Seven people are seeking four seats on the Franklin County School Board in the November election.
Races in the Boone and Snow Creek districts and for the at-large seat are uncontested. Incumbents G.B. Washburn, who serves as the board’s chairman, and Penny Blue are seeking re-election for the Snow Creek and at-large seats, respectively. Political newcomer Donna Cosmato will run unopposed to represent the Boone District.
But four candidates will vie for the Rocky Mount seat: postal employee Jeff Worley, Carilion Clinic employee and former school social worker Sherry Scott, Ferrum College professor John Carey and retired teacher Rita Murphy.
Murphy, 60, is a Franklin County native who spent 30 years working in various school districts, according to a Franklin News-Post story. Efforts to reach Murphy were unsuccessful.
Carey, 46, has taught English at Ferrum College since 2002. He moved to Rocky Mount from West Virginia when his wife, Marisa, got a job as a Spanish teacher at Franklin County High School.
“We’re both very much into education — it’s our livelihood,” he said. “And I want to get involved in the community.”
Carey obtained a bachelor’s degree in English at West Virginia University, and a master’s degree in the subject at Marshall University.
His son Paulo is a rising seventh-grader at Benjamin Franklin Middle School.
Carey identified three areas on which he’d like to focus: expanding career and technical education; providing adequate resources to help special education and at-risk students succeed; and offering equitable and competitive salaries for teachers.
The topic of special education is near to Carey’s heart, he said. He has a nephew with special needs and as a graduate assistant at Marshall worked with the H.E.L.P. — Higher Education for Learning Problems — Center. There, Carey tutored students with a variety of disabilities from attention deficit disorder to traumatic brain injuries to dyslexia.
He said the district needs to ensure the salaries it offers to teachers are competitive with other school systems in the region so it can attract and retain quality educators. Carey said he’s interested in looking into the pay scale for teachers. The topic has come up in the last two budget cycles, when the board considered transitioning from a 16-step system to a 30-step system.
Carey’s first run for office is in a crowded field.
“I’m going to give it a shot, because I care,” he said. “I want to make a difference.”
As president of Benjamin Franklin Middle School’s PTO, Cosmato, 64, had an opportunity to work with parents and teachers and learn about ways in which they thought the school system could improve. Cosmato also has worked as a teacher and administrator in both public and private schools, though not in the Franklin County system. Locally, she worked as an administrator at a Christian school and nursery in Vinton that has since closed and Christian Heritage Academy.
“I’m hoping I can do some good there,” she said.
Cosmato has lived in Franklin County for 15 years. She works as a writer, and is also raising her grandson, a student at Franklin County High School.
Cosmato said she doesn’t want to focus on just one issue, though with a special needs grandson, it would be easy to do so. Cosmato plans to focus on broader issues, such as providing adequate STEM-H and career and technical education opportunities for students.
“Just making sure that kids are being offered the appropriate educational opportunities for their particular skill set so that when they graduate they have something that is marketable,” she said.
In talks with constituents, Cosmato said, she’s heard some voice concerns that the school district is too centralized within Rocky Mount and indicate interest in a second middle or high school located elsewhere in the county. Cosmato said she doesn’t know whether that would be possible, but it’s something she’d like to explore.