CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the vote to the resolution. WAVY-TV apologizes for the error.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Beach School Board has signaled it will look to follow City Council’s new election system starting this fall, even though it means incumbents will now be possibly running against one another.
In a special meeting Tuesday evening, the School Board voted 7-0 to approve a resolution that signals its plans after months of speculation. Four members, Jennifer Franklin, Victoria Manning, Laura Hughes and Carolyn Weems, abstained.
The entire city’s way of electing members of City Council and School Board has been turned on its head following a federal court ruling and a change in state law. No longer will a voter in the city be able to select all 11 Virginia Beach City Council and School Board members.
In December, City Council had its new election system imposed for them by the federal court. However, the Virginia Beach School Board wasn’t considered when the new 10 districts were drawn — and that is where controversy emerged.
The Virginia Beach City Charter requires that all school board members “be elected in the same manner and according to the same schedule that council members are elected for terms of four years.”
Kamala Lannetti, the attorney for the School Board, said in her opinion, that means that the exact same six districts up for election this fall for City Council, will be up for School Board. In addition, the 11th member would be elected “At-Large” just as the mayor of Virginia Beach is.
It is against state law to end the term of an elected official early.
However, unlike City Council, where the five members who are not up for re-election until 2024 have current council members living within the new district boundaries, there are two districts, new district 5 and district 7, that will have no current members living within them until 2025.
Inversely, four School Board members live within the boundaries of the new district 9: Dottie Holtz, Victoria Manning, Laura Hughes and Carolyn Weems. Manning is the only member whose term isn’t up this year, meaning Hughes, Weems and Holtz would have to run against each another if they wanted to return to the board in 2023.
School board member Laura Hughes expressed she felt not holding elections for those seats in 2022, would essentially be “blocking” people from running in districts 5 and 7.
However, Lannetti said districts not slated for City Council elections until 2024 shouldn’t even be considered districts until then.
Still, Del. Glenn Davis, (R-Virginia Beach) is carrying a bill in the Virginia General Assembly that he hopes could try to make sure there is a legal pathway to address concerns.
“The most important thing is to ensure that the wishes of voters that certain individuals serve on the school board through 2024, is also balanced with making sure that voters in these new districts have a representative,” Davis said.
Manning, Hughes and Weems all said they abstained due to the lack of public comment on the plan before a vote.
Manning said that while it had been discussed in closed session, no public hearings were held like City Council had.