ASHLAND -- Hanover County School Board members turned to a familiar face to lead the panel for the upcoming year. Bob Hundley was selected as chair during the June 10 regular reorganization session.
First appointed in 2004, the Chickahominy District representative accepted a third turn with the gavel and has served as vice chair several times during his tenure.
Current vice chair Roger Bourassa, Mechanicsville District, was selected to fill a second term in that position.
Hundley thanked his fellow board members for their unanimous vote of support. Following the meeting, he identified several areas of focus for the upcoming year.
“I’m very appreciative of the board’s support and confidence,” Hundley said. “I want to continue to work closely with the board and our business community and mentorships, all of that correlating with the Department of Education changes to the profile of a graduate and getting more real world opportunities … for our students.”
He also pointed to continued progress for the school system’s five-year technology plan, now in its second year.
“We’re very excited to roll out the technology plan, the laptops for teachers that we have been able to do,” Hundley said. “We are extremely pleased that our county board of supervisors has supported and funded this initiative on our behalf and looking forward to all of the instructional opportunities that will allow our students.”
Outgoing chair Sue Dibble, South Anna District, thanked board members and said she is looking forward to devoting more time to a special time in her son’s life, his senior year.
In other business, a group of Patrick Henry High School students took advantage of a public comment period to voice their support for PHHS principal Beth Smith.
The students were joined by one long-time employee at the campus. Betty Tyler asked the board, “What is going on with our principal?” she asked, referring to a whirlwind of rumors regarding the status.
“We’ve heard rumors and everyone wants answers from me but I can’t give them if I don’t know the answer,” she said.
“She is a good principal and loves the kids,” Tyler said.
Other students said Smith was there for them in difficult situations and was a great support for them personally.
“She has been there 24/7 for a lot of students who can’t advocate for themselves,” said rising PHHS senior Harris. “It’s hard being an African American student at Patrick Henry High School.”
Superintendent Michael Gill told board members he could not comment on matters that involved personnel issues, but thanked and commended the students for their “poised” comments.
Another matter brought before the board was what a part-time bus driver described a dangerous situation that he said occurs daily. He also offered a possible solution.
Frank Marotta said it’s almost a daily occurrence that someone ignores his stopped bus arm device and blinking lights and runs through without stopping.
The extended stop arm prevents vehicles from passing through the bus zone and possibly striking children.
“In the first week of school, I was passed with my stop arm extended every day at least once in the morning and once in the afternoon,” Marotta said. “Buses seem to be invisible to other drivers.”
Marotta said there were only 19 convictions last year for the offense, largely due to the difficulty in identifying offenders. While mounted cameras do capture some drivers who ignore the stop arm, they require a large amount of storage space for the hours of data collected. He endorsed the extended stop arm solution to the problem.
Mary Adams represents Bus Safety Solutions, the company that manufactures the extended stop arm, and said about 700 buses are equipped with the device, some of them located in five counties in Virginia.
In Albemarle County, initial tests indicated the extended stop arm reduces violations by more than 50 percent.
“The extended stop arm is the only thing that you can put on the outside of a bus that will physically keep children safe getting on and off the bus,” Adams said. “This stop arm will hit that car and make that car stop and physically protect that child crossing the street.”