By Taylor Boyd
The most important challenges facing the school system is employee retention and ensuring there is enough funding to go around.
Walter Scott, incumbent Smith River District member of the Patrick County School Board, said he believes one of the challenges can be partially addressed by boosting employee morale.
“Morale is just ways of treating your employees, so they feel like they’re wanted,” he said, adding “and they are wanted and needed.”
Scott, 56, also suggested morale could be improved by implementing pay raises for school employees. In his role as vice-chairman of the board, Scott has supported pay raises for employees every year since ousting an incumbent in a write-in campaign four years ago.
“I’ve always supported fair pay for employees, and we’ve done that by cutting administrators. We’ve cut four or five administrative positions since I’ve been on the board. We’re always looking at ways to cut the way we spend money, so we have more money to spend” where it is needed, he said.
While he believes the school division excels at everything it does, Scott said academics and test scores are particularly impressive.
“I’ve never been a ‘test scores guy,’ but if you look at our test scores that came out a couple of weeks ago, we’re well above state average. That speaks a lot for the school system and all the employees there that make it happen,” he said.
Ensuring that trend continues is another of his primary goals, as is making sure students are highly educated and prepared for the working world or to pursue higher education when they graduate from Patrick County High School.
The division out-performs many in the state, but Scott said he thinks it lacks proper recognition from the Patrick County Board of Supervisors.
“I’m probably wrong by saying this, but sometimes I feel that the board of supervisors look at the school system as a burden, not a positive thing for the county,” he said.
If reelected, Scott said he intends to keep working to ensure students are among the top performers in Virginia and supporting parental involvement in the decision-making process.
When he initially joined the board, residents who wanted to speak during the public comment portion of school board meetings were required to register and state their subject matter.
“We’ve got rid of that stuff. Anybody can come to the meeting now without signing up. All you have to do is say what you want to say,” he said. “We’re making it as easy as we possibly can for people to voice their opinions” and have an input.
Scott added that involvement is important to the school board and in each community school.
“There’s a lot of parents involved at the school level,” he said, citing one example as the “volunteer coaches and volunteers all over the school” at Woolwine Elementary School.
Scott, who was among those volunteers, said he knows firsthand that parents are welcome in their child’s schools. He coached basketball for four years at Woolwine Elementary School when his children attended, and coached T-ball for a couple of years.
In addition, Scott serves as a Scout Master for a local Boy Scouts of America Troop. He also coached basketball at Woolwine Elementary School and served on the board at Woolwine Volunteer Fire Department.
“I’ve served the community in many ways for the last 25 years or more. Not just because I’m running for election, I have always done that,” he said.
During his tenure on the board, he has held fast to his commitment of being open and transparent with parents and concerned residents.
“I’ve always made myself very open and easy to get ahold of to the public,” Scott said, adding that both his home and cell phone numbers are listed on school division’s website.
“Anyone who wants to talk to me, they always can. There is not a phone call that I do not take. Just because I’m in the Smith River District, doesn’t mean that I am not willing to work through an issue in another district. That’s something I think is very important for all school board members,” he said.
As a business owner for the past 30 years, Scott said he knows how to create something from nothing. “A lot of times that’s where we are in the school – taking nothing and trying make something out of it,” he said.
Among his greatest accomplishments was the passage of a referendum on the sales and use tax. Revenues generated by the tax are earmarked for school projects.
“It’s not really gotten developed completely yet, but when this thing gets fully developed and money starts rolling in, it’s going to be a lifesaver for our schools. It’s going to make sure the schools will not close and that we can afford to rebuild them as we go,” he said.
Scott said other major accomplishments include limiting the daily stipend day for meals for school board members and employees when they are traveling and having a Schools Superintendent that lives in the county.
He does not support Critical Race Theory (CRT) being taught in classrooms or mandatory vaccinations for students and school employees.
Scott currently works for the Maintenance Department of Patrick County. In addition to serving on the Patrick County School Board he also serves as a Scout Master for the Boy Scouts of America and on the Woolwine Fire Department Board. Scott also manages a rental business of around 50 properties and works as a farmer with around 20 head of cattle.
“I may not have the most degrees when it comes to education on paper, however I can always look at things in a good, commonsense way, and I think that’s something we need on the board,” he said, adding that he also offers honesty, truthfulness, and good, sound judgement cultivated over the years as a county resident.
Scott attended Woolwine Elementary School and Patrick County High School. His wife, Derina, works for the Patrick County School system in the guidance department. The Scotts have two children: sons Hylton, 23, who works at Appalachian Power Company; and Robert, 19, a freshman at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona, FL.
In his spare time, Scott enjoys fishing, hunting, sight-seeing, traveling, and is interested in making a fair, honest living.