3 seek 2 spots at NSSRqville

Saturday, April 2, 2016

By EVAN HOLLEY

Staff Writer

Three candidates are vying for two open seats on the Neelyville school board.

The Daily American Republic spoke with all three school board candidates on the eve of the election, asking why they were running, what they saw as the biggest problem in the district and what they felt they could as an individual do about it.

Incumbents Jack Stull and Donna Akers will face challenger Carl McElhaney for positions on the board. All the candidates agreed that the school is doing well, with record test scores and graduation rates. While the incumbents share the sentiment that the board should remain in tact and continue to do what has been working. All candidates, however, agree that "getting everyone on the same page" is a priority.

McElhaney, the challenger, said that while things are good at Neelyville, they are not perfect and it might be time for some new perspective on the board.

Each candidate had a slightly different view on what was the biggest priority he or she would address as a member of the school board.

Jack Stull

Jack Stull was born in Neelyville and has lived in the area his whole life. Stull's wife Lisa is a teacher in the Neelyville school district. His children Tiffany and Casey both graduated from Neelyville.

Stull is currently in the third year of his first three-year term on the school board.

"Number one, the kids are first," Stull said of his priorities.

Stull also would like to see the school board continue the good things it is currently doing.

"There's a lot of positive things that we've got going right now and I'd like to see them continue," Stull said, "The school's going great. Our test scores are up. We've got a good thing going. I'd just like to see it continue."

A priority for Stull is rebuilding trust within the community and get community and school board members on the same page.

"We need to get the community back in the school more," Stull said.

Stull would like to begin reintegrating more vocational courses back into the school district.

"I'd like to see more of the technical classes come back. More VoTec type classes. I'd like to see things like carpentry. I'd like to see home economics brought back, if possible," Stull said.

Stull says voters can count on him to stand by his beliefs as a member of the board.

"I just try to be fair and be rational. I'm not a yes man. I vote the way I feel," Stull said.

Donna Akers

Akers and her family have lived in the Neelyville area for 12 years and she has been a member of the school board for six years, or two terms.

According to Akers, the district's biggest struggle is "making wise decisions with the budget."

"It's not a concrete thing but it's dynamic upon the state government, the way the school budget is set," Akers said, "It (the budget) is very stable right now, we have good, strong fund balance. The challenge is to continue making decisions based on the needs of the student population."

Akers feels that she has a unique perspective, making her a valuable asset to the board.

"I feel that I have a lot to offer, with a unique profession. Having attended college, I have the background of knowing what all that entails," Akers said.

Akers feels that she has been a part of a board that has "made great strides" in recent years and would like to continue along that path.

"I have a strong desire to help set goals for our district. We've made great strides in the last six years. I feel I have knowledge to help continue down the right track. Right now we have the right team doing the right jobs. We're a unified team. I want to see that continue. I want to help continue adopting policies that give the district direction to achieve our goals," Akers said.

Akers says she is proud of the school district and wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

"We have the best district anywhere. We have good teachers, we have a good administration. I love being a part of Neelyville," Akers said.

Akers welcomes any member of the district to contact her directly with any questions or comments.

Carl McElhaney

Carl McElhaney is a lifelong resident of Neelyville and a Neelyville High School graduate.

While McElhaney praises the current school board members, he says it's also important to incorporate new perspectives.

"The board members now are doing a good job but I think it's good if you put new faces in and add new ideas," McElhaney said.

McElhaney emphasized the importance of the education of Neelyville's children.

"I want to be a voice for the kids," McElhaney said, "You want the kids to have a better place to go to school and to be taught at the level they need to be taught at."

McElhaney says that he wants to accomplish, rather than talk about things.

"I want to be the one to step in and say 'Hey, let's get this done,'" McElhaney said.

While McElhaney is ambitious about getting things done at Neelyville, he knows that sometimes things take time.

"You can't change anything overnight. It takes time and you have to have everybody on the same page to do it," McElhaney said.

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