Marilyn Blakely said that the words “No child left behind” are more than just a “catch phrase” to her.
She explained why the saying, for her, carries extra meaning when she announced that she is running for the Coles District seat on the Prince William County School Board.
“I know what it feels like to be left behind,” Blakely told a group of about 40 supporters Sunday afternoon at Madigan Grill in Lake Ridge where she made her announcement.
Born in south Georgia in 1954, Blakely told of being the first African-American in an all-white elementary school in 1967, and one of but a few African-Americans to integrate a white high school.
She told of learning from outdated books that had been discarded from the white school system.
“I stand as a personal witness to the devastation of under-education at a very early age,” Blakely said.
“I vowed that I would do whatever I could to assure that no child would ever have to suffer under the burden of miseducation,” she said.
“I begin this undertaking because I love my county. I love my state and I love my country,” said Blakely, who has lived in Prince William County for 17 years.
“I firmly believe that the greatest threat to our national security rests in an under-educated populace. We can only be as free as our ability to think clearly and make informed judgments,” said Blakely, the president of Blakely and Associates, Training Consultants.
To achieve a more educated populace, planks in Blakely’s platform include better teacher compensation, smaller classes, increased vocational and technical choices for Prince William students and better cooperation with area business.
“I believe in smaller student to teacher classroom ratios. There is little debate in the benefits of more individualized instructional attention,” she said.
Blakely said she would reevaluate the way the school system spends money, draws school boundaries and recruits teachers to achieve a better ratio.
“I believe that teachers are professionals. They are not baby sitters. In order to assure our students of the most capable and competent education, we must compensate our teachers fairly and competitively,” Blakely said.
Blakely supports minimum standards for continuing education, but said teachers must be given better alternatives and flexibility in their choices for professional development.
While she said she believes in higher education, Blakely recognizes that not all students are college bound, and the world needs electricians, carpenters, computer programmers and auto mechanics.
“Every student will not want to pursue an education beyond grade 12. I believe an increased focus on vocational and technical training will offer many students an alternative for a career that does not currently exist for them,” she said.
Blakely said she would call on the business community to help train students while they are in school.
“I believe that the business community is an under-utilized resource in the education of our children. Upon leaving school, our children will seek employment somewhere. If our children have been trained by, and are familiar with the business culture of Prince William, they will not have to leave in search for their future,” she said.
“Their future can begin here, making our community even stronger,” she said.
Blakely is a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, annual Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Program Committee, the First A.M.E. Church, the National Board of Directors of the National Congress of Black Women and the Advisory Board of the Dedicated, Responsible, Enthusiastic and Motivated Students Club at Gar-Field High School.
She is currently serving a fourth, two-year term as chair of the Prince William Chapter of the National Congress of Black Women.
Blakely, the Director of the Prince William County Industrial Development Authority Board, graduated from Western Illinois University and has been married to her husband Stephen for 25 years.
Blakely, the local coordinator of the College for Kids Program, faces Stanley Bender and Michael I. Otaigbe in the race for the Coles District School Board seat.