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Hanover appoints two new school board members

Lynne chats with May
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Newly appointed Hanover County School Board member Karen Lynne shakes hands with Hanover County School Board Chairperson Bob May during a Hanover County Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, May 22, 2024 at Hanover County Administration Building in Hanover County, Virginia.

Karen Lynne and Robert Seifert will begin in July.

Twenty-five nominees were put forward as candidates to serve on Hanover County’s school board, and two were selected as the new representatives for the Ashland and Chickahominy districts this week.

A majority of localities in Virginia elect their school board, but Hanover remains one of the few jurisdictions where the local governing body appoints members to the board, despite a grassroot effort to change the method in which the panel is selected.

Each board member serves a four-year term and is reappointed on a staggered basis. School Board Chairperson Bob May and Vice Chairperson Steve Ikenberry are now the longest serving members of the seven-person board. Both were appointed in 2021.

This year’s school board selection process was extended from four weeks to six weeks, giving supervisors more time to evaluate candidates.

Last year, Hanover’s Board of Supervisors chose to replace two of its long-standing school board members, instead of the pair being invited to serve another term. Ashland Supervisor Faye Prichard and Chickahominy Supervisor Danielle Floyd made the decision not to reappoint the current members. Ola Hawkins, who previously held the Ashland seat, did not seek reappointment to represent the district.

For the Ashland District seat, Prichard selected Karen Lynne, a former teacher who is now a youth and family services advocate for Hanover Safe Place. Floyd appointed Robert Seifert to represent Chickahominy.

Lynne will replace Ola Hawkins, whose term will expire on June 30 after eight years on the board. Seifert, a retired Air Force major, replaced Robert Hundley Jr., who served on the board for 20 years and wasn’t reappointed.

Both new appointees will begin in July. For the incoming school board members, there’s a sense of relief and optimism. But for outgoing members, like Hawkins, it's a time of reflection.

“You know, serving Hanover County — above everything, serving Hanover County children — that’s what was important to me,” Hawkins said. “I won’t be on the board, but I will definitely be involved. No question.”

A portrait of Hawkins
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Former Hanover County School Board member Ola Hawkins gives remarks after the Hanover County Board of Supervisor meeting on Wednesday, May 22, 2024 at Hanover County Administration Building in Hanover County, Virginia.

Hawkins was the lone person of color on Hanover’s school board; after her departure, the panel will be comprised only of white members. Although Prichard lamented Hawkins’ exit, she said Wednesday that this year's candidates were extremely competitive.

Lynne, a longtime school volunteer and classroom tutor, has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in teaching from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has two children currently enrolled in Hanover schools.

Lynne, a longtime PTA board member, told VPM News she’s looking forward to the learning curve.

“Of course, there'll be some trepidation, knowing that it's a big responsibility and a lot of work ahead of me,” Lynne said. “But I enjoy challenges, I enjoy learning new things and I am not afraid of hard work.”

Seifert graduated from Hanover schools in 1987. He went on to graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1992 and served until his retirement in 2011. He currently has three children enrolled in Hanover schools.

Seifert also volunteers at all levels of Hanover schools as a chess club instructor and track coach. He is a board member of the Hanover Youth Basketball League, Parsons' Cause Foundation and the Historic Polegreen Church Foundation.

“I am an absolute believer in that to whom much is given, much is expected,” Seifert said in a statement. “I was so fortunate to attend Hanover schools as a kid and then be lucky enough to come back to Hanover 30 years later. And to find the schools just as good or better for my own children is really special.”

Floyd had 13 candidates to choose from. Among them, Seifert and two others received scrutiny for previously donating to Floyd’s school board election campaign in 2023.

In Hanover, there’s no prohibition against appointing someone who has made campaign contributions as a private citizen. During the board’s proceedings Wednesday, Floyd said she chose Seifert because he was the right person for the job.

“It was very important for me to pick the right fit for the right person for our district,” Floyd said. “I knocked on thousands of doors during my election campaign and listened to what the people had to say ... . I think it's important for our school board members to have the right temperament [and] the understanding of what's going on in our schools.”

Floyd said Seifert has the best interests of the children at heart, the right temperament and the time available to commit to the position.

Updated: May 29, 2024 at 11:51 AM EDT
We have updated this piece to reflect that Ola Hawkins did not seek reelection for the Hanover County School Board.
Lyndon German covers Henrico and Hanover counties for VPM News.
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