Spotsy School News

Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County schools. You can email him at

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SEA announces School Board candidates it supports

The Spotsylvania Education Association announced the candidates it supports for November’s races. It has sent me four names, but in fact, the SEA only made a choice in two races as you will see below.

Here are the candidates the group is supporting:

Chancellor District: Mike Cotter and Dawn Shelley

Courtland District: Cliff Vaughan

Livingston District: Ray Lora

Salem District: Bill Blaine

Blaine is running unopposed in the Salem District and the SEA did not choose one candidate over the other in the Courtland race that features two Spotsylvania educators. Mike Cotter is a retired schools employee and Dawn Shelley is a current teacher.

SEA President Peter Pfotenhauer said the group took the following steps in deciding who to support. He also noted that the SEA does not “endorse” candidates but gives its support.

Pfotenhauer also provided me the reasoning behind each choice. See his information below.

From SEA President Peter Pfotenhauer: 

“All declared candidates were sent a letter and survey in late July, or immediately upon declaring if they did so in August because of the extended deadline this year. The survey asked 17 questions about education, local issues, state funding, and other items of interest to our members. Candidates seeking our recommendation returned the surveys to us. Each one was granted a 45- minute interview with a committee composed of a variety of SEA members. Those committees made a recommendation in each race based on the survey answers and interview responses. Our process is totally issue driven, and party blind.


“We recommended Ray Lora because of his plentiful experience, both in the classroom and as a school board member. He has a realistic knowledge of how budgets are crafted and has supported the goals and objectives of the SEA in the past. In a time of transition, with new division leadership and at least 3 new members certain to be on the school board, his experience will be even more valuable a resource to the division.


“In Chancellor, we did recommend both candidates. Both Mr. Cotter and Ms. Shelley showed themselves to be strong advocates for public education. Each will bring practical experience to the position, if elected. The variety of Mr. Cotter’s experiences as a teacher and administrator would serve the division well, while Ms. Shelley has significant expertise in the challenging special-ed field. Her insights into how policy decisions will impact the classroom will be based on current impacts and situations in our schools today.


“In Salem, Mr. Blaine showed that he has a firm grasp of the role of a school board member. He is campaigning hard despite running unopposed, which shows how he would fulfill his duties after the election. He solicits input from all stakeholders, which is what we feel all board members should do before making difficult decisions.

“We feel Mr. Cliff Vaughan shares a passion for improving our community. His other experience with civic organizations since arriving in Spotsylvania is impressive. He is clearly dedicated to helping improve our quality of life in the county. By bringing the same approach to our public schools that he has to the planning commission work, he will be a valuable member of the board on funding issues.”