By Aila Boyd firstname.lastname@example.org
Botetourt County School Board Chairman Michael Beahm, who represents the Valley District, recently announced that he will not be running for re-election this November.
By the time his term expires, he will have served 24 years and nine months on the School Board. He is currently the most senior member.
When he first started out on the School Board, members were still appointed by the Board of Supervisors.
“I feel you need to be involved in the community,” Beahm said of the reason why he wanted to be on the School Board in the first place.
“I’ve had close ties with education even though I’ve never taught myself,” Beahm said, adding that several members of his family have been teachers.
Beahm, a 1973 graduate of Virginia Tech, has spent the majority of his life farming. However, he drove a school bus for a period of time when he was a student at Lord Botetourt High School.
Even though he likes representing the Valley District and thinks that he’s doing a good job, Beahm said that “change is healthy.”
“I’ve enjoyed it and appreciate everyone’s support and confidence in me,” he said. “I’m a strong supporter of public education.”
Although he explained that change is needed, he said that the consistency among School Board members and superintendents has been one of the division’s primary strengths.
During his time on the School Board, he worked with four different superintendents.
Beahm said that he thinks the hiring of a new superintendent will be the “most consequential” decision that the current School Board will make between now and the end of the year.
When considering the future of the school division, Beahm said that the next School Board will have to work to secure as much funding as possible and foster the various programs offered in order to maintain quality schools.
He went on to predict that the less than perfect condition of various facilities and the teacher shortage when it comes to math and science will continue to cause problems for the division. He added that “stagnant student growth is the single biggest problem.”
“The relationship between a community and a school is an incredibly strong bond,” he said.
Beahm cites the “raising of expectations” as the thing that he’s most proud of that has occurred during his time on the School Board. He explained that the rigorous coursework has helped ensure that the division has high college acceptance rates and that students who decide not to pursue a four-year degree are prepared to start their careers.
“We do a good job of educating our students,” he said.
Other points of pride that he cited include the renovation of James River High School, the increased offering of dual enrollment classes, increased student participation in School Board meetings, and the renaming of William Clark Middle School to Central Academy Middle School.
As for what he hasn’t been thrilled about, Beahm said that he has been disappointed by the state legislature concerning funding for education. “There have been some gestures, but realistic proposals haven’t gone anywhere,” he said.
Although he doesn’t have any specific plans for what he’ll do after his current term expires, Beahm said that he’s looking forward to not having to always be available for the various meetings that the School Board holds.
Unfortunately, he said, he won’t be able to watch “The Big Bang Theory,” which airs on Thursday nights, because it’s currently in its last season.
He added that planning for his 50-year class reunion is currently under way, something that he’s looking forward to.