WAYNESBORO — Kathe Maneval, the longest serving of the current members of the Waynesboro School Board, is running for re-election in November. As board vice-chair, Maneval represents Ward D and hopes to earn her fifth term on the board.
“It never occurred to me to run for school board,” Maneval said of her first run in 2006 after two parents encouraged her to do so. “To me, it made sense when I thought about it.” Her educational and financial background had prepared her to serve on a school board. “And a good way to use my skills and let me be home with my kids. So I found that fulfilling.”
Doug Norcross holds the status as the longest serving school board member in Waynesboro. He served from 1991-2000 and returned in 2004 to serve until January 2017.
“I always valued his perspective and his institutional history,” Maneval said.
Maneval moved from Athens, Penn. to Waynesboro in 2000 when her husband, Tom, was transferred by DuPont. He now works for Lycra, formerly DuPont. All four of their children are Waynesboro High School graduates. Two are teachers in Virginia schools, one is in graduate school and the youngest is in college.
“It’s just fun to see them growing up and turning into their own people,” Maneval said.
Maneval grew up in northern Delaware. Her father was a professor at the University of Delaware and her mother a social worker.
A graduate of Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania, Maneval is certified as a CPA, but not in Virginia. She later took business courses and applied her financial background in volunteer work as treasurer for Westwood Hills PTO, Kate Collins PTO and the Waynesboro High School Band Supporters.
Since 2002, when her children joined Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts of America, she has volunteered with those organizations. Last week she helped with registration and merit badges for the Boy Scouts at Camp Shenandoah in Swoope.
“It’s great to be back at camp, and feeling like life is getting back to normal,” she said. She is chair of Cub Scout pack 73.
If re-elected, Maneval has several goals to achieve in her next term.
“Our school division is still facing probably the most challenging situation we’ve ever faced since I’ve been on the school board,” she said of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers and students have struggled with mental health in the midst of a global pandemic, and the school division has weathered the financial impact of a pandemic.
Maneval said she has spoken with seasoned teachers who referred to last year as “the hardest year” of their careers. New teachers questioned their career choice.
Maneval said she believes her institutional knowledge of Waynesboro’s school system is “really beneficial to the school board to continue helping the schools.”
“I’m indebted to our teachers, our administrators and my fellow school board members for their dedication these last few years,” Maneval said. She added that the school system has recruited teachers from other school systems who said they came to Waynesboro for its reputation of stability during difficult times. “We all worked together.”
Her second goal if re-elected is to enhance school safety, including taking proactive measures to protect students from gun violence but also provide students with mental health support.
“We have made progress in our school entrances,” she said, referring to the fact that all exterior doors of Waynesboro’s seven buildings are locked and entrance allowed through a buzzer system requiring pre-authorization to visit a school building. However, renovations at Waynesboro High School require completion to fully secure that building.
Counselors and psychologists have been added to the school system’s staff.
“So that means our inside environment is safer [for students],” Maneval said.
However, Maneval adds, that gun violence is not just in schools, but a societal fear.
“It really calls for a response from the community, not just the schools,” she said.
Maneval’s third goal is student achievement and success. During the pandemic, virtual learning lessened achievement. Summer school provided opportunities for improvement for some students, and the school system is waiting to hear if math scores for 2021-2022 improved from the previous year.
“But, part of student achievement is also making sure they have everything they need to be successful, and that’s different for each student,” Maneval said. A focus on social and emotional health of students is also important in response to the pandemic.
Since the school implemented use of the STOPit app, students have reported thoughts of suicide and threats of violence by students.
“There’s been a fair amount of success with that,” Maneval said.
She added that time and distance from the pandemic will help students.
“I honestly think the coming year will be better than this past year [for everyone],” she said.
After the use of social media was so vital for virtual learning during the pandemic, the school system has since come to find social media a source of problems with students threatening and bullying other students through the platform. Maneval said she thinks the situation was getting better by the end of the 2021-2022 academic year as alternatives learning environments were made available for students.
“I think we’re moving in the right direction. I think it’s going to take time,” she said. And real change will require partnerships between the school system and the community.
Another goal for Maneval’s fifth term is to help the school system retain qualified teachers and staff. Last year, the school system gave them a 5 percent raise and plans to give a 7 percent raise next year.
“We just got to make sure we can continue to compensate our teachers and staff competitively and retain them,” Maneval said.