Thursday, February 29, 2024

Ownby defeats Matthews in WJCC school board special election

School board special election
Left to right: Dot Matthews and Lisa Ownby (Steve Roberts, Jr./WYDaily)

In a special election for a seat on the Williamsburg-James City County School Board, Lisa Ownby defeated Dot Matthews.

“I’m so excited and I’m eager to get to work tomorrow on the school board,” Ownby said Tuesday. “I’m particularly interested in school equity, teacher compensation, the achievement gap and transparency.”

The candidates had vied for the slot vacated by former board member Joe Fuentes, the Powhatan district representative, who resigned on Jan.15, 2016.

Ownby (I) is the director of operations at Landtech Resources Inc. She is a mother of four children, three of whom are current WJCC students.

She has professional experience in advocacy, policy, disability and project management, according to the Ownby for WJCC School Board Facebook page.

In an interview Tuesday evening, she pointed to her 25-year residence in the area, her status as a WJCC schools parent and her background in special education.

“And I think those things resonated with voters,” she said.

Matthews (I) is an attorney with experience as a utility and legal analyst who reviews corporate finances and provides advice on the company’s health, according to the Dot Matthews for WJCC School Board Facebook page.

Neither candidate amassed a large campaign war chest.

Ownby raised $50, while as of Oct. 24, Matthews’s campaign had not filed any financial reports for any dollar amount with the state, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

The candidates did offer different takes on the issues, including the search for new a WJCC school superintendent.

During a debate last month, Matthews said she had a preference for a superintendent who would remain in the area and provide continuity.

Ownby appeared to agree with Matthews, but stressed the importance of having a full-time superintendent. “In the last five years we had a superintendent who did some wonderful things, but he also spent a lot of time on the road, and wrote his books, and promoted his own self-interest,” she said.

The candidates also had divergent insights about how to educate students for the future.

For Matthews, it was about access to basic technology.

“I define 21st-century learning as being able to use all of the tools that are now available that weren’t available when I was in high school,” Matthews said. “We didn’t have computers in high school.”

For Ownby, it was about contemplating the unknown.

“I think 21st-century learning is about preparing our students for the workforce and work in jobs we can’t even envision today,” Ownby said.

Block-style scheduling, a high school scheduling device that focuses on lengthening class periods and reducing class frequency, also revealed a split between the candidates.

“I’m not crazy about it, but I could be convinced by people who know more than I do,” Matthews said. “I think it limits the amount of time that the students are actually learning.”

Ownby, however, drew on her insights as a parent to take a more positive view of the practice.

“I think what we have at WJCC, we have the hybrid-block and as a parent having graduated a student and having a tenth-grader right now, I think that it works, because it allows you some flexibility,” Ownby said.

All election results are considered unofficial until a formal results review is completed and all provisional ballots are counted.

Past coverage of the candidates can be found here.

Joan Quigley
Joan Quigley
Joan Quigley is a former Miami Herald business reporter, a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and an attorney. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post,, and Talking Points Memo. Her recent book, Just Another Southern Town: Mary Church Terrell and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Nation’s Capital, was shortlisted for the 2017 Mark Lynton History Prize. Her first book, The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy, won the 2005 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award.

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