Norfolk to elect school board members

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Norfolk voters overwhelmingly voted yes for a directly-elected school board. On Tuesday’s ballot, 85 percent of the voters supported the referendum.

Back in June, Dennis Gronka collected signatures for a petition to get the Norfolk elected school board question on the ballot. Now that voters have chosen to elect members, Gronka’s hope is for more people to get involved and for student achievement to go up.

“Change the SOL scores so that kids can get a better job when they graduate from school, and getting the accreditation of the schools,” he said. “Rights now we have 44 schools and only 13 are accredited.”

Another organizer is Thomas Calhoun, president of the Norfolk Federation of Teachers, which represents some 1,600 school employees. He said voting in school board members makes them more accountable.

“Whoever goes in there was voted in there. That’s that. If you don’t agree with these people we voted in, guess what? You can vote them out. Before we had no say,” he said.

Dr. Kirk Houston, the current Norfolk School Board chairman, said in his experience, he’s found no direct correlation between elected or appointed school boards and student performance.

“Certainly, we have a number of challenges in our system,” he said. “There’s a lot of room for improvement. We’re working very hard on the issues, but people are concerned, and I respect that.”

Houston said he doesn’t know yet if he will run to keep his school board position.

Houston has served as an appointed member of the school board for nearly six years. His term is up in June 2015, and he said he doesn’t know yet if he will run to keep his position.

Previous attempts to place the elected school board referendum on the ballot in Norfolk failed, until now.

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