By Matt de Simone
Last Thursday, the Botetourt County School Board celebrated the three outgoing members of the board who gave a combined 44 years of service to their community.
Botetourt County Administrator Gary Larrowe and Botetourt County Board of Supervisors Chairman Billy Martin Sr. presented three proclamations to John Alderson, Scott Swortzel and Michael Beahm.
John Alderson has represented the Fincastle District on the School Board since January 2012. He has played a significant role in the construction of the new Colonial Elementary School. The proclamation for Alderson stated, “The Botetourt County Board of Supervisors hereby expresses its sincere appreciation for the eight years of service given by Mr. John Alderson to the school system, parents, students, and citizens of Botetourt County through his service on the Botetourt County School Board.”
Scott Swortzel has been the Blue Ridge District representative on the School Board since 2008. Swortzel’s proclamation from the Board of Supervisors said, “During his tenure, Mr. Sworzel helped to grow Botetourt County’s school system and its facilities, including the construction of the new Colonial Elementary School, improved teachers’ salaries, and worked to enhance the educational curriculum to better prepare the county’s students to meet the needs of the future.”
Michael Beahm, who currently serves as chairman, has spent the last 24 years representing the Valley District on the School Board. The proclamation for Beahm stated, “During his tenure, Mr. Beahm helped to grow Botetourt County’s school system and its facilities, including the construction of Read Mountain Middle School, Greenfield Elementary School, and the new Colonial Elementary School, improve teachers’ salaries, and worked to enhance the educational curriculum to better prepare the county’s students to meet the needs of the future.”
All those in attendance at the meeting gave the outgoing members of the School Board a standing ovation as they received their recognitions from Larrowe and Martin.
The Lord Botetourt High School Choir treated the School Board and those in attendance with the song “For Good” from the musical “Wicked” – a song about bidding farewell to friends which serves as the musical’s climactic number. The song was also fitting for saying goodbye to the outgoing members. Lord Botetourt Choir Director Joel Bremner personally thanked Beahm, Swortzel and Alderson for all the many things they did in service to Botetourt County. He also expressed his gratitude to them for being a part of the staff that hired him at Lord Botetourt.
Following the choir’s performance, School Board members Michelle Crook and Anna Weddle shared kind words and gratitude for Alderson, Swortzel and Beahm.
“Collectively, 44 years of experience is leaving tonight,” Crook stated. “For these three gentlemen to do it for as long as they have needs to be properly acknowledged tonight.”
She went on to share some thoughts about Alderson. “He served on this board for two reasons: Number one, for our children because he wants our kids in Botetourt to be the best and for us to prepare them. The second reason is that he is a steward of our taxpayers’ dollar. He represents the school’s responsibility. Those are the two reasons and those are the right reasons.”
Crook spoke of Swortzel’s kindness and fairness. She also stated, “He wants us to be better and he always brings a different perspective to our decisions.” Swortzel raised four children during his 12 years on the School Board. Crook spoke about events she would attend in support of her own children much the same as Swortzel for his. Right after the events, both Crook and Swortzel would each then have to drive across town to attend School Board meetings the same nights. She thanked him for balancing out time for his children, Botetourt County’s children, and the School Board itself over the past 12 years.
Finally, Crook expressed her admiration and gratitude for Beahm. “Good leaders instill a sense of calm during stressful situations,” Crook explained. “During my tenure on the board, Mr. Beahm is always calm. It might be my first time but he’s seen a lot. It’s been a big comfort to me that he’s had that wealth of experience. You can’t teach experience. It just takes time and I have benefitted from (Beahm’s) experience.
The three outgoing School Board members each shared their own thoughts reflecting on the respective tenures.
“I will admit that I’m astonished that Michelle would admit so publicly how much she’ll miss me,” Alderson grinned. “To paraphrase someone— I’ll let you figure it out later— my heart’s first desire is that the interest of my county and our wonderful, beautiful, crazy potential leaders of the future’s interest can be best served.” Alderson expressed his excitement for the ideas and goals the new Superintendent Dr. Lisa Chen has in store for the school system.
Swortzel explained his early days on the School Board and the calmness he learned from watching Beahm work with the School Board in making decisions. He also spoke about his common bond with Alderson as they both work in the insurance business. “I have been absolutely blessed to spend time with (Alderson),” Swortzel said.
Finally, Beahm shared some parting thoughts. “I’ve been fortunate to serve with some excellent board members. I think we’ve got good people coming on. In its reality sometimes, there is something to be said for institutional experience and, obviously, it’s not going to be quite what it was but that’s not going to prevent anything. The school system is headed in a good direction. I appreciate the people and staff that I’ve had the chance to work with over the years. It’s amazing when you look back on that many years and the 300 meetings approximately– I guess I made most of them. I didn’t have any children to keep me from missing a meeting and I never had a cow go into labor either. I guess its fortunate how some things work out,” he said.
Dana McCaleb will replace Alderson as the Fincastle District representative on the School Board, Matthew East will replace Scott Swortzel as the Blue Ridge District representative and Timothy Davidick will replace Michael Beahm as the Valley District representative.