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Jason Johnson works with incoming freshmen at Virginia Tech as an undergraduate academic adviser. He believes that position makes him uniquely qualified to see just how prepared area students are when they enter college.
And Johnson believes the school system can do better.
That’s why he’s thrown his hat into the ring, running for the District 2 School Board seat vacated by David Vaden earlier this year. Currently Jennifer Merritt is filling that seat, until the special election in November. Merritt was selected for that by the other Bedford County School Board members following Vaden’s resignation. Johnson was amongthe applicants.
“In selecting Mrs. Merritt the School Board had its say; now it’s time for the people of District 2 to have their’s,” Johnson said Saturday at an event in Moneta announcing his intentions to seek the seat.
Merritt has said she plans to run, though, according to the Bedford County Registrar’s Office, she has not yet filed her paperwork. Another District 2 resident, Barry Tosh—who also had applied with the board to fill the seat until the election—has filed his paperwork to run.
Prospective candidates have until Aug. 17 to file their paperwork with the county to run for either the District 2 or District 3 seats. Dr. John Hicks, who was appointed to fill the District 3 seat by the School Board after Brad Whorley resigned, has filed to run for that seat in the November special election.
Johnson said Vaden and his predecessor, Talbot Huff, have provided a good tradition of representation on the School Board. “We need someone to take up the mantle that Dave and Talbot have each so ably carried,” he said.
Johnson said he’s not the typical candidate for a School Board seat: he’s a “Millennial,” doesn’t belong to the PTA and doesn’t have children in the school system.
“I’m running, though, because you don’t have to have kids to care about the education our nation’s students are receiving,” he said.
In his job, Johnson said he sees what students are expected to know when they arrive at college or at a new job out of high school, and he knows from personal experience, as a graduate of Staunton River High School, about having to catch up with his peers from northern Virginia in that first year of college.
Johnson believes Bedford County students are just as capable of high achievement as students from other jurisdictions. “We have the potential to build an educational system in this county that is the envy of rural school districts across our Commonwealth,” he said. “Doing, so, however, will require us to look for new solutions.”
He said adding dollars to the budget isn’t the only answer.
“Throwing money at the problem isn’t always the solution,” he said. “Spending the money that we do have, wisely and responsibly... is.”
He said teachers need to be put back in charge of their classrooms and he said implementing a mentor program would help middle and high students in the county prepare for their future. “Let’s show them a world that many of them don’t know exists, augmenting the lessons they’re learning in the classroom with real-life, hands-on activities.”
Johnson said that ultimately he is running for the District 2 seat because Bedford County is his home.
“I want to make a difference for future generations,” he said. “We need a representative who knows how to work with everyone—even those with whom he might disagree—to get things done.”
Johnson said Merritt is dedicated to her children and the county’s schools and he plans to run a positive campaign, regardless of who runs. “Ours will be a campaign about a vision for the future of public education in Bedford County,” he said.
Johnson holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Chuck Neudorfer introduced Johnson at Saturday’s event, held at the Gazebo in Downtown Moneta.