HCPS school board candidates speak at forum before Election Day

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) – Candidates running for seats on the Harrisonburg City Public Schools (HCPS) board participated in a forum Wednesday to share their views on issues plaguing the city’s schools.

Obie Hill, Andy Cohen and Kristen Loflin are current board members seeking re-election, while Corin Jackson and Emma Phillips are new. The five candidates are competing for three seats.

At Wednesday’s forum, one of the topics covered was the rights of students and parents. The topic was joined by whether the candidates would support Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s policies for transgender and non-binary students if they take effect.

Hill and Jackson endorsed the policy, saying it encourages family engagement and supports parents. Jackson added that HCPS must respect the decisions made by the family if they decide to change their child’s name or preferred gender.

Kohen, Loflin and Phillip stood in opposition to the policies, saying students are the board’s main focus and are at the forefront of every decision.

For their closing remarks, the candidates were asked what was the most consequential obstacle to issues in the KLSHP. All agreed that inequality was the big issue, but each differed on possible solutions.

“One of the things that is a big predictor of graduation rate is involvement in extracurricular and co-curricular activities. The bus driver shortage we’ve been experiencing across the country has had a huge impact on our students being able to attend,” Loflin said.

“We.. our students are potentially.. at risk of becoming politicized. We need to keep politics out of schools and keep the focus on education for our students because our black, brown, and disabled students are suffering,” Hill said.

“The challenges of treating everyone equally could be better met if we had the financial resources to better enable us to do this, but when teachers have to do more than they would normally be expected to do, it’s difficult ,” Cohen said.

“It is installed in our children that because of the color of their skin they will not succeed. If we can eliminate that barrier, if we can eliminate that divide and say all kids are going to do well, I think that’s important,” Jackson said.

“We need to be intentional about going after those areas of inequity and making sure that everyone has the opportunity to access all the wonderful things we have in our schools. If students can’t access it, we’re doing them a disservice.” Phillips said.

School resource officers, the teacher pay gap and banning books were other topics discussed.

To view the full forum, click here.


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