Former, influential New Kent School Board member Gail Hardinge succumbs
Former New Kent District 5 School Board representative Dr. Gail Hardinge has passed away.
The announcement came Monday afternoon through several social media posts and later confirmed by District 3 representative and New Kent School Board chairwoman Andrea Staskiel.
Hardinge dedicated more than 37 years to education. She served 18 years on New Kent County’s School Board before stepping down due to her ongoing battle with ALS (Amyotrophis Lateral Sclerosis/Lou Gehrig’s disease).
“I have been battling with ALS and it has been very progressive,” she said in an April 12 letter to the county’s school board on her resignation. “I am grateful for your prayers and the many advocates and educators that I got to work with.”
Hardinge’s impact in New Kent County was spoken in volumes as she was praised for her dynamic influence in moving education forward and into the next generation. She spoke up on her beliefs, advocating for both employees and students. With her knowledge of working from inside the classroom to the state level to becoming a professor at the collegiate level, Hardinge’s love for education could not be compared or doubted.
“She was one of the best orators I’ve ever had the privilege to listen to,” said Staskiel. “She was authentic, genuine, and real.
“She’d vehemently disagree with her closest friends and rally to defend those who typically weren’t supportive of her and her mission,” the District 3 representative continued. “We talked for years of how important it was for students to have grit.
“Gail faced her ALS diagnosis with the kind of courage most us cannot even fathom,” Staskiel added. “She knew what she wanted and what she didn’t want. She made sure those of us who knew her well knew it too.”
Hardinge was also instrumental in understanding viewpoints, even those who she did not agree with her. Conversations with Hardinge were insightful as the education and advancement for all students ranked high on her priority list. Her communication with county leaders along with fellow board members will lead to the construction of Quinton Elementary School.
When Chronicle staff interviewed Hardinge in past conversations, the school board member was always a pleasure to sit down with. Her desire and understanding of how a school system works and her knowledge of the needs made her instrumental in her role. She was also somebody who was active in the community, attending several functions and pushing for equality at all levels, not just for students and teachers.
A memorial scholarship fund has been established in Hardinge’s behalf. Checks can be made out to the New Kent Education Foundation (subject- Gail Hardinge Scholarship). Donations can be dropped off at 12003 New Kent Highway or mailed to P.O. Box 110, New Kent, VA 23124.