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Amherst County District 2 school board member to step down at end of the year
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Amherst County District 2 school board member to step down at end of the year

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After nearly three years on the Amherst County School Board, District 2 representative Amanda Wright said she is stepping down at the end of the year, opting not to run as a write-in candidate.

Wright, who joined the board in November 2018 to fill a vacancy after former member Jennifer Cumby resigned, was in the process of running for a second term in the Nov. 2 election but did not garner enough of the required signatures to place on the ballot, according to the Amherst County Registrar’s Office. She decided not to pursue running as a write-in candidate, she confirmed in an email to the New Era-Progress.

“I have been honored to serve on the [board] and represent District 2,” Wright said in an email. “Amherst has a lot to be proud of: a CTE (career and technical education) program that offers an alternative career path to students in skilled trades; the Amherst Education Center, which supports our at-risk students in an alternative education school and an early college program, to name a few.”

The District 2 seat, along with District 5 and one of two at-large seats on the board, were in the Amherst County School Board’s first elected seats in 2017. County voters overwhelmingly supported moving to an elected board over a previous method of appointment through the Amherst County Board of Supervisors.

David Emmert, an Amherst town resident who recently left his teaching job at Amherst County High School, and Dawn Justice, a town resident who moved to Amherst last year from the Pacific Northwest, are on the ballot for District 2 in November.

Wright, first appointed to the role by the board in late 2018, was elected by voters the following year. The Nelson County native has lived in the Temperance area for more than 20 years, has two daughters who completed ACPS and another currently in the division, and is owner of Phoenix Labor Consultants, a consulting firm that assists in the hiring of employees for seasonal jobs.

She noted the unprecedented hurdles related to the COVID-19 pandemic that the Amherst County Public Schools division faced in recently completing the 2020-21 school year under a system of hybrid in-person and at-home learning.

“The Amherst staff adjusted and overcame these obstacles, continuing to meet our students and parents’ needs by providing school lunches during the shutdown, expanding public internet connectivity, an online remote academy and reopening schools with face-to-face instruction.”

Wright, along with at-large member Ginger Burg, prior to the start of the 2020-21 school year voted against a requirement to have students wear masks in schools and on buses, which passed 5-2. At the time of the vote in late July 2020, Amherst County had 101 cases of the coronavirus, a figure that nearly a year later has grown to just less than 3,000 and claimed the lives of 40 county residents, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s website.

Serving with fellow school board members, whom Wright described as “never anything but professional and compassionate,” has been a pleasure, she said.

“Making ‘Every Child Every Day’ more than just a motto, but a priority, has been accomplished only because of the amazing administration and staff of the Amherst County Public Schools and the parents/guardians of our students.”

Wright added she is forever impressed by the caliber of ACPS students, referring to them as “some of the most respectful, caring, and hardworking young adults.

“I know they will endeavor to be game changers in their futures,” Wright said in the email. “I will miss serving on the Board, but I look forward to continuing to invest in our community in other capacities. I wish the new candidates my heartfelt best.”

District 2 covers much of northern Amherst County and includes the town of Amherst,

District 5 school board representative David Cassise, who was among the first three elected board members in 2017, also is not seeking reelection to a second term. County resident Eric Orasi is the only candidate to file to run for the seat that represents southern Madison Heights.

At-large representative Abby Thompson, who first was appointed to the board in July 2016 was elected the following year, also is running for another term. Leecy Fink, of Elon, is challenging Thompson, the board’s vice chair, for the seat.

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