Lexington City School Board members will be elected in 2024

Two signs read "Nicholas Betts for city council" and "end segregation era policies." other signs are around them.
Appointed school boards in Virginia are a legacy of early 20th century Jim Crow laws. (Mott photo)

By Lily Mott

Lexington voters passed a referendum to elect Lexington City School Board members beginning in 2024. 

Most Lexington voters were in favor of changing the school board selection method with 1,213 or 62.88% voting “yes” on the referendum. 

The first school board elections will be held in November 2024, with board members starting their terms in January 2025. 

Three school board seats will be on the ballot in 2024 with the remaining three seats up for election in 2026.

“For the first several years, the school board actually won’t see any difference,” Lexington City School Board Chair Tim Diette said. 

The referendum was added to the ballot this year following parents’ concerns about the school board’s handling of the pandemic. 

Lexington City Public Schools parent Janice Friend collected signatures to get the referendum on the ballot. 

A screenshot that reads "Direct Election of School Board Lexington City." It shows 1,213 yes votes and 716 no votes, or 62.88 percent yes and 37.12 percent no.
Nearly two-thirds of Lexington voters were in favor of changing the school board selection method. (Virginia Board of Elections)

“It’s a little unfortunate that the Trump era has left people afraid of voting, and I would prefer to have more democracy rather than less democracy,” Friend said. 

Appointed school boards in Virginia reflect the state’s effort to codify Jim Crow practices in the early 20th century. The Virginia NAACP launched a campaign to change the remaining appointed school boards to elected boards in August. 

“It speaks to a core issue that should resonate with, particularly, Lexington voters,” referendum petitioner Mark Reed said. 

Lexington City was among the last appointed school boards in Virginia. More than 80% of Virginia school boards changed their selection methods when school board elections became legal in 1992.  

“This is really pivotal to what’s happening in Virginia right now,” former Lexington City Council Member Mary Harvey-Halseth said.  

Governor Glenn Youngkin prioritized education reform with the 2021 campaign slogan “parents matter.” In his first act as governor, Youngkin signed an executive order to root out critical race theory from the state’s education system.  

Parents’ rights and the role of race in education continue to dominate discussions in many school districts.