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BPS issue raises up new appointments for City School Board

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By Tom Wilmoth

 

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The controversy surrounding the attempt to close Bedford Primary School during budget discussions earlier this year raised up a group of people passionate about what's going on in city and county government.

On Tuesday, that involvement got even deeper with two leaders of those who fought to keep BPS open being named as new members of the Bedford City School Board.

Tara M. Warner and Tabitha J. King were among three appointments made by Bedford City Council Tuesday night, following open public interviews of the four candidates who had applied for the three open City School Board seats. Also appointed on Tuesday was Phyllis J. Parker, the current chairman of the board.

“It's wonderful,” Bedford Mayor Skip Tharp stated about the new appointments to the City School Board. “You've got people involved who have not been involved. You have the new generation coming forward saying they want to have a part in government. It's hard to turn down new talent.”

The other candidate who had applied was Mickey VanDerwerker, also a current member of the City School Board. Though she was not reappointed, she will continue to serve as the city representative on the Bedford County School Board. That is a separate appointment made by City Council and she still has two years remaining on that appointment.

Tharp said having the new members' “active and vibrant input” on the city board, along with VanDerwerker's experience and background on the county board, will serve the city well.

“It's a win-win,” he said. “I'm enthused about her (VanDerwerker's) future service.”

Tharp said he expects there to be good interaction between the City School Board and VanDerwerker as she represents the city students on the county board.

VanDerwerker and Warner each fielded questions from council members Tuesday, prior to a closed session to discuss who they would appoint. At a meeting on June 14, King and Parker were interviewed by council.

During her interview, VanDerwerker told council that each of them will one day need to utilize the skills the students in school now are now learning. She added that the school system is trying to balance the struggle of meeting federally mandated test score numbers with the need to teach 21st century skills to students.

School funding will continue to be an issue for some time, she said. “Washington is going to do something about the (federal) deficit and we're going to pay the price at the schools,” VanDerwerker said.

When asked if she would continue to serve out her term as the city's representative on the County School Board, if not reappointed to the City School Board, VanDerwerker said she would. She said there will be several new members on that board already next year, in what will prove to be a tough financial year. “I think that the influence that I have and the experience that I have is very valuable,” she said.

During her interview, Warner said the City School Board has a responsibility to make sure that city students are receiving the same treatment as students in other school zones in the county. As someone who was involved to fight to save the Primary School from being closed, she said bigger schools are not needed.

“Mega schools are not the answer,” she said. “I do not think that is the answer for Bedford County.”

Warner said the City School Board needs to take a more active role in the decisions being made by the County School Board. “We need to make sure those contracted obligations are being met,” she said of the city's contract with the county for school services.

She added that she would expect School Superintendent Dr. Douglas Schuch to attend City School Board meetings. “There's definitely power and influence that can be used,” she said of the City School Board's role.

Warner said her work to help keep BPS open has proven to be “quite an education.”