Former Bedford Elem. principal new SB member

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By John Barnhart

The Bedford County School Board chose Dr. John Hicks, last week, to fill the District 3 School Board seat left vacant by Brad Whorley’s resignation.

    A total of five people applied for the position and the School Board held the candidate interviews in open session.
    The School Board alloted    20   minutes   to question each candidate, with each one being asked the same set of questions. Additional questions were also asked, based on candidates’ answers to previous questions or issues that school board members had read from the candidates’ applications. All waited their turn in a separate room so that they could not hear other candidates’ replies prior to their turn to be interviewed.
    After the interviews, the school board discussed the candidates in closed session. They then voted on their choice in open session.
    Dr. Hicks worked most of his career in Bedford County Public Schools. He started in 1970 teaching elementary school in Bedford County. During his last two years, before retiring in 2001, he was principal of Bedford Elementary School. After retiring, he’s been involved in schools. He served as an interim assistant high school principal at Liberty High School and in Amherst County. He also worked two years as transportation director in Amherst County.
    “It’s a way to get back in a position to influence the lives of Bedford County students,” Dr. Hicks said, when asked why he wants on the school board.
    Dr. Hicks told the school board that his experience allows him to see school issues from the perspective of a teacher, a principal and a transportation director. He said that his strength is the ability to hear all sides of issues — from the public, from the students and from the teachers.
    What does he hope to accomplish?    
    “To help the school board get the most bang for its buck,” he replied.
    Dr. Hicks said that his experience will help the school board get the most from the money they have available. This does not mean, however, that he thinks the school board is getting enough.
    “I think it’s quite embarrassing to be 131 out of 132,” he said, referring to Bedford County’s total per-pupil expenditure in relation to other Virginia localities. Dr. Hicks said that he believes Bedford County can afford to pay more.
    Dr. Hicks also said that he favors community schools. He said that school consolidation should be a last resort.
    He sees the school board’s role as that of providing oversight to the school division, but not to get directly involved in the school division’s day-to-day management. He said management of the school division is the superintendent’s job.
    All candidates were asked how they would handle the school division’s diverse attendance zones.
    “You certainly have to have equity across the county,” said Dr. Hicks, whose education career included a decade at Stewartsville Elementary. “If people perceive that the Forest zone gets more than the Staunton River zone, then you are going to have discord among the citizens.
    Bullying is an important issue for Dr. Hicks.
    “Schools need to come down hard on that,” he said. “Principals need to have a zero tolerance policy for that.”
    Whorley’s unexpired term ends on Dec. 31, 2013. Dr. Hicks will have to run in an election in November to fill the remainder of that term. He will also have to run, again, the following year if he plans on a full term of his own. Hicks said that he will run in the November special election.
    Dr. Hicks was sworn in and took his seat at the school board’s budget work session the next evening.
    In addition to Dr. Hicks, Peter Parziale, Jean McKeague, Dennis Groenke and Eric Thompson also applied for the appointment.