Johnson, Eley appointed school board chair, vice chair

By: Adrienne Wallace | Email: Click Here
Posted: January 16, 2020 | 12:30 p.m. 

PRINCE GEORGE –  Last Monday, the school board appointed its new leadership, and with only two returning members at the start of the year, the chair and vice chair was an easy choice.

Chris Johnson was named chairman after a nomination by Robert Eley. It was passed unanimously.

Eley is the new vice chairman after new member Cecil Smith made a motion in his favor. That also passed unanimously.

Johnson says that continuing on the prior successes of the school division ensuring, “Prince George schools provide the best environment for learning and teaching,” is always his number one priority. Safety is always tops the list, both Eley and Johnson agree.

Also on the agenda for this year is building a new elementary school.

A new school was proposed by the Core Committee in 2017. Both Walton and Beazley Elementary schools made the list for replacement because of the campus style design, as well as the aging facilities. The school board put Walton at the top of the list, but over the past several years, the board of supervisors and school officials, which included three previous school board members who did not run for reelection, could not agree on a location.

In total, according to the school division’s capital improvement plan request, building the new school is expected to cost just over $32.1 million. The board of supervisors voted in favor of funding for a new school last year.

On Saturday, school officials toured facilities and proposed sites including the Yancey tract, A Avenue with land donated by Fort Lee, on the property where Walton now sits, the Courthouse area behind Beazley and Middle Road. That tour, with Moseley Architects, was set mainly to update new board members including Smith, Jill Andrews and Sherry Taylor.

According to Johnson, it would be four years if the Fort Lee site was chosen, and he prefers to move forward this year.

“We are currently in the design phase,” he said. Johnson did not share his favorite location, but said he was confident the county leadership could come to an agreement on the best location. “I believe we are united in getting this done, and the key stakeholders will work together.”

While the new school chair and vice chair have a new school topping their priorities, Eley said technology is also is important to keep the education process up-to-date.

He explains that technology is always changing and it’s important to provide opportunities for students.

He hopes to evaluate health care benefits for school staff. “It’s a goal to see where we can be with health insurance and how we can provide good options for our employees,” Eley noted.

Both Eley and Johnson feel that from their two years experience under previous veteran elected officials will help them provide the leadership necessary with three new members coming on board at the start of this year.

“Yes that was a loss for the county with 30 years of service with the three board members leaving (Robert Cox, Lewis Stevenson and Kevin Foster), but we learned from that experience,” Eley said. “I am thankful for that leadership and for the new board members, and there is a commitment here to serve the community.” 

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