Interim District 7 Bedford faculty board rep appointed | Training
After interviewing three finalists for Bedford County’s vacant District 7 school board seat, the board on Thursday appointed Christopher Daniels, a businessman with two sons at Jefferson Forest High School, to the position.
The board voted 4-2 to appoint Daniels, with District 5 representative Georgia Hairston and District 1 representative Susan Mele voting no. The school board chose Daniels over two other finalists: Raymond Smith, a University of Lynchburg student and 2019 JF graduate; and Cherie Whitehurst, formerly the principal of Liberty and Staunton River high schools and deputy superintendent for BCPS.
Daniels will serve as District 7 representative on the school board until at least November, when a special election for the position will be held. Former District 7 school board representative Martin Leamy’s term was to last until 2024, but he resigned in January. The district includes Liberty High School and the Goode area.
Daniels told school board members during his interview Thursday that he had not intended before to run for any public position.
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But when Leamy resigned, Daniels felt compelled to carry on Leamy’s legacy of asking direct questions to get answers easy for everyone to understand and to use his experience as a businessman and the father of a special needs student to help better Bedford County schools and student opportunities .
Daniels studied business in college, he said, and now owns a few Jersey Mike’s stores in the region. His experience in business, from operations and administration to training employees under him, is something he believes will be beneficial to serving on the school board.
One of Daniels’s priorities on the school board, he said, is to support students on their individual career tracks, whether they are college-bound or planning to enter the workforce after graduation. Career and technical education is an important component of this, and Daniels said he would like to see more apprenticeship and internship opportunities for high schoolers.
“We shouldn’t try to put every child in the same box. Certain kids are definitely going to be going to college. Other kids, we want to make sure there are other opportunities for them career-wise,” he said.
Daniels added he would like to see similar opportunities for college-bound students.
“We’re going to want to develop everybody from every sector in the economy. We want to have people that go to our schools that become doctors and nurses. We want them to become teachers and educators, but we want them to have business opportunities, too, and I think that’s an important thing that we need to focus on,” he said.
Another focus for Daniels is special needs and education support.
As the father of a special needs student, Daniels said he knows first-hand the importance of working with school staff to accommodate these students’ needs, while also helping them to become the best they can be as contributors to society.
Developing a baseline standard that all Bedford County schools should be brought up to, Daniels said, is something he would like to work toward on the board.
He noted disparities in programs and facilities among various Bedford County schools, such as lack of gymnasiums and an imbalance of programming opportunities.
“I think that it’s important for every child in the community, no matter what school that they’re going to, to have an equal chance to experience the same classes. Whether there’s a class that’s offered here that’s not offered in another school, I think we need to find a good solution to get those kids to have the same experience,” he said. “I think that if we have a standard that we’re setting for every school, every school’s got to get to that standard. Every school’s got to have the same offerings and the same opportunities.”
Addressing some of these things naturally relates to budgeting, another major responsibility of the school board. That is part of where Daniels said his business experience comes in.
“We should be good stewards of money, and … we shouldn’t be flippant in the decisions that we make. We should really take our time, spend plenty of time to discuss it, and come up with the best possible solution,” he said.
Getting school facilities “up to speed” was an item Daniels mentioned a few times, pertaining to his priorities.
“Do I know everything? Absolutely not. I’m going to rely on everybody around the table, and people in the community. My job would be not to know everything, but to get as much information as I can so that I can make the best decision that we can for the community,” Daniels said.
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