District 2 School Board candidates take part in 2017 election questionnaire

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: Oct 2, 2017 | 7:55 p.m. 

PRINCE GEORGE – With Election Day fast approaching, voters will be deciding a pair of key races within Prince George County, namely, who should fill the District 1 and 2 seats on the Prince George Board of Supervisors and School Board as part of the shift to staggered terms.

Ahead of the election, The Prince George Journal asked all supervisor and school board candidates running in the 2017 General Election to answer a questionnaire so voters can learn more about them before the November 7 election in the county.

All candidates were sent the same questionnaire and given the same deadline for sending their responses back in.

This week’s, we feature the responses of those running for the District 2 School Board seat, Leila Holmes and Chris A. Johnson.

Their answers are presented as submitted by the candidates themselves without alteration.

Q – Please provide any biographical information that you feel is important for voters.

HOLMES – I grew up in New Kent County.  I attended Virginia State University and after earning the required number of credits from college I was able to substitute in the New Kent County School System.

I graduated from J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College (Data Entry Operations-Cum Laude).

In 2009 I enrolled at John Tyler Community College seeking a Certificate Degree in Human Services/Gerontology.  I did not continue due to working full-time.

I have worked in the Prince George County School System for 13 years so far.  I started working for the school system as a substitute teacher, January 2004.  I have been a substitute teacher in all of the schools in the county.

(Except for Rowanty).  I also substituted at Crater Juvenile Detention Center, the GED program, PG Pals and Project Choice at the Educational Center.

I have been a substitute clerical worker for some of the schools in Prince George County School System and at the school board office at the front desk from 2007-2014 and 2015.

In 2011, I was a Job Coach working with 3 students at Prince George High School teaching them job and life skills.  I worked with one of the students that sold school supplies to the other students at the high school.  I trained two students on working in the library at Beazley and Walton.

I was hired full-time as a Highly Qualified Paraprofessional/On-On-One in 2012 at Beazley Elementary.  I also worked in a 5th grade SPED/LDSC classroom as a HQ Paraprofessional/Instructional Assistant for the 2013-2014 school year at Beazley Elementary working with a first year teacher.

In the 2014-2015 school year I was transferred into a SPED/K-2 LDSC classroom.  For the 2015-2016 school year I was transferred to North Elementary into a 3-5 SPED/LDSC classroom where I worked until November 2016.

I resigned from my full-time position at North Elementary in 2016 and went back to substitute teaching, substitute clerical and a being a volunteer.

I was a substitute teacher in the Hopewell School System from 2003 until 2011.

My training in the Prince George County School System includes Bullying, Cyper Bullying, Paraprofessional Training, Deep Touch Pressure Workshop through Fort Lee, Substitute Teacher and Medication Administration training.

After taking the required courses at Seraphim Ministries International Bible College now located in Hopewell, I was licensed into the ministry May 29, 2011.

Throughout my career I have worked in various jobs, Waitressing, Data Entry, Customer Service, Payroll, Telephone Operator at Lowe’s, Prince George County, VA, Office Manager for Jimmy Dean Enterprise for Jimmy & Donna Dean in Henrico County.

I was a QAC Representative for the US Census Bureau in 2010.   CPR Certified-Adult CPR/AED-Adult/Child CPR/AED-Child/Infant CPR, a volunteer for the Medical Reserve Corp., a volunteer for the Red Cross-Hopewell, Prince George Food Bank, President and Secretary for the Cedar Creek HOA, Prince George County Little League Basketball Coach-2 years assisted by my husband,

PTO Volunteer for Prince George County School System, Arthur Ashe Elementary Schools and Secretary of the Tiffany Meadows HOA, Henrico County, VA.

I am married to Melvin Holmes, who retired June 30, 2017 as a Plant Accountant from Kaiser Aluminum.  Along with daughter we moved to Prince George County in 1998.  Our daughter graduated from Prince George High School in 2009 with honors and scholarship offers.  She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering/Aerospace Engineering, December 2012 in 3 ½ years from UVA.  She took the FE exam and became a Certified Mechanical Engineer.  Currently she is working for the Fairfax County School System as a Mechanical Engineer.

JOHNSON – Chris, as a military dependent, was 13 when his family settled in Prince George. He has been a resident for 38 years. He graduated from PGHS in 1985; lettering in track, football, basketball and was a SCA class senator.

In 1987, he married Beth Hamilton. They raised five children; all graduates from PGHS; Alex ‘06, Tyler ‘09, Brittany ‘10, Caleb ‘13 and Luke ‘15.

After PGHS graduation, Chris attended VMI and played football 2 seasons with his brother Derrick before transferring to VCU. He graduated from VCU 89’ with a BS in Business Admin/Real Estate.  Chris and his father started a small business they eventually sold to a Fortune 500 home building company; where he has continued to work as Assistant Vice President and Plant Manager for the past 18 years.

Involvement in his community has included coaching youth sports; football, basketball and soccer.  He co-founded and coached AAU Basketball – Team Loaded. He has been a PG Booster for 15 years and was the Football Camp Meal Coordinator for 6 years. He is a member of the Southern VA Educational Center Board of Directors and acting Chair of the Crater Workforce Development Board serving this region. He is the immediate Past-President of the Capital Area Association of Structural Building Components Association. He continues to be an avid fan and supporter of PG athletics.

Chris is an active Christian member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He serves as the Stake Young Men’s President and Heart of VA Council Boy Scout Commissioner and Unit Committee Chair.  Past ecclesiastical callings include: Branch President, Chesterfield Stake Presidency Councilor and Young Men’s President.

Q – Why are you running for office?

HOLMES – I see some things in the school system that can be made better for the students, parents, teachers, bus drivers and all other school employees.  As an employee I know that some employees are reluctant to bring up issues and concerns.  I have spoken up a few times at the school board meetings on issues, concerns and positive things in the school system.  I have contacted current school board members by email and letter.  There is a lack of transparency and communication within the school system.  If elected I will be the voice for the people of Prince George County

JOHNSON – Serving on the Prince George Facility Core Committee and the Crater Workforce Development Board inspired me along with encouragement from friends that my leadership and experiences could benefit the students of Prince George County Schools.  I want to answer this call by running for School Board.

Q – What experience do you have that qualifies you for this office?

HOLMES – I attended college at VSU and was able to substitute teach at the Historical George W. Watkins Elementary School in New Kent County.  Later in my college career I transferred to JSRCC and graduated Cum Laude (Data Entry Operations).  I have worked in the Prince George School System for 13 years so far as a substitute teacher and a full-time Highly Qualified Paraprofessional in various classrooms for Special Education, Pre-k up to 12th grade. I also substituted at Crater Juvenile Detention Center, substituted for PG Pals, Project Choice and the GED program at the Educational Center.  I was chosen in 2007 as a model substitute teacher to participate in the substitute teacher training for new substitute teachers.  I attend the school board regular and special meetings.

JOHNSON – My education, professional career, community service, church callings and fatherhood (5 Children) have all help develop my core leadership qualities.   I embrace accountability, sincerely care, possess mental toughness and solution driven. I use effective communication and I have unwavering character.  I understand the issues facing our County and can work with others to find resolutions.

Q – What do you feel is the most pressing issue affecting the education system today, and how would you address it?

HOLMES – The most pressing issue affecting the school system is shortage of bus drivers and buses to handle getting the students to school and from school at a decent hour.  Many parents are driving their children to school because of the current bus issues.  Hiring more reliable drivers, bigger and more buses would take pressure off of parents and students knowing that they would not have to worry if a bus and driver is going to show up to pick up their children and get them to and from school safely.

I would address the shortage of bus drivers and buses by talking with the current bus drivers and riding on the buses to observe what goes on and advise the other board members on any concerns and issues. Also I would look into other resources to help to solve the current bus issues.  For example outsourcing.

JOHNSON – Prince George faces many pressing issues from transportation, funding to retain and attract the most talented staff (including bus drivers, teachers and administrators), new facilities and increasing vocational technical training.  The key is to prioritize based on data and metrics then use the best practice known in the State or Nation to solve.  The safety and security of all in our School System is paramount. Our School System must be a fortress of safety (internal and external), learning and achievement.

Q – What are your three top goals if elected?

HOLMES – One of my top goals if elected to the School Board District 2 would be to gather information as early as possible before the regular school board meetings, especially the special meetings, in order to be bettered prepared for the meetings in advance.

I would encourage the other school board members to do the same to cut down on the time that meetings are held.

My second goal would be to research ways to hire more bus drivers and find funding through grants and other means to be able to purchase more buses and seek ways to increase pay for the bus drivers, along with increased pay for all other school employees to keep them working in the county.

My third goal would be to encourage the current school board members to return phone calls, emails and letters about issues and concerns that residents may have about the school system.  I would personally bring up any concerns and issues that are shared with me by employees and residents to the other board members to resolve their issues or concerns.  I would encourage more people to come out to the school board meetings.

JOHNSON – Expedite the building of new schools and facilities.

Hire a Superintendent that will lead our School System into the future.

Provide additional vocational and technical opportunities to Students.

Q – How will you work with your fellow school board members to maintain and improve schools as funding remains relatively flat?

HOLMES – I will work to the best of my ability with my fellow school board members to maintain harmony with each other to work together for the people of Prince George County to come up with reasonable ways to improve the school system.  I will have quality time to give to the school system, because if elected I will have to resign from my current position in the school system.

JOHNSON – I would like to include budget items where any savings through efficiencies could be used for capital projects or other key areas such as salaries.  Bonds could fund the building of the new schools.  We are at a critical point where the building of new schools must be expedited.  It is key for all elected officials to work together to this end not just School Board members.

Q – What are some examples of your commitment (personal and professional) to the community?

HOLMES – My professional commitment to the community is attending the school board regular and special meetings and keeping people in the community updated on items discussed and decisions that are made by the current board members.  I have made comments at a few of the meetings during public comments on issues, concerns and good things that happen in the school system

I attend the Supervisors meeting once or twice a month and also keep citizens informed.  I am currently taking the Citizens Academy class through Prince George County to learn more about the county government and passing on what I am learning and have learned to other citizens and encourage them to get involved in the county government to be able to keep up today with today’s technology.  Currently I am a member of SEAC-Special Education Advisory Committee and attend the monthly meetings.  I am a Volunteer for The Medical Reserve Corp.  I attend the Triad meetings and other events in the county showing my support for Prince George County
JOHNSON – •            Plant Manager – Building Component Manufacturer

•            Capital Area Structural Building Components Board member and President

•            Acting Chair Crater Workforce Development Board

•            Southside Virginia Education Center Board Member

•            Heart of VA Council Boy Scout Commissioner and Unit Committee Chair

•            Co-founder and Coach AAU Team Loaded Basketball

•            Coach Youth Sports

•            PG Booster

•            Church Service – Branch President, Chesterfield Stake Presidency Councilor and Young Men’s President.

•            Fund raising for many PG School organizations and clubs

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