BERRYVILLE — Support was voiced for only two applicants for the Russell District seat on the Clarke County School Board during a public hearing Monday night.

Leigh Carley, Kenneth Coney, Camilla Dechent, Andrew MacDonald, Kimberlee Stiles and Courtney Wiite have applied for the seat, recently vacated by Zara Ryan.

At its regular monthly meeting on Oct. 25, the board plans to select one of the applicants to temporarily fill the seat.

Three people spoke during the hearing in favor of Dechent, who owns one business and is a managing partner in another. Two spoke in favor of Stiles, a teacher.

Dechent is "a 100% supporter of children" who is "able to relate to kids" easily, said Charity Danjczek, a preschool teacher who knows her.

"She's a woman of conviction toward excellence" who knows how to make worthwhile decisions, said another supporter, Kevin Cole.

A former educator, Danielle Bush switched to working in finance and human resources. She said Dechent, as a mentor in her new career field, inspired her to see her potential.

"She is able to see potential in people and draw it out of them," Bush said.

Shelly Pine said Stiles used to teach her daughter, who enjoyed being her student. She said she developed respect for Stiles, even when they had differing opinions on school matters.

"She knows when to listen closely and when to offer advice," said Pine, adding that Stiles "has stood her ground when necessary" in listening to others' opinions.

Stiles has seen schools operate both effectively and ineffectively, from both a teacher's and a parent's perspective, Pine said.

Daniel Johanson works with Stiles. He said her priority is doing what's best for all students. He praised her for "listening intently" to different people's ideas, even if she disagrees with them.

"You know you will be heard," Johanson said.

Furthermore, he said, "she's humble enough to realize the genius of others ... when others have an idea that may be better than her own."

School Board members didn't comment on individual applicants, whom they have interviewed privately.

However, board Chairwoman Monica Singh-Smith said "we've got quite a few great candidates."

Choosing one to fill the Russell District seat "will be a difficult decision," she said.

Ryan recently resigned from the board to spend more time with her family.

Her unexpired four-year term runs through the end of 2023. Whoever replaces her will serve until a November 2022 special election for the seat. The winning candidate in that election will serve the remainder of the term.

— Contact Mickey Powell at mpowell@winchesterstar.com

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