W-JCC school board hears from Powhatan candidates, supporters

mcanty@vagazette.com
School board hosts public hearing on Powhatan seat

The field to fill the open Powhatan-JCC seat on the Williamsburg-James City County School Board has grown nicely.

Candidates and their supporters spoke Tuesday evening during a public hearing to discuss the seat vacated by Joe Fuentes on Jan. 15. Seven people have submitted applications for the position.

"I appreciate all the interest in this position and this process," board chairman Jim Kelly told the crowded meeting hall.

Candidates are vying to fill the seat until a November election. The public hearing is a part of the selection process to temporarily fill the vacancy.

Candidate Lisa Ownby spoke on her own behalf, and has lived in the area for 25 years. Nine supporters commented about her strong work ethic and other credentials.

"I feel strongly compelled to serve and would be honored to serve with you," Ownby told the board. She has four children, three still in W-JCC Schools and one who graduated from the division. "I think that my history can be relevant and useful to board discussions."

Lisa Lucas said about Ownby, "I'm proud to be her friend, and I hope you'll consider her to be part of the school board."

U.S. Army veteran Frank Abbott touted his experience with developing strategic plans and work in the corporate world as qualities that make him a good addition to the school board. He has knowledge of and strongly supports vocational programs for students not pursuing a college track.

"The importance of providing those students with skills and experience that employers are looking for cannot be underestimated," Abbott said.

Five people spoke on behalf of former pre-school teacher Jillian Dalton. They described how she worked with the parent-teacher organization and struggling pre-K programs that she turned around.

"If you're looking for a candidate who understands how to balance real evidence and guidelines with heart and the needs of families, look no farther than Jillian Dalton," Jodie Dolci told board members.

Williamsburg business owner Patti DeBlass said her business experience could help with tough decisions the board has to make on funding priorities. She has been a parent volunteer, treasurer for PTA as well as a substitute teacher, she said.

"As we all know, a thriving community starts in our school system," DeBlass said. "A well-managed school system increases our property values, and that's good for everyone.

Mary Minor, another candidate, said she was surprised when Fuentes resigned, and recognized the challenges of having a board with several new members. Her three children attended local schools, she said.

"My application is because I continue to care about the students in the W-JCC community," Minor added. She has also been a school board member before, and was even elected board chairman. 

Williamsburg native Dr. David Dafashy has parents who have deep roots in education, a mother who was a teacher, and father who worked at the College of William and Mary, where Dafashy currently works as a physician. He is a parent, and moved back to the area to raise his daughter here, he said.

"I can't check off all the boxes all the other candidates can, but I think I bring a fresh eye and an open mind to the board," Dafashy said. "Thanks for your consideration.

A speaker from the W-JCC Education Association, which represents division teachers, urged board members to pick a candidate with strong connections to the school and experience with a similar position.

W-JCC School Board will conduct interviews for the open seat in the next 10 days. They hope to have a decision on the new member by month's end, Kelly said.

Canty can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

Powhatan-JCC seat candidates

Lisa Ownby, Patti DeBlass, Jill Dalton, Mary Minor, David Dafashy, Brian Stokes andFrank Abbott

Source: W-JCC School Division

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