Should 2 family members serve on Norfolk’s school board simultaneously? Union says no


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY ) — School board elections are approaching, and an unusual topic is raising eyebrows.

It’s not about curriculum, or money, but the question of whether it would be fair for family members to serve on the same school board.

“Lots of people are really interested in having a career professional educator represent them,” said Norfolk school board candidate Nate Kinnison.

And Kinnison believes he is that guy.  Kinnison is running for Norfolk’s Ward 2 school board seat.

“I’m ready to have a voice, a seat and a vote on the board,” Kinnison added.

Kinnison is taking on incumbent Tanya Bhasin, but Thomas Calhoun, president of the Norfolk Federation of Teachers doesn’t think Kinnison should be in the race.

“I have one issue here, that two members of the same immediate family should not serve on the school board,” Calhoun said.

Kinnson’s sister-in-law is Dr. Noelle Gabriel, current Norfolk school board vice chair.  Calhoun says since the board of seven only needs four votes to either pass or vote down an issue, it creates a dangerous situation.

“Those seven people on the school board decide the educational policy for the entire city of Norfolk, every single family and every single student,” Calhoun added.

“I’m sorry Mr. Calhoun feels that way,” Kinnison said.  “You know, he’s a supporter and personal campaign donor to my opponent.”

Calhoun says he does support Bhasin’s campaign, but it doesn’t erase the family member connection.  Kinnison says if elected he has no problem voting against his sister-in-law.

“We are not members of the same household,” Kinnison added.  “We are just related by marriage and it’s a non-issue.”

Having family members on the school board is totally legal in Norfolk.  Calhoun brought the issue to 10 On Your Side on Thursday, just three days before the election.  Kinnison thinks that’s suspicious.  

“That letter is a negative campaign ad in support of my opponent and should be disregarded,” Kinnison said.

“I guess I could have done it earlier, but i just felt strongly in the past week that we should come out officially say something as a union, because we feel that strongly about it,” Calhoun added.

Kinnison says he wants to focus on the issues, which include retaining teachers and getting schools accredited. 

Calhoun tells 10 On Your Side he plans to take this issue to the General Assembly in hopes of changing the law.

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