Donna Dillard is the new chair of the Martinsville School Board, and she isn’t the only thing new.

Dillard, who had been the board’s vice chair, was elected Monday night to succeed Joan Montgomery, who moved out of the school district.

The new chair also has new mission and vision statements to help guide the board’s actions and even a new, spiffed-up logo.

“I want us to continue to support what our superintendent [Zeb Talley] is doing,” Dillard said by phone on Tuesday. “He has been phenomenal in where he has brought the school system in three years – academically where he has brought the schools from.”

She also said she wants the school board to be more involved in the budget development process.

“It gives us more insight and direction in what we need to do,” she said.

Dillard said she wants the school division to continue with its efforts to provide computer devices such as iPads for students to help with their learning.

She supports Gov. Ralph Northam’s initiative to add more school counselors, she said, and she also wants “to support and empower our teachers” to continue to move schools forward academically and to continue to address discipline issues.

Martinsville City Council appointed Dillard to the school board in August 2016 to fill a seat vacated by Craig Dietrich, who resigned. She was reappointed on July 1, 2017.

Board member Tonya Jones nominated Dillard for chair, and new board member Yvonne Givens seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously by those present. The 5-member board currently has one vacancy.

Board members on Monday also reviewed a new logo for the school division and new vision and mission statements.

The vision statement is: “Empowering success one learner at a time.”

The mission statement is “Martinsville City Public Schools creates a safe and supportive environment that engages students in individualized learning experiences.”

As for core values, it says, “To achieve our vision and mission, we value: integrity and ethical behavior; academic excellence; diversity, equity, and inclusion; respect, compassion, and positive relationships; family and community engagement; and service to others.”

“We thought it was time to rebrand,” Dillard said, considering the academic improvements the school division has been making under Superintendent Talley.

Part of Monday’s meeting was to recognize Cynthia Tarpley, principal at Martinsville Middle School, and Aji Dixon, principal at Martinsville High School, for being selected to receive the 2019 Virginia Board of Education’s Continuous Improvement Award through the Exemplar School Recognition Program.

“A school receives this award for being accredited or accredited with conditions and significantly improving academic and school quality indicators for each of the past three years,” the school system stated in a release. “Schools must demonstrate one or more of the following: an increase in the academic achievement of all students in reading or mathematics; an increase in academic achievement for two or more student groups in reading and mathematics; an increase in attendance; or an increase in graduation rates and a decrease in students who drop out of high school.”

New board member Emily Parker nominated Givens as vice chair, Dillard seconded, and Givens was elected unanimously.

Dillard, 54, of 912 Forest Lake Drive, is a supervisor in the financial department at Nautica, which distributes clothing.

She grew up in Martinsville, attended Martinsville city schools and graduated from Martinsville High School in 1983. At MHS, she was captain of the cheerleading squad, ran track and played tennis and volleyball. She also was active in the student council.

Her siblings also attended Martinsville City Public Schools.

She and her husband, Joe Dillard, have been married 34 years. Their children, daughter India Brown and son Ian Dillard, graduated from Martinsville High School. India is a grant administrator for Harvest Foundation and Ian owns and operates a specialty men’s clothing store in Charlottesville.

“My entire family went through the [Martinsville] school system. That’s why it’s so important [to me],” Donna Dillard said.

She is a member and treasurer of First Baptist Church of East Martinsville. She earned an associate degree in business from Averett University, graduating summa cum laude.

Among other business, the board:

  • Reappointed Janie Fulcher as clerk to the board for 2019-20 and Sarah Byrd as deputy clerk.
  • Recognized former school board members Eric Hruza and Sammy Redd for their service on the board. Hruza’s term expired, and Redd moved out of the area.
  • Recognized Brian Joyce, Martinsville High School’s band director, for receiving the 2019 Arts in Education from Piedmont Arts Association.
  • Heard a report from Travis Clemons, the school division’s executive director of administrative services, about several capital projects. The largest is that Martinsville Middle School will be getting a partial roof replacement and repair at an estimated cost of $290,000. Equipment is on site, and the work will start soon and take weeks to complete. Among the other projects is the replacement of a water heater at Martinsville Middle School, at a cost of about $20,000, which is under way.
  • Tabled for further discussion a proposal to name the library at Patrick Henry Elementary School in honor of Montgomery.

Paul Collins is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him at 276-638-8801, ext. 236.

Paul Collins is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him at 276-638-8801, ext. 236.

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