A write-in candidate is taking on an incumbent in hopes of winning the Smith River District seat on the Patrick County School Board in the Nov. 7 election.
Walter Scott, of the Buffalo Ridge community, said he decided to seek the post currently held by incumbent J.D. Morse after being asked by a number of school employees over the past year.
“They asked me to do this to stand up for the concerns of teachers and other employees of the school system, as well as how the money is being spent,” Scott said, adding it appears money is being “taken from the bottom and spent on the top.”
Several teachers and other school employees have expressed concerns about the pay of administrators and other central office staff.
School administrators and officials have said any raises were due to reassignments/reclassification of jobs and/or stipends paid for additional duties.
Scott, who has addressed the school board on several occasions, said there seems to be a lack of concern among the current board for teachers, other school employees and taxpayers.
“The moral among employees is about as low as I’ve ever known it to be,” Scott said. He said he has learned that through conversations with teachers, bus drivers and cafeteria workers.
“If you get to talking to them off the record, they will tell you how unhappy they are,” he said.
Also prompting him to run is the school board’s refusal to meet with the Patrick County Board of Supervisors, Scott said.
County officials have twice asked their counterparts on the school board for a joint meeting.
The school board declined the initial meeting request, but offered to answer submitted questions.
When making the second request, supervisors asked for the school board to vote up or down on the requested joint meeting, with votes recorded.
To his understanding, Scott said no vote was taken.
The unwillingness to meet jointly “tells me they’ve got something really big to hide,” Scott said, echoing similar sentiments as those shared by former school board member Rickie Fulcher, who currently serves as supervisor in the Peters Creek District.
Scott said he also thinks the roles of school board members and central office staff must be clearer, with administrators understanding they work for taxpayers and students. Also, “the school board does not work for the superintendent,” Scott said. “The superintendent works for the school board.”
Scott said this is his first bid for public office. However, he serves the community through his leadership role with a local Boy Scout troop. He also owns and operates his own rental business and is employed at Woods Cold Storage.
With a few weeks until the November contest, Scott said his campaign strategy is word-of-mouth. “A lot of people in this area already know, and I’ll have a mailer going out” to residents in his district.
Scott said he and Brandon Simmons also will operate a booth during the Apple Dumpling Festival. Simmons is unopposed in his bid for the Dan River seat on the school board.
As he meets voters, Scott said he asks them to “help me make Patrick County Schools great again” by writing his name on the ballot. “Hopefully, I can make a difference. I know I only have one vote, but it will not be a rubber stamp vote. I will do what I think will be best for the people of Patrick County.”
Scott and his wife, Derina (who is employed with the school division), have two sons: Robert, a student at Patrick County High School; and Hylton, who is employed at Woods Produce.