Volunteers are fanning out across the city asking for signatures on a petition they say will improve education in Norfolk.
These hard-working activists want to place a question on the November ballot: should the Norfolk school board be elected? (Or should it stay the way it is now, where the Mayor appoints his cronies?)
The referendum question is: "Shall the method of selecting the school board be changed from appointment by the governing body to direct election by the voters."
Why is this question so vital to the city’s future?
For 60 years Norfolk has had an appointed school board. Year after year Norfolk ties with Richmond in having the lowest test scores in Virginia.
Norfolk schools are known to be inferior. It’s a constant scandal.
NATO people assigned to the area go to a lot of trouble to put their kids in private schools, Virginia Beach schools, any schools but Norfolk public schools.
The petition drive needs 11,579 qualified voter signatures and an extra 2,000 signatures to compensate for those that might be disqualified. (Going into the Fourth of July weekend, the campaign is more than halfway to its goal.)
Volunteers who wish to help should immediately contact 757-287-3401. It's a great way to get involved in local politics. The petition drive continues daily until July 13.
Dennis Gronka, a director of Norfolk Citizens For An Elected School Board, argues that: “People deserve a choice. We need accountability. Inferior schools hurt the children and hurt property values. We are not going to turn things around if we play by the old rules here in Norfolk. Ever since a lot of federal money started flowing at the local level 60 years ago, Norfolk went to an appointed school board. This lets the top people control things more easily. Sixty years is plenty of time for everyone to see that the public is being abused.”
An elected school board would be accountable to the citizens of Norfolk, not to the mayor. Furthermore, its education budget would be under School Board control, not City Council. Accordingly, parents would have more say in how their tax dollars are spent. Furthermore, being a School Board member is often a stepping stone to holding other offices: City Council, Delegate, or Senator, etc. So what happens in Norfolk affects the rest of the Commonwealth.
Dennis Gronka says, “It's critical that Norfolk citizens who want better schools in Norfolk step up to the plate NOW. Public education needs all the help it can get. Let's change history and take the first step to making Norfolk a better city to live in.”
Sad to report, the citizens seeking signatures for this petition allege harassment by local officials.
Gronka explains, “We have been hampered on numerous occasions. Some of our volunteers were told to move along by police outside Town Point park. Security at BAE shipyard ran us off the sidewalk and we were told to stand in the street at Ted Constant Center during Norfolk public high school graduations.”