By Stefanie Jackson – Accomack school board member Audrey Furness announced Tuesday night that she will not run for re-appointment, and her term will expire June 30.
She had four words of advice for the school board: “Hard work pays off.”
It’s a message she has also used to inspire many of the youth she has encountered through the years. Her time on the Accomack school board has spanned more than 30 years and eight superintendents.
“You all must continue to work together as a team and really respect each other at all times in order to always … do what’s best for our children,” she told the school board.
Furness said even though she will no longer be a member of the board after June 30, she will continue to help in any way possible.
“You all know that I love you and everyone and everything that is a part of Accomack County’s education,” she said.
“Accomack County’s better off for having you serve as many years as you have,” Chairman Paul Bull said, and Vice Chairman Ronnie Holden also offered words of thanks and appreciation to Furness.
Due to health concerns, Furness has not been attending school board meetings in person. An Accomack school division policy allows board members to participate in meetings remotely via audio connection.
The school board selection committee must appoint Furness’ replacement. Accomack citizens voted “yes” in 2017 for an elected school board, but the first school board election will not occur until November.
Three parents of Accomack students requested exemptions from a policy that prevents children from taking advanced placement (AP) classes unless they are at least 16 years old and either a junior or senior.
Courtney Harned, of Melfa, said, “Age does not indicate academic maturity. GPA (grade point average) and academic performance are accurate indicators of preparedness for the rigors of college courses.”
All sophomores should have the opportunity to take AP classes through the Virtual Virginia online program, Harned said. Her son has at least a 3.5 GPA and has achieved advanced scores on the SOLs (Standards of Learning tests).
Elbert Adamos, of Onancock, is the parent of a straight-A student who wants to take Virtual Virginia AP courses next year as a 14-year-old sophomore. The student, whose birthday is in December, is the youngest in his class.
T.J. Johnson, of Accomac, also has a child who would like to take AP courses as a sophomore. He called Virtual Virginia an “excellent program … just for us. It’s designed for rural Virginians, it’s not designed for the big city and suburban schools. It’s about equity.”
The school board granted exceptions for all three students.
Director of Secondary Education Karen Taylor said according to the policy in question, a student must be at least 16 or a junior, not necessarily both, to take AP classes. The policy will be reviewed next week, she said.
Connie Burford, who belongs to the Nandua High School after-prom committee, asked if the school division has a policy regarding funds raised by parents and community members. Her recent request for $108 to buy decorations, out of $13,000 raised, was denied. Holden said the superintendent would contact her.
Chief of Operations Mike Tolbert updated the school board on another of Burford’s ideas, live-streaming videos of graduations for students’ family and friends who cannot attend in person.
Tolbert said the program will not begin this year, because even though the school division has all the required audio equipment, it lacks video equipment.
Tolbert added that the school division pays a company to live-stream audio at 24 events per year, all school board meetings, and it has not yet quoted a price to live-stream video at another three to five events.