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Shirley McCabe, who has represented District 6 on the Bedford County School Board since 1995, won’t seek reelection this fall.
McCabe is the last school board member left from the old appointed school board. She retired from teaching—she had been a guidance counselor at Liberty High School—on June 30, 1995, and took her seat on the school board the next day. The school board had just changed from an appointed school board to an elected school board, so McCabe had to run for the seat that fall. She won and has held it ever since.
McCabe said that she has been thinking about stepping down for some time. She waited, however, until somebody stepped up she felt would be in harmony with her thinking. That happened this year.
Kelly Harmony, who is seeking the seat, and McCabe got to know each other well when Thaxton Elementary School was slated for closure a couple of years ago. The two worked together to fight the issue.
“I was impressed with the way she handled things at Thaxton,” McCabe commented.
McCabe was impressed enough that she decided she had met her replacement on the school board.
“I told her if you feel ready to go on the board, let me know,” McCabe said.
“We have similar viewpoints,” Harmony said. “We tend to think the same way.”
Harmony, while working on the Thaxton issue, was part of a group of mothers who went through the budget line item by line item looking for possible cuts. They weren’t looking for one big item, rather they were looking for a large number of small savings.
“If you take a little bit from one area, it doesn’t suffer,” she said.
One of the cuts they found, one that was eventually implemented, was not printing copies of the student handbook and code of conduct for every student. They felt a savings could be realized if these were put on line, with paper copies only being provided to students with no Internet access.
Harmony is a big fan of community schools like Thaxton and opposes their elimination. In fact, she said that she and her husband moved from Lynchburg to Thaxton specifically because Thaxton offered a small community school for their children.
“If we wanted our children in [big] schools like Northern Virginia, we would have moved to Northern Virginia,” she said.
Harmony is also concerned about the growth of central office staff in Bedford County Public Schools. She said that she has seen teaching positions eliminated year after year while new central office positions were created.
“I want to see job descriptions for every [central office staff position],” she said. “That’s something I’m going to ask for."
Harmony is not a fan of computer based learning. She believes that the county’s children aren’t falling short in their ability to use technology. Where they are losing ground is their ability to communicate with people and computer based learning represents a step in the wrong direction, she said. Harmony said that she was recently on a plane sitting next to a man who is on a college board. She said she asked the man what was missing in high school graduates.
“The one thing they all had in common (that was missing) was communication skills,” she said.
Harmony would also like to look into the feasibility of drug testing for students participating in sports. She said that other students look up to school athletes and these athletes need to set a good example.
“I don’t claim to have all the answers,” Harmony said, “but what I do claim is the initiative to ask the questions.”
This means that she won’t be a rubber stamp for the superintendent of schools. She notes that Dr. Douglas Schuch has said that closing schools will save money, but she’s skeptical about that. If small schools are closed, it means the students have to be bused, and classroom space has to be found for them.
“The next thing that will come is ‘We have to build a bigger school,’” Harmony predicted. “Then we become like Northern Virginia.”
Kelly Harmony is a Bedford County native and a 1989 Jefferson Forest High School graduate. She works as a sales representative for Weldex, a firm based in Thaxton. Her husband, Daniel Harmony, is a sheriff’s deputy and recently began working in computer forensics with the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office. His two older brothers, Eddie Harmony and Mike Harmony, are also in law enforcement. Eddie Harmony is an investigative sergeant with the Bedford Police Department and Mike Harmony is an investigator with the Southern Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force. All three brothers are Liberty High School graduates and McCabe remembers them from her high school guidance counselor days.
Anyone desiring to run for the seat must have all paperwork in to the registrar’s office by Aug. 23.