By Stefanie Jackson – All three candidates seeking appointment to the Accomack County School Board are unopposed in their respective districts, including the candidate looking to replace longtime school board member Audrey Furness, of District 2, who is not seeking another term.
Edward Taylor, of Temperanceville, wants the District 2 seat. He is the parent of two students at Kegotank Elementary School and once pursued a degree in special education.
At the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, he took introductory courses on teaching and special education, and he performed classroom observations, one of which was at Arcadia High School.
He intended to obtain a bachelor’s degree from Old Dominion University, followed by a master’s degree in special education, but unforeseen circumstances prevented him from completing his studies.
Taylor’s experience in education is limited, but he has spoken with Furness, and the veteran teacher and school board member is willing to mentor him if he is appointed to the school board, he said.
Taylor is a civil engineer who has worked for AWB Engineers in Salisbury, Md., for the past 15 years in computer-aided drafting and design.
As a former student who realized switching careers and becoming a teacher would result in a pay cut, Taylor understands the challenges teachers face with salaries and benefits. He knows teachers are “on the front lines” and he will support them any way he can, he said.
He is concerned about teacher retention, and he wants to contribute new ideas to help teachers feel like they are “more a part of the community.”
Taylor served a two-year term from 2016 to 2018 as the treasurer of the Kegotank Elementary PTA. He was on the parent advisory committee in 2019. He has served as a classroom parent and assisted on field trips.
Taylor is also known by students for his participation in the Read Across America program as the character Scooby-Doo.
Jodie Greene, the chair of Accomack’s school board selection commission, said she had received six letters and at least one phone call in support of Taylor.
Three individuals spoke on behalf of Taylor at the May 14 school board selection commission meeting.
Maury Enright, who retired from teaching in Accomack after more than 40 years, called Taylor a “friend of education” who will carry on the tradition that Furness will leave behind.
Ron Wolff, who was an Accomack teacher for about 10 years beginning in 1975 and currently serves on the Accomack board of supervisors, also endorsed Taylor. He said he knows Furness has given Taylor “her blessing.”
Jesse Speidel, a current Accomack school board member, said he considers Taylor a friend who would work well with the rest of the school board.
Speidel, of Chincoteague, is seeking reappointment to the school board to represent District 1. He has served on the board since 2017.
Jason Young, also of Chincoteague, spoke on Speidel’s behalf.
Speidel said that during his two years on the school board, he has voted for two teacher raises, but more needs to be done to get the Accomack school division out of the bottom 10% for teacher pay.
He said the division’s biggest challenge is accreditation. The Standards of Learning (SOL) tests are a burden to teachers, but they help ensure that kids on Chincoteague are getting the same education as kids in California, Speidel said.
Ronnie Holden, of Onancock, is seeking reappointment to the Accomack school board to represent District 8. He has served on the board for about 28 years.
He is satisfied with the progress the school board has made increasing teacher salaries and developing a relationship with county supervisors, but he believes his greatest accomplishment is “helping students reach their dreams” of graduating from high school, attending college, and starting careers.