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Waters Campaign Officially Qualifies for November Ballot

The Julian D. Waters for Albemarle County School Board campaign received an email early this morning from the Albemarle County Registrar’s Office. The campaign has completed and filed all required paperwork and petition signatures have been verified. Julian D. Waters will now appear on the November 7th, 2017 General Election ballot as a candidate for the Albemarle County School Board’s Samuel Miller district seat.

“This is just the beginning of a long road ahead” said Julian, “I’m looking forward to knocking on doors and earning votes right up until election day.” The Julian D. Waters campaign is fully committed to Julian’s vision of bringing recent experience and fresh perspective to the Albemarle County School Board. “I want to reiterate the extraordinarily positive vision we have in place already” Julian said, “It’s a vision that we’re already working towards, but a vision that will be better realized with the perspective and experience of a recent student and a student advisor to Albemarle County Public Schools.”

If you wish to volunteer with the campaign, please see the contact form at the bottom of this page. If you wish to donate, please follow the ‘donate’ link at the top right of this page.

My comments at the 5/25/17 public hearing

At the Albemarle County School Board public hearing on Thursday, May 25th, I and many other members of the community spoke about the need to keep B.F. Yancey Elementary School open. Unfortunately, later that evening the board voted 2-5 to consolidate Yancey. Although I am disappointed by this decision, I believe that it is important now to focus on supporting the students and families affected by this decision.

My remarks from Thursday’s meeting are below:

Good evening Dr. Acuff and members of the board.

My names is Julian Waters. I live at 2611 Holkham Drive.

Tonight is the third meeting which directly discusses the possibility of closing Benjamin Franklin Yancey Elementary school. I, like many others, find myself somewhat confused trying to digest the rapid pace of the discussion. While I understand the struggles that Yancey is facing, I don’t believe that accelerating the decision making process aids anyone. As Mr. Koleszar said at the April 27th meeting in which closing Yancey was first discussed, ‘Whenever we shortchange the process we betray the trust which we hold with the community’. Conversations around Yancey take on an entirely new meaning when they are directly in the context of closing the school, and I don’t believe it’s fair to anyone involved for the decision making process to move forward this rapidly.

I’d also like to refute the notion of ‘throwing money’ at Yancey. As a priority school, and as a school with a large amount of disadvantaged students, higher costs should be expected. Yancey has faced severe septic system issues in recent years, and the school itself has not received any recent school improvement projects, compared to Greer elementary, which has a similar makeup of disadvantaged students, which has received over 50 according to data shown at the last board meeting. It is clear that Yancey has not been afforded to modernization or improvement opportunities that have been given to other schools in the district, and this in itself creates an unequitable divide.

There are also budgetary implications to consider- how much, if at all, does closing Yancey affect the just recently approved budget? Are there changes that need to be made in order to accommodate for the relocation of students and staff? Have the budgetary and logistical implications been studied when considering closing Yancey at the end of this school year?

I don’t mean to sweep under the rug the dire situation that Yancey faces both in terms of enrollment and accreditation status, but the fast pace of discussion and the just recent talk of closing Yancey leads me to believe that not all options have been fully considered, and it is out of concern for the students and parents of all schools involved that I ask the board to keep Yancey open and explore alternative possibilities.

Regarding recent discussions on the closure of B.F. Yancey Elementary School

JULIAN D. WATERS for SCHOOL BOARD

At recent meetings, the Albemarle County School Board has discussed the possible closure of Benjamin Franklin Yancey Elementary School. This discussion once again brought into the spotlight the critical role that local schools play in our community.

Certain discussion has revolved around the argument of ‘throwing money at Yancey’ in order to offer a solution to the school’s academic and other struggles. At the most recent board meeting on May 11th, comparisons were drawn between Yancey and Greer elementary, with Greer having a similar makeup of disadvantaged students (Students who receive free and reduced lunch) but, compared to Yancey, is in better academic standing. However, in recent years Greer has received over fifty school improvement projects whereas Yancey has received none. Yancey has struggled to fix a failing septic system and the building itself is outdated. Money being invested into Yancey is not sufficient to provide the school with the modernization opportunities that have been afforded to Greer and other elementary schools. In my opinion, this does not at all reflect the sentiment of ‘throwing money’ at Yancey, and it seems that there is still substantial room for improvement.

Furthermore, closing Yancey establishes a dangerous precedent that threatens other rural schools, such as Red Hill, Scottsville, and other schools with declining enrollment. Closing Yancey based on the premise of the school itself being ‘too small’ is a flawed solution. Because the entire lower region is out of the strategic development area as outlined by the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission, continuing population decline will likely be reflected by declining enrollment at any elementary school outside of the designated development areas. Should the board decide to close Yancey, how long will it be until we begin to examine the future of other schools? Opening this door threatens the existence of not just Yancey, but any rural neighborhood school in the district.

Aside from these reasons, there is common sense in keeping Yancey open as well. Geographically, Yancey is located more centrally to the lower region of the county than Scottsville Elementary, the next closest Elementary school. This means that transportation to and from Yancey by bus and for parents and staff is better distributed, and average transit times for both would likely be shorter. We also need to face the fact that closing Yancey would do nothing to address the declining population in the area. Closing Yancey as a result of declining enrollment and funding would not be a solution, but an unfortunate and unnecessary byproduct. It would be more fruitful to find ways to encourage development in the Esmont community, leading to an increased population and greater investment in the surrounding area.

As as student, I was fortunate enough to attend Meriwether Lewis Elementary, just a few short minutes away from my neighborhood. To me and countless others, Meriwether was more than just a school. It was soccer practice, and family trips to the playground on the weekends. It was ‘kids night out’ and pumpkin carving. It was a true part of our community. Schools like Yancey, though small, are incredibly important to the communities they serve. They serve not only to teach, but to help grow and foster the neighborhoods and families around them. For Yancey, a school which hosts numerous community events and has become a neighborhood landmark, this importance is even greater.

Yancey represents an important piece of heritage, not only to Esmont but to Albemarle County as a whole. Every day it stands as an inspiration to students, to parents, to teachers, and to community members, and as a reminder of the immense positive impact that a passionate individual can have. Benjamin Franklin Yancey, for whom the school is named, worked tirelessly in the Esmont area to provide opportunities to students. Benjamin Yancey’s legacy is one of fighting hard to provide for those in his community, a legacy that endures now in Yancey Elementary School. It is my hope that the board can understand the importance of Yancey as more than just a place of education and explore alternative solutions to encourage growth and keep Yancey around for future generations of students, teachers, families, and the community.