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Petra Nadal said vocational training in high school helped her get her first job, which took her to Germany and “broadened her horizons” about alternatives to traditional education.
As a prospective Roberts representative on the Williamsburg-James City County School Board, Nadal said she would make the most of the opportunity to show students what they can do with the education they receive, whether its vocational or post-secondary studies.
“I’m hoping that I can make a difference. That’s my goal,” Nadal said. “Learning from other people, their opinions, their thoughts, their ideas … it makes me want to see if I can’t make those things work or blend them better together.”
Nadal, 63, said she has lived in James City County for 20 years, first renting and later purchasing a home in Grove. She has worked as a Clydesdales specialist at Busch Gardens and issued gear to soldiers at Fort Eustis before deciding to make a run for the school board, which she said she would treat as a full-time job if elected.
“I feel that making this full time, I could hopefully do a better job,” Nadal said. “This way I can just focus on the School Board.”
She said people in the community who knew of her interest and involvement in the school division encouraged her to run for School Board.
“I thought, ‘No, I can’t do it. I’m just a mom. I’m just a parent.’ And they said, ‘That’s why we want you to run, because you’re a mom and you’re a parent and you’ve gone through it and you care,’” Nadal said. “So then I said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’”
Nadal announced her run in April, making her the first School Board candidate to do so in this year’s race. Current School Board vice chairwoman Heather Cordasco is vacating the Roberts seat to run for the James City County Board of Supervisors. Nadal will face fellow newcomer Jim Beers in the general election.
If elected, Nadal said she would work to close gaps of misunderstanding, whether they are between parents and teachers about a child’s educational experience or between families and school counselors about the variety of opportunities available to students after high school.
She suggested holding parent-teacher coffee clubs outside of the school and organizing group meetings with families and counselors to explore all post-graduation options, including manufacturing and industrial work.
“There is no dead end,” Nadal said. “If you try a little bit in high school, whether you go to college or you do vocational, that can leads to who knows what? That could be an awesome experience.”
She said her paid and volunteer experience in WJCC schools has allowed her to see first-hand the challenges faced by students, teachers and principals. As a leader, Nadal said she sets an example, assesses situations and works well with people.
By the end of a four-year term, Nadal said she hopes to have succeeded in bringing parents, teachers and students together to solve problems and ensured students have the information they need to go in any direction they want after high school.