An Amherst County High School art teacher and business owner who is leaving the education profession this month is running for the District 2 seat on the county’s school board.
Amherst town resident David Emmert has filed to run for the post. Dawn Justice, also a town resident, is running for the seat while incumbent Amanda Wright, who announced her intentions to run, has not qualified to be placed on the ballot because of a lack of required paperwork, according to the Amherst County Registrar’s Office.
Wright said she is mulling her options on if she wants to remain in the race as a write-in candidate.
Emmert, an art teacher at Amherst County High School for the past 17 years, said he is finishing his career in public education June 30. He owns a residential construction business and said he wants to stay involved in the educational process and feels his experience and familiarity with the teaching profession and school system makes him a good candidate.
He was raised in Pittsburgh, attended college in western Pennsylvania and moved to Virginia to begin his position at ACHS in 2004. He met his wife, theater program instructor Patricia Emmert, at the school and said living in the Amherst community has been a wonderful experience.
Addressing the school board’s role in overseeing the Amherst County Public Schools’ annual budget, he said his goal, if elected, is to strive to maximize the financial support for students. He said his art class only received $750 to operate and noted the challenges with those limits.
“What I’m interested in doing is making sure the tax dollars make it to the classroom,” Emmert said.
He said the board getting proper input from teachers, a major stakeholder group, as it considers policies and decisions is important.
“A successful classroom is going to have a teacher who is supported,” Emmert said, adding: “If those teachers have a voice all the way up directly up to the School Board, that’s going to be our best pathway to success...what is optimal for teachers is important to me.”
Emmert said he supports a teacher’s senate of two representatives from each of the county’s schools and a non-voting member of that group taking part in board proceedings.
“There’s a lot of times the board needs teacher input,” he said, adding direct communication at meetings would be beneficial.
He said teachers were a major influence in his youth and played a part in him becoming an educator.
“I had amazing teachers while I was growing up in the public school system,” said Emmert. “They were great and I really wanted to try and give to other people, other students, the same kind of experience I got. For 17 years I worked really hard to create that environment where students could really thrive on their own creative visions.”
Emmert resides near the town of Amherst and addressed the importance of expanding broadband coverage to all county residents, an area county and school officials have partnered in making strides in during the past year.
Justice, who moved to Amherst County last year, said she is running for office because she loves the community.
“I believe the parents have a right to know what’s happening in our schools,” she said of making sure families are given adequate information on major policies affecting their children.
She said she feels the division needs to focus on the basics of learning and “what we have in common,” referring to an equity lesson recently taught in schools that some county residents have said they feel is divisive.
“Each one of them is a history-maker, a history-changer, and that’s what they need to be taught. They don’t need to be taught it’s where you come from that decides where you’re going to go,” Justice said.
She added teachers need more time in the classroom and less time in professional development meetings.
“I do believe I have the skills to be an advocate for parents and how parents being informed and being able to [give] input how these decisions are affecting their children.”
Wright and Justice recently spoke at the Amherst County Republican Party’s May meeting. While school board candidates don’t run as party candidates, they can receive endorsements from political parties.
In other races, at-large school board member Abby Thompson seeks reelection to a seat she has held since July 2016. Elon resident Leecy Fink is running for the at-large seat.
In District 5, resident Eric Orasi is the only candidate to file by the June 8 deadline, according to the registrar’s office. Incumbent David Cassise said he is not seeking a second term.