Johnny Redd appointed to Hanover School Board | Education

More than four decades have passed since Johnny Redd was first appointed to the Hanover County School Board, but the Hanover native said Wednesday night that he’s just as ready now as he was then.

The Hanover Board of Supervisors voted 5-2 to appoint Redd to the Mechanicsville district seat on the school board, effective July 1. Faye Pritchard of the District of Ashland and Council Chair Angela Kelly-Wiecek opposed the nomination.

Redd, a certified public accountant for nearly 50 years, served on the school board from 1980 to 1984. He and his wife, Terry Oatman, have two adult sons. He was among eight candidates vying for the seat – incumbent Sterling Daniel, along with Kimberly Thurston, Ryan Hudson, Jerry E. McCormick Jr., Paul Heizer, Ryan Martin, Sarah Gragnani-Butler and Redd.

Daniel was not present at the Wednesday evening meeting. After the date, Mechanicsville supervisor Canova W. Peterson thanked him for his service to the school division. Daniel was appointed in March 2020 following the sudden departure of school board member Roger Bourassa in December 2019. His term ends June 30.

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In explaining his decision to nominate Redd, Peterson said he considered the hundreds of calls, texts and emails he received from his constituents. He said he looked at the qualities of each candidate relating to both experience in dealing with academic matters as well as their “business acumen”.

“It’s about education and business management” of the school division, he said. “I think the person who can best represent Mechanicsville right now is Johnny Redd.”

Prior to the vote, however, members of the public spoke out during the public comment period and most of them spoke out against the nominations of some candidates, especially candidates they felt did not support students. transgender people, including Redd.

A parent of a transgender student – Kelly Merrill – compared Redd’s name to a “New Confederate dog whistle”.

“We know he won’t support every child,” Merrill said. “At best, it will toe the school board’s current line of prioritizing the irrational fears of anti-trans people over the literal safety concerns of transgender children.”

“There is plenty of evidence that this is not what all Hanoverians want,” she said, adding that “most Hanoverians have heart, care and love my child and others like him.” .

Hanover’s mother, Jennifer Womble, addressed the board, challenging Redd for her answers in a Richmond Times-Dispatch candidate questionnaire that aired last week, specifically her comments that her “primary goal Hanover County Public Schools [is] the education of students, not the indoctrination of students, the promotion of illogical, immoral and/or ungodly social change. »

“This group has always been oppressed,” Womble said, referring to transgender students. She said actions taken in recent months by the current school board — including its vote to engage with the conservative Christian legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom — continue to marginalize that group.

“Love your neighbour,” she says to the board, “all of you.”

Hanover resident Peggy Lavinder told the council she feared Redd’s stance on transgender students meant “he will find some children immoral for who they are”.

“Our public schools serve everyone,” she said, adding that she feared Redd would “use his Bible to make decisions, exercise power over policies and regulations,” and will do so first. “before [looking] professional, experienced, knowledgeable and caring administrators and educators to make their decisions. »

She also commented on the time that has passed since Redd’s first stint on the school board.

“Forty years ago,” she said, “is irrelevant now.”

Pritchard and Kelly-Wiecek shared their concerns about Redd, with Pritchard saying Wednesday night was the first time she voted against another council member’s nominee. She said in recent days she heard from parents of transgender students who were concerned Redd was being nominated.

“I cried their fear [and] I mourned their concern for their families,” she said. Redd “made it clear that he could not support every child in our schools equally.”

Kelly-Wiecek said she, too, generally approves of the appointments of her fellow board members, though she had two concerns about Redd’s appointment. She said having a candidate with a “on-the-ground prospect” of having children currently in the school division was “crucially important right now.”

She also warned that Redd could work collaboratively with the other members of the school board.

“As a member of a seven-member council, you’re not the executive — it’s not your way or the highway,” she said. “I am deeply concerned that we may not be choosing the best and most collaborative person.”

Kelly-Wiecek said she was “struggling to reconcile previous correspondence and recent conversations with the true nature of the collaboration that is needed for today’s school board.”

“Mr. Redd promised me it would be him,” she continued, “and I certainly never wished I was wrong any more than I am right now.”

After his appointment, Redd addressed the board, saying he was open to all ideas and had spoken with members of the transgender community before.

“I’m open to hearing them,” he said. “I’m just glad we’ve gotten past some of that turmoil, and hopefully we can work together.”

Redd will be sworn in before July 1. The next school board meeting will be June 14.

Sam D. Gomez