring them in-house back to Portsmouth public schools," he said. "We’re doing that now so all of our kids have equal access to those career opportunities.”

Tamara Shewmake is seeking a second term on the school board.

She said her focus is on early literacy, financial literacy, and vocational training. She said she’s done a lot of work for the school division and is ready to do more.

“A lot of us have done a lot of detailed work over the course of four years," Shewmake said. "It’s not just what we’ve done on the dais but off the dais.”

She also pointed to expanding the division’s Career and Technical Education program and her work in expanding mental health counseling through the division’s “Here to Help” project.

“We have advocated for things that just needed to be done," Shewmake said. "I encourage voters to do, is do your own research. Google the candidates, see what you can find.”

Dr. Melvin Cotton joined the school board last year after winning a special election. He said he’s also focused on teacher pay.

“We were able to give all staff a much-needed bonus they deserve," Dr. Cotton said.

He said continuing an expansion of technical and skilled trades education for students is also a priority so students are prepared when they graduate.

“I really want us to focus on getting the young folks credentials so when they graduate from high school, they’re able to have some type of paperwork to say that they know the skills that they received," he said.

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