School board chair makes bid for supervisor’s chair

Page News and Courier

LURAY ― The Chairman of the Page County School Board won't seek a third term when his seat is up for grabs this November ― instead, he's throwing his hat in the ring in the race for supervisors' chairman.

Dr. Morgan Phenix, 70, recently announced his move to make a shift between the key leadership roles, touting a “need for change.”

“I decided a while ago not to run again for chairman of the school board because it's simply too long for any one person to hold that position,” said Phenix, adding that at the time of his decision, he hadn't considered running for supervisors' chairman. “I've enjoyed my seven-and-a-half years on the board, but when it's the same voice for that long on any board, things can slow down. I get the same feeling about the board of supervisors. It's time for change.”

If elected, Phenix said he's focused on “bringing new energy” to the Page County Board of Supervisors, as well as establishing “positive working relationships” with not only the local school system, but with all county departments.

“I think that has to be the motivating desire to be chairman of the board of anything ― to move that board forward in ways that are productive and kind and open,” Phenix said. “My platform has always been that the chairman of any board has no dog in the fight that they are promoting, that their interests are impartial and can't be personal, that they trust that they have the best people in place in departmental operations, and that those people are treated with respect.”

Noting that his decision to run is not based on a personal agenda on his part or the school system's, the incumbent school board chairman said he's focused on developing “workable goals” and “working relationships.”

“I have no agenda other than that a chairman has to exhibit decorum and maintain order,” Phenix said, noting that he feels his experience makes him poised to do just that. “My strongest qualification is being able to understand exactly what's going on, even when it might be something I don't have working experience in. I can very clearly and in a hurry understand things, and I can educate myself in a hurry, too ― and take multiple issues in at one time.”

Phenix earned his first degree in 1968 at Muhlenberg College in eastern Pennsylvania, before earning a master's in English in 1971 and a doctorate in education in 1973 from Columbia University in New York. In 1981 he graduated from the culinary arts school London Cordon Bleu, before continuing his education at the Tech College Aalborg in Denmark, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Marquette University and the Moody Bible Institute.

Phenix began his career in 1968 as a teacher in New Jersey, before serving as assistant professor of education at Muhlenberg College from 1972 to 1978. He additionally served in teaching positions in Denmark and as assistant principal for Milwaukee Public Schools.

In 1992, Phenix made the move to Stanley, working as principal of Page County High School until 2008. Between 2008 and 2012, he served as dean and associate vice principal of instruction at Lord Fairfax Community College's Middletown campus. Now retired, Phenix works part-time at LFCC's Luray-Page County Center as an education specialist and as an adjunct professor for Liberty University's online program.

He was elected to his first, four-year term as chairman of the Page County School Board in 2009, before being re-elected to a second term in 2013. Incumbent supervisors' chairman Johnny Woodward was also elected to his first and second four-year terms during those general elections, winning the top county spot as a Republican in 2009 before securing his seat as an Independent four years later.

On Saturday, Phenix began collecting the signatures required for him to declare his candidacy for supervisors' chairman ― something he said he'd like to see others pursue.

“It's good for people to have options,” said Phenix. “I believe in change and I believe in choice.”

The deadline to declare candidacy for the Nov. 7 general election is June 13. The ballot will include the chairman and District 1 and District 5 seats on the Page County School Board, as well as the chairman and representatives of those districts on the Page County Board of Supervisors.

In March, four-term District 1 school board member Randy Bailey announced his bid for school board chairman. That month, Woodward said he will seek a third, four-year term as supervisors' chairman. School board member Jackie Sullivan-Smoot (Dist. 5) and Supervisor Keith Guzy (Dist. 1) have also said they will seek re-election to their respective seats.

Candidate packets are available at the Page County Registrar’s Office in the county government center in Luray.

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