Ryan Lawson, the current Peters Creek District representative on the Patrick County School Board, will seek a second term in November, but it would mark his first term in a new district.
Due to redistricting, Lawson is seeking the Blue Ridge District against incumbent Shannon Harrell, in the November election.
By far, budget issues continue to be the biggest concern facing the school division, Lawson, 43, said.
“I think the easiest way to face that would be, of course, continuing with conservative spending, continuing to utilize the one percent sales tax money that we have for all of our capital expenses and the capital improvements we’re continuing to make,” he said.
Lawson said this would help keep the operating budget more directed towards operations and less towards any type of capital expenses.
Another issue is decreased student enrollment, Lawson said, adding the continual downward enrollment trends also negatively affect the school division’s budget.
To address this, Lawson wants to look at ways to increase enrollment, “whether it’s through trying to find a way to work with the county to find creative ways to lure people to the area or offering better programs to potentially get out of district students interested in the division,” he said.
Lawson believes the grant writer shared between the county and the school division could also help.
“I know there’s monies out there, state and federal, that could potentially help us,” he said.
Lawson said he supports public involvement in local offices.
“Ever since I took office for the first time, I’ve welcomed anyone to call me anytime, email me, whatever, flag me down on the street. I’m always available and I want to stay available,” he said. “I’m always willing to discuss with anyone. Whether they’re in my district or out of my district, it doesn’t really matter.”
Lawson also encourages people to attend the monthly school board meetings and be part of that process, particularly by speaking during the public comment period.
“We would love to hear from the community and their thoughts and opinions, and maybe someone would have a good idea or something they could bring to help us look in a different direction, if need be,” he said.
Lawson said he believes the board has always shared everything it can legally share with the community.
“I know at all of our meetings we try to be as open and transparent as possible. We don’t want to hide anything,” he said.
When spending money, “the people have the right to know where it’s going and what’s being done with it” because it’s taxpayer money, Lawson said, adding that he believes folks that don’t have children in the school system should also be involved because the funds they pay in taxes also help to fund the school division.
Ranked 9th in the state and 7th in the Standards of Learning (SOLs), Lawson noted the teachers and employees in the school division excel at educating children.
“We’re excelling at educating the children, especially with limited resources and being a lower income community,” he said.
Lawson feels as though he is the better candidate because of the amount of training and conferences he’s attended in person through the Virginia School Board Association (VSBA).
“Every year, I have attended the yearly conference through the VSBA, and every time I was available to attend the capital conference, at which time we were able to network with the vendors and suppliers for school systems,” he said.
Lawson said he was also able to go speak with legislators in the Virginia General Assembly and make them aware of the school division’s needs “in an effort to boost funding and share new programs and thoughts that may be beneficial for the school division.”
Lawson was the chairman of the board last year and has served on the building and budget committees.
“So, I’m familiar with the budget needs and the processes for working towards capital improvement planning and executing those capital improvements that are needed,” he said.
During his tenure, Lawson also helped secure the one percent sales tax funding.
“Through that, we’ve started several projects to upgrade facilities that had needed repairs through the years that budget constraints wouldn’t allow,” he said. “That one percent sales tax money has also allowed us to start some new projects that are going to be extremely beneficial to the school system.” Projects “that we would not have been able to do without it.”
Lawson added he also feels instrumental in the discussion to upgrade the Patrick County High School (PCHS) locker rooms to bring them into compliance with Title IX.
Lawson has been married to his wife Crystal for 16 years. She is in her 17th year of teaching and is an employee of Patrick County Schools. The couple have two children Sarah, 11, and Amilya, 10, who are both students at Hardin Reynolds Memorial School (HRMS).
A graduate of Patrick County High School (PCHS), Lawson received his associate in administration of justice from Patrick & Henry Community College (P&HCC).
Lawson previously worked in central supply and durable medical equipment at the former R.J. Reynolds Patrick County Memorial Hospital. He also worked for another medical equipment company delivering and instructing on the usage of home medical supplies. Since 2006, he has worked for the Virginia State Police.
In his free time Lawson enjoys fishing, camping, and watching his children play sports.