Leffel Unopposed for Buckmarsh School Board Seat

Buckmarsh voting district citizen Beth Leffel has officially announced her candidacy for a seat on the Clarke County School Board. With current Buckmarsh member Emily Rhodes’s announcement that she will not seek re-election and no other opponents in sight, Leffel looks like a shoe-in for the school board post.

“I’ve been on the School Board Policy Committee for almost 2 years” Leffel said on Thursday. “When I learned that Emily Rhodes wasn’t going to run again I decided I wanted to get more involved and make a difference instead of just complaining.”

Beth Leffel is currently unopposed for the Clarke County School Board Buckmarsh seat - Photo Edward Leonard

While Leffel has never served on a school board before, she is no stranger when it comes to education. Leffel holds an undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech, a Master’s degree from George Washington University and Doctorate of Philosophy from the Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University.

In addition to her own success in academics, education policy apparently runs in her family.

Her father, Jack Lefffel, is chairman of the Botetourt County school board and her mother is a retired teacher. Leffel said that she had already made the decision to run for office before she told her father.

“He said ‘Are you sure that you know what you’re getting into?’” Leffel laughed.

With 18 years as a Clarke Counjty citizen and a long resume of public service, there’s a strong likliehood that Leffel understands exactly what she’s getting into. Leffel served a member of the John H. Enders Fire and Rescue Company for 13 years. She has volunteered her time offering science education programs to stimulate young learners and has been awarded the Department of Defense Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Award for developing such programs.   She recently taught a science camp for the Clarke County Parks and Recreation department.

Leffel says that she hopes to be an advocate for the students and parents so that students are better prepared to be competitive in the career of their choice.   She believes that this requires a partnership with the school administration and listening to the educators

“Criticism doesn’t bother me” Leffel said. “I’m a community service oriented person and I’m not trying to get people’s thanks or appreciation. I just want to be an advocate for kids. I’m also think that teachers need and advocate too, or at least an ear to hear what they are saying.”

Leffel, who has recently completed the petition signature process so that her name can be added to the November ballot, that she had not only learned a lot from going door-to-door in her district, but also thoroughly enjoyed meeting many of her neighbors.

“Over the last several weeks I spent time in the district obtaining signatures from my neighbors in order to declare candidacy.   Many of them have asked me why I wanted to run for the position,” she said.   “My first answer was that I now have a second-grader.   I am learning from our experiences and from other parents that we share concerns about education in this community and I saw this as an opportunity to contribute to a solution.”

Leffel said that although voters had a lot to say about the school system, there were very few common themes or complaints.

“People expressed many different issues” Leffel said. “It’s a little disconcerting because I didn’t pickup any common themes to work on. I think that it makes it more difficult to satisfy people’s concerns.”

One way that Leffel hopes to involve the community in consensus-building is through developing a FaceBook page where people can share ideas and complaints.

Leffel said that she is very concerned about retention of teachers and pay rates but she is not in favor of raising taxes to increase teacher compensation.

“Are you kidding?!” Leffel says when asked about her position on increased taxes. “I don’t have the funding answer but that’s why I’m running for the school board and not the Board of Supervisors!” she laughed.

“I would have completely supported the full amount for the teacher bonus package though” Leffel continued. “I’ve been doing research on what other counties are doing for compensation. It’s sad because Clarke County isn’t alone. Nearly every other county hasn’t given teachers a raise. It doesn’t make a lot of sense because we trust teachers with our kid’s brains but we don’t seem to revere them as a profession. I haven’t come up with a good answer for that yet.”

Leffel said that she is concerned that there has been an overall decline in Clarke’s school system and she’d like to take steps to reverse what she suspects may be a downward trend.

“I am scared that we are in decline” Leffel said. “I hope that it turns out that I’m wrong. I’m a scientist so I’m still trying to gather facts. I don’t have a good answer yet, I just don’t.”

Leffel said that she is also evaluating the costs and benefits of the CCPS International Baccalaureate versus the Advanced Placement program.

“The IB program seems like a good program with lots of benefits for students” Leffel observed. “I’d like to see a risk- benefit analysis performed on IB versus AP. Because the IB program seems to be having problems I am concerned that it is at risk of being cut. I’m trying to get ahead of the learning curve on this topic but I don’t have my head around it yet.”

“I plan to focus on curriculum and facility improvement” Leffel said.   “I also plan to spend time understanding the course content, advantages IB offers students, and assessing if that benefit warrants the financial investment required.”

Leffel says that she is also committed to strengthening programs in early education, such as the gifted programs.

When asked about her thoughts on planned renovations for school division’s existing buildings, she said, “I was surprised to read that there seems to be no plans in place and no School Board member currently in charge of the project.   The Board has achieved a monumental task with the construction of the new high school – not only meeting a timeline, but also coming in under budget.   I hope that that momentum will carry forward and that the renovation project will begin in an aggressive fashion.   I hope to be part of that progress!”

While other school board candidates have labeled the current school board’s public expression of differences as counter-productive and embarrassing, Leffel says that she doesn’t fully agree. Leffel said that she doesn’t necessarily see the tension that has occurred between the current school board members as all bad.

“I understand the need for harmony and compromise” Leffel said. “I also believe that there needs to be more collaboration between the school board and the school administration. That said, we have to allow for debate. Everything can’t always be sweet and harmonious.”

 

 

Comments

  1. Dapper Dan Man says:

    Finally…a candidate for my district that’s solid and understands schools and how they work. Best of luck, Mrs. Leffel!

  2. IBO’s annual membership fee for the Diploma programme rose to $10,500 for 2011-12. For all fees associated with IB, please see:

    http://truthaboutib.com/howmuchdoesibcost/ibfees.html

    AP is a much better option for American public schools.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Why? Because the tests are easier and we can pat ourselves on the back on how brillant our students are at spitting back rote facts? Or because we won’t have to see how miserably we compare to the rest of the world on a test that requires thought and analysis, not to mention actual work. If she is really interested in looking at the facts and doing what is best for the students, that is fantastic.

  3. Naked Truth says:

    Great, another candidate on the side of IB program. Even though she sees there are issues with IB. Looks like more our or tax dollars are going to waste. AP is so much better for our students.

    • Slow Lane says:

      Where did she say she was in support of the program? Reading is fundamental….

      • Mr Mister says:

        “The IB program seems like a good program with lots of benefits for students” Leffel observed. “I’d like to see a risk- benefit analysis performed on IB versus AP. Because the IB program seems to be having problems I am concerned that it is at risk of being cut. I’m trying to get ahead of the learning curve on this topic but I don’t have my head around it yet.”

        Where? Why would she be concerned if IB was being cut? The election is a couple of months from now. Where does she stand on the whole IB vs AP? Is she planning on being a figure-head, just going with the flow?
        “get ahead of the learning curve”? A little late for that now isn’t it? How long have the people of Clarke been debating this topic? And NOW she wants to look into this? If she was for AP, she would have said so, I would assume. She didn’t. Or is this typical politician CYA? I guess if she runs unopposed she really doesn’t have to say where she stands on any issues. How convenient. Sounds like she fits right in.

        • Slow Lane says:

          “I guess if she runs unopposed she really doesn’t have to say where she stands on any issues. How convenient. Sounds like she fits right in”

          Sounds like you’re running for school board. Glad to have the commitment to your community.

  4. Dapper Dan Man says:

    IB and AP are not mutually exclusive programs.

    • True, but one costs a heckuva lot more than the other.

      • Doesn’t matter. If the IB program were fully implemented as it could (and, perhaps, should) be, we’d see much more tangible results. However, if the money isn’t put there for staff training, up-to-date resources, and all…it don’t matter what initials are in place (IB, AP, etc.)…the program will not be able to reach the kids it’s supposed to reach as effectively as it could. I think it’s great that she wants to look at both programs; that was a fair answer, and she certainly has the education background to both ask the question and dig for the answers. What’s your story, Mr. Mister?

  5. letemplay says:

    When is the last day for people to apply for candidacy? still think RRB will sneek in at last minute!

  6. Tony Parrott says:

    Sounds like a candidate willing to do her home work an “advocate for kids”; that’s a concept I can agree with. Sounds like a good candidate to me!
    But as I can see we are going to turn this into an AP/IB complaint section.

    • Mr Mister says:

      I would think the the homework would have been completed by now! The election is a couple months away. This is my concern.

      • Tony Parrott says:

        I disagree, the homework is never done. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having an opinion but still willing to look at all the facts before you come to judgment.
        Also I find it funny (not really) that people can be negative about a person running for SB that wants to advocate for children. Isn’t it supposed to be about children?

  7. Mr Mister says:

    Isn’t it supposed to be about children?

    It sure is and she hasn’t gotten her head around the IB vs AP issue. How is that good for the children? It ‘s a shame she is running unopposed. All she has to do is show up. Come on Tony, give her a clue.

    • Tony Parrott says:

      Ok, so who really has their head around AP vs. IB? Do you have all the answers? If so please share.
      I looked at this in great detail some years ago and it wasn’t an easy decision then or now.

      Demanding program? Both of them are demanding and are considered advanced courses. Colleges look at several things when applying and one of them is did you take “very demanding classes” based on what your school offers. Both IB and AP are considered very demanding.

      College credits? Depending on the college you may get credit for your IB or AP course. Yes, more colleges overall accept AP over IB for credit. For IB credits you will most likely have to have the HL IB class and score 4-5, I believe, in order to receive credit. For me personally the college credit is not the big push. I want a program that gets you ready for college. Credits are a nicety. If it was all about the credit I would go dual enrollment.

      Cost? If you were starting from scratch, AP would be less expensive for the school district. IB is like a club and you must purchase a membership. IB also has requirements around formal teacher training; AP does not. Both have testing cost and IB also requires a registration fee. In the old days the school district picked up the cost now the parents do.

      Diploma program? IB offers one and AP doesn’t. For the IB diploma you must to take the IB courses. Clarke is different than most districts as you are not required to go for the diploma. You can take the class and work toward a certificate. Because AP doesn’t have a diploma program you can take whichever one you like so if you are strong in math and not in English you can pick your better subject.

      Moving from IB to AP would have a financial impact as well as an impact on kids currently taking IB. You would have to pay for both during the transition or simply cut off the kids currently in the program and say “Too bad so sad”. You could also cut off funding, wait for enrollment to go down or kill because of a lack of qualified teaches and it dies on its own very slowly effecting several years of Clarke County graduates. Let’s face it; funding is not going to be there to run both programs for several years. To me the right choice between the two is the one that impacts the kids the least. So what would be your plan?

      Also if you want more information I found a very good report on this very subject: Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate. Do They Deserve Gold Star Status? November 2007 Just like any report I’m sure people will dispute the findings but it was pretty non bias to me.

  8. Believer says:

    I VOTE FOR TONY PARROTT!! HE’S THE BEST FOR THE JOB. EVEN THOUGH I CAN’T. HE’S NOT IN MY DISTRICT. STILL THINK HE SHOULD HAVE THE JOB.