Home Long-time former Waynesboro School Board member looks back on 16 years

Long-time former Waynesboro School Board member looks back on 16 years

Rebecca Barnabi
kathe manvel
Kathe Maneval

Kathe Maneval served as vice chair of Waynesboro School Board in 2022.

After 16 years on the board, she was not re-elected in November. Maneval was the longest serving board member since 2006.

“I felt like I offered some stability [amidst challenges],” she said of running for the school board again.

Maneval said she was on the fence about running in November after the COVID-19 pandemic and learning loss created challenges for the school system, and she was also starting to think about retirement.

Before her election to school board in 2006, Maneval served as treasurer of different PTOs and helped obtain tax-exempt status for PTOs at each Waynesboro school.

She and her husband still lead the Cub Scouts pack their sons were members of. The youngest of their four children is about to graduate college.

Maneval said if the right opportunity comes up and she can provide support, she would continue to be involved in Waynesboro Schools.

“I still think the world of Waynesboro Public Schools, and the education they offer students,” she said. “There are exciting things happening and continuing to happen. We’ve made so much progress with additional programs and supports for students, and expanded instruction [CTE].”

She said when she thinks back on her time on the school board, she remembers when Dr. Jeff Cassell became superintendent in 2013 and the school board formed a strategic plan to put students at the center of what the school board and school system did to enable the success of students. A support system was created for food, mental health and other resources — long before other Virginia schools and the federal government considered it important to do so.

Now all Waynesboro Schools students have computers, free lunch and free breakfast. Events are held, such as Back-to-School Bash twice during the summer, that focus on student needs. Additional counselors have been hired to support students.

“I feel like we’re supporting our students better,” Maneval said.

During her time on the school board, Maneval said she is most proud of the fact that the school board hired two “extremely effective and talented” superintendents, the second of which was Cassell. Both superintendents were “able to bring in a lot of talented teachers and leaders to help Waynesboro. Waynesboro is the teachers and the staff that really help make it what it is.”

She is thankful the school board was able to make raises for teachers happen the last two years amidst a pandemic.

“I’m leaving the school board in a good place.”

She will miss the relationships she formed with school board members and school staff.

“I find the field of education to be very interesting intellectually.”

She appreciated the challenges the school board undertook during her time, and she enjoyed feeling that the work the school board did impacted the lives of students in positive ways.

“I worked with a wonderful group of people,” she said.

Maneval considers November’s election an “unpredictable election” because the city redrew lines for wards and went to ward-based voting. The city also moved elections from May to November.

“The downside, in my mind, was that the election became more politicized.”

School board members are bipartisan and do not run on a party, but a party can endorse a candidate running for school board. While more voters will come out for a November election, May elections are more focused on local elections.

Maneval said a national focus during the pandemic on public schools also created a politicized focus on schools.

During her time on the school board, Maneval said the relationship between the school board and Waynesboro City Council improved. Just before her election to the board, that relationship was fraught with lack of communication. In recent years, city council provided funding during lean times.

Funding also improved with a funding agreement in 2006 between the school board and council so that the school board knows early in each year what the city will fund. The agreement also guaranteed the school system’s year-end surplus would “encourage fiscal responsibility.”

“The school system is better [than in 2006], and it will continue to do so,” Maneval said.



Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.