Two moms debate issues in battle for Berryville seat on Clarke School Board

Posted: October 17, 2013

The Winchester Star

Clarke County School Board candidates Roberta Lasiter (left) and Chuyen Kochinsky participate in a candidates’ debate at Jack Enders Fire Hall in Berryville Wednesday. At center is moderator Andy Kiser, president of the Clarke County Education Association. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Chuyen Kochinsky stated that being a gifted student herself, it was the way she was able to “get out of poverty. I believe every child should have that option,” she said.
“The key is communication,” School Board candidate Roberta Lasiter said. “The School Board committee should be the link to the staff and the community.” (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)

BERRYVILLE — Two candidates for the Berryville seat on the Clarke County School Board fielded questions Wednesday about the state of the division.

Roberta Lasiter of Lindsay Court and Chuyen Kochinsky of Montgomery Court answered questions on public education and Clarke County Public Schools at a candidate forum at Jack Enders Fire Hall, 9 S. Buckmarsh St.

They are running against George Archibald of West Main Street — who was part of a candidate forum Oct. 7 at Clarke County High School — in the Nov. 5 special election.

Lasiter and Kochinsky agreed on many issues: That the school division is underfunded; the inadequacy of the Standards of Learning tests to measure a student’s total aptitude; the importance of advanced educational programs; and the need for better communication between the School Board, administrators and the community.

“The key is communication,” Lasiter said. “The School Board committee should be the link to the staff and the community.”

When asked about the importance of reinstating gifted programs like the Mountain Vista Governor’s School, Lasiter said the community and the board should come up with an agreement.

Kochinsky stated that being a gifted student herself, it was the way she was able to “get out of poverty.”

“I believe every child should have that option,” she said.

When asked how the division could compete with Loudoun County to recruit and retain teachers, Kochinsky said those who leave the division for more money are doing it for the wrong reason.

“If they have the passion, they want to stay where they are,” she said.

Lasiter said she believes there should be incentives for teachers.

“I would love to see them get paid more,” she said.

When asked what school programs should be off limits to budget cuts, Lasiter said she would have to do more research on the topic, while Kochinsky said she would determine cuts based on program enrollment.

“If enrollment is down, can we afford to keep that program going?” she said, adding, “What do the parents and constituents want?”

When asked about how to ensure teachers have a voice, Kochinsky said it “boils down to leadership” and school staff promoting open dialogue.

Lasiter said the School Board should listen to teachers and encourage them to speak.

“We have a lot to learn from them,” she said.

Lasiter concluded by stating that she wants to join the School Board to have a say in her daughter’s education and to be a positive voice. She said she still has “a lot of homework to do” but that “common sense leads everyday decisions.”

“It’s not about personal opinions,” she said. “It’s always about what’s best for our kids.”

Kochinsky concluded by stating concerns for the students who fall “in the middle” and the potential for creating an after-school program for those students.

She ended by stating: “I’ve always been an advocate for my children. I think it’s time to be an advocate for all children in Clarke County.”

E³ Clarke — a nonpartisan group promoting dialogue among students, parents, community members, faculty and school administrators — and the Clarke County Education Association co-hosted Wednesday’s event. The groups also hosted the Oct. 7 forum.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com