School board members announce plans

By DEBBIE HALL
Staff Writer

Two members of the Patrick County School Board are up for re-election this year, with one set to seek a second term and the other declining.

J.D. Morse said Monday he will seek a second term to the Smith River District seat because he wants to continue having a positive impact and serving the community.

Before he initially decided to throw his hat in the ring “I attended meetings, but that was when there was great controversy” involving a now former schools superintendent, Morse said.

Following that experience, he said he made an effort to begin his tenure on the board with an open mind while serving on the board, and feels he has accomplished that and more.

“I’m proud to be part of the school division. We have wonderful teachers who care deeply for the children and their education, administrators and staff who care for children and their education, and overall, we have an excellent school system,” Morse said.

He hopes residents will attend school board meetings, generally held on the second Thursday of each month, in the School Administration Building on Rucker Street in Stuart.

Kandi Burnett, who currently serves as vice-chair on the board, said she will not seek a second term to the Dan River District post.

Burnett said when initially seeking the post, “I had only planned to run for one term. I had several goals I wanted to obtain” for the division, including the creation of a pre-k program at Blue Ridge Elementary School, and ensuring guidelines were in place for students with allergies, or those in need of special education, as well as other concerns.

For instance, Burnett said there was no written plan for students who suffered with anaphylaxis, a serious life threatening disease that can result in death.

In Burnett’s case, her son was allergic to certain types of food. Eating them is not required, she said, and added “my son literally had seconds after airborne infection or he could die.”

Burnett said she wrote a plan for students like her son, who now eats in a separate, safe location.

“I wanted to make sure those children would have the steps in place when they entered,” Burnett said, and added she also hoped that would help parents have an easier transition, knowing their children were safe when in class.

Also, Burnett said she knew there were youngsters in the county with other issues, including learning and other disabilities.

Because of her past experiences as a teacher, administrator and parent, Burnett said she felt uniquely qualified to understand all facets and “I felt I was a really good advocate. I was able to get a lot of stepping stones in place for others coming behind me.

“It’s not about knowing the answer to every single situation, but knowing where to go get an answer,” she said, and added “the worst feeling in the world is not knowing how to help your child.”

With meeting her goals, and preparing to tackle a new chapter as her youngest child begins school in the fall, Burnett said she plans to step down.

However, she said “I will never stop being an advocate for Patrick County Schools.”

She encouraged other residents “who want to be a public servant” to seek office.

“You do have the naysayers, but that is in anything you do,” Burnett said. “As long as you have faith in yourself and in God, and know it is the right path, the naysayers are wasting a lot of time.”

“One goal I had was just to be a positive impact. We have a great board,” Morse said. “We don’t argue and bicker and we talk through disagreements,” Morse said. “Everyone is focused on what’s best for students.”

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