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Election brings changes to Westmoreland School Board

The Westmoreland Journal of Westmoreland, Virginia

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Tuesday's election meant dramatic changes for the Westmoreland County School Board, which has been the object of criticism and controversy for the past two years as disagreements and scandals have roiled parents, teachers and students.

The Westmoreland School Board picked up at least three new members.

At-large candidate Patricia Lewis defeated Jerry Mulholland, winning, 67.2 percent of the vote. Lewis had 2,124 votes to Mulholland's 826.

Ralph Fallin won the school board's District 3 seat, defeating incumbent Coralynn "Polly" Wise. Fallin netted 61.5 percent of the vote, garnering 482 votes, to Wise's 301 votes.

Sandra Ramsey ran unopposed and becomes the new District 1 board member.

The unofficial returns were posted by the Virginia Board of Elections

Voters expressed concern, noting that the Westmoreland Public Schools has had two superintendents and there have been three principals of Washington and Lee High School in the last 24 months. One principal was forced to resign after a drunk driving arrest.

The school system was cited by the Internal Revenue Service and the Virginia State Retirement System for failing to promptly pay withholding deductions, much to the dismay of county officials. There also have been several controversial personnel actions that led to protests by parents and students.

As they prepare to take office, the new school board members will face the dilemma of tight budgets and increasing demands for services.

Two current school board members did not seek election, District 1 member Karen Jackson and At-large member Gennard Reed.

The At-large race turned into a spirited contest between Lewis and Mulholland.

Lewis, an active participant in parent activities at Washington and Lee, is an employee of Westmoreland State Park and the wife of Washington and Lee Athletic Director Malcolm Lewis.

She is a lifelong county resident, a Washington and Lee graduate and the mother of two sons who graduated from W&L.

Mulholland is a retired U.S. Navy captain, a former teacher in Fairfax County and has taught for seven years in Westmoreland County. He campaigned on a pledge to improve student scores in math and science.

Additionally, board member Daniel Wallace was unopposed for the District 4 school board seat.

In the District 3 race, Fallin campaigned against Wise by pledging to move Westmoreland schools in "a new direction."

Incumbent Westmoreland County School Board Chairwoman Iris Lane was forced to wage a write-in campaign after she failed to get enough valid signatures on her petitions to qualify for the ballot in District 2.

Lane ran unopposed for the District 2 school board seat in 2011 and was also unopposed this year but the petition problem meant she was required to conduct a difficult and complicated write-in campaign to hold her post.

She succeeded, garnering 365 write-in votes, guranteeing her another term.

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Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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