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When James “Jim” Beers’ wife Carol was principal at Rawls Byrd Elementary School, she introduced a collaborative approach to leadership that helped the school earn a national Blue Ribbon School award and would go on to serve as superintendent of Williamsburg-James City County Schools.
Now, Beers is looking to influence the school division himsef while emulating his wife’s collaborative achievements in his bid for the WJCC School Board Roberts seat.
“Whoever gets on the board, we have to work together,” Beers said. “You can’t get on that board with an objective. I’m going to watch, I’m going to listen, but I don’t have an agenda.”
Beers, 69, moved to the area in 1977 after accepting an assistant professorship in reading and language arts at William & Mary. His research focused on spelling development in children and later on preparing teachers to identify and work with children with reading challenges.
He retired from the college as a professor emeritus but still works part time as the director of the Eastern Virginia Writing Project, which is based out of William & Mary.
Beers said he decided to run for the Roberts seat because he is passionate about and committed to public education, believes in collaboration and wants to apply his experience in education to the School Board.
“I want to take that and see if I can help our school system become better,” Beers said.
The Roberts seat is being vacated by current School Board vice chairwoman Heather Cordasco, who is running for the James City County Board of Supervisors. Beers will face fellow newcomer Petra Nadal in the general election.
As a School Board member, Beers said he would encourage instructional leaders to be a visible presence in schools, evaluate school start times and advocate for ways to improve teacher morale.
“It’s really important, especially for teachers, to feel that people who are making really important decisions that affect their lives as teachers, hear the voices of those teachers,” Beers said.
If elected to the school board, Beers said he would ask questions and ensure that school officials can explain why certain decisions are in the best interest of students and teachers.
“One board member can’t do anything,” Beers said. “You have to not just collaborate with your colleagues on the board and work through differences, but do that very same thing with central office staff, the Board of Supervisors, the County Administrator, the City Administrator.”
By the end of a four-year term, Beers said he would like to say that all students are encouraged and supported toward academic excellence, teachers and central office staff are accessible to students and parents, all school officials are held accountable and affordability is emphasized through smart spending decisions.