By Zach England
Voters will decide between two candidates to fill an empty seat on the Buena Vista Public Schools board.
E.A.C. “Annie” LePere is going up against the interim member Allen L. “Mac” Felts Jr. He filled the seat in August after John Butler resigned because he was moving outside the area.
Felts graduated from Parry McCluer High School in 1957, received a history degree at Randolph Macon College, then coached baseball, basketball, and football at Tucker High School in Henrico for a few years.
After that, he worked for State Farm until he moved to Lexington in 1977, working in the small business sector for the next 36 years. He’s since moved back to Buena Vista to retire.
“I have a teaching background, business background, and people management skills, so hopefully I come prepared to meet the expectations of a school board member,” he said.
Felts believes in upgrading technologies in schools and sees a need to develop more curriculum and avenues to learn trade skills that could help build the work force in Buena Vista. For starters, he said he couldn’t find a plumber in town, something he was surprised by when he returned after 65 years.
“Giving them ways to find employment and come back to the community is how we will survive,” he said. “These young people are the greatest asset we have, and their development is essential for the revitalization of this community.”
Since 2013, Felts has been involved with the schools as a member of the Parry McCluer Hall of Fame Committee, where he’s helped research nominees and plan ceremonies for recipients whose plaques hang outside the gym at PMHS.
Felts’ opponent, LePere, is the childcare director for the YMCA, working with families from all three school districts to provide care and help with school now that Lexington and Rockbridge County school districts have gone mostly virtual.
Before the YMCA, she worked at the Rockbridge Area Community Services, where she managed the “Live Healthy Rockbridge Kids” initiative, providing parenting education and mental health awareness training.
Her son Nathan graduated high school last year and currently attends Bluefield College, while her daughter Mary is a senior at Parry McCluer High School.
LePere said she joined the race because a teacher she is friends with encouraged her to run.
“I can bring some good things to the table and I would like to be more involved in the schools because obviously I care about my own kids and the kids around them. But I also think that I could add to the group,” she said.
If elected, LePere hopes to increase attendance at meetings.
“We need to have more parents there, just to stay on top of what’s happening and to encourage them.”
She has a Master of Public Health from the Medical College of Virginia, which she thinks could be helpful in guiding schools and families through learning in a pandemic.
“I never dreamed that I would use my degree to shepherd children through a pandemic, but that’s what I’ve been doing non-stop for the last six months,” she said. “I would continue to do that on the school board.”
The school board oversees F.W. Kling Jr. and Enderly Heights Elementary Schools and Parry McCluer Middle and High Schools, serving about 900 students per year. Unlike in Lexington and Rockbridge County school districts, students in Buena Vista have started their school year mostly in person.