Meet the School Board
Dr. Eli C.S. Jamison, Chair
Dr. Jamison was appointed to serve her third three-year term as a School Board Trustee from July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2026. She was elected as Chair of the School Board in 2022. She is an Associate Professor of Practice in the Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business. Additionally, she has served on a variety of community boards in Roanoke and has been a consultant to the regional business community in the fields of organizational development, strategic planning, leadership development training, and intercultural competency consulting for over 25 years. Dr. Jamison earned a bachelor of arts from James Madison University, a master's in business administration from Vanderbilt University, and a Ph.D. from the ASPECT program at Virginia Tech. She has more than 15+ years of experience in university instruction and administration and has worked with Radford University, Hollins University, and Virginia Tech. During her terms on the board, she has served on the Board's Policy and Governance Committee, the Equity Task Force, Naming Committee, and the Career and Technical Education Committee. She also served on the Transition and Restoration Task Force, planning for the reopening of schools following the COVID-19 closure. Dr. Jamison and her husband, Mark, are the proud parents of two Patrick Henry High School graduates.
Joyce W. Watkins, Vice Chair
Mrs. Watkins was appointed to serve her second three-year term as a School Board Trustee from July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2025. She was elected as Vice Chair of the School Board in 2022. Mrs. Watkins has worked in the insurance industry for over 30 years and is currently the Sales Director for Elevance Health. Mrs. Watkins is a member of the City’s Youth Services Citizen Board and has previously served as the PTA President at Lucy Addison Middle School and William Fleming High School. Mrs. Watkins is a lifetime member of the NAACP, volunteers in the community regularly and has founded two youth support groups. She is married to Robert Watkins and they have two grown sons and two grandchildren.
Mrs. Apel was appointed to serve her first three-year term as a School Board Trustee from July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2025. Mrs. Apel is a high school math teacher and coach with more than 15 years of experience. She is a former Division I athlete at the College of William and Mary, where she earned a degree in math and physics. Mrs. Apel started her career in Teach for America in the inner city of Chicago. She then went on to teach and coach in rural, suburban, and urban schools before settling in Roanoke with her extended family. She previously served on the board of the New Vista Montessori School and is President-Elect of the Junior League of the Roanoke Valley. Mrs. Apel and her husband have two young children in Roanoke City Public Schools. Mrs. Apel brings to the School Board both her perspective and experience as both a teacher and parent.
Diane M. Casola
Mrs. Casola was appointed to serve her first three-year term as a School Board Trustee from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2024. She brings unique qualifications to the Board. Mrs. Casola is a retired educator, having served as a teacher and department chair at Patrick Henry High School for 13 years, and she is a former attorney at Woods Rogers, representing businesses in labor and employment matters. Mrs. Casola earned her master’s degree in Instruction and Assessment from the University of Virginia and her Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law. She earned a Bachelor of Arts cum laude in English from Gettysburg College. In her application for appointment, Mrs. Casola states, "Because I have been a professional educator in Roanoke City, a parent of a student who attended 13 years at RCPS, a resident of Roanoke City for 32 years, and a management side labor and employment lawyer with almost 20 years of practice with Woods Rogers in Roanoke City, I have experience working with all the stakeholders that are vital to the current and future success of our schools. The breadth and depth of my experience makes me uniquely qualified for the Roanoke City School Board. I welcome the opportunity to serve." Mrs. Casola and her husband, Chip, have one daughter, who is a graduate of Patrick Henry High School, the University of Virginia, and the Virginia Theological Seminary.
Mark K. Cathey
Mr. Cathey was appointed to serve his third three-year term as a School Board Trustee from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2024. He was first appointed to the Board in 2015. Mr. Cathey is an attorney and has been with Glenn Robinson Cathey Memmer & Skaff since 1997. A native of Lexington, Virginia, he earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and his law degree from the Washington and Lee University School of Law. Mr. Cathey served on the Virginia State Bar Council from 2011 until 2016 and served as President of the Roanoke Bar Association in 2009-2010. He previously served on the TRUST House Board of Directors, the Roanoke City Board of Fire Appeals, and the Executive Board of the Blue Ridge Mountains Boy Scouts Council. Prior to his service on the School Board, Mr. Cathey served as a Barrister Book Buddy, a Roanoke Bar Association Mentor at Fairview Elementary, a Youth Court judge at both high schools, and as a Rule of Law Project instructor. During his eight years as a School Board Trustee, Mr. Cathey has served as the Board’s representative to the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School Regional Board, of which he now serves as Chair, on the Equity Task Force, the Joint Services Committee, Superintendent Evaluation Committee, the Roanoke Valley Regional Board for Low Incidence Populations, the Transportation Work Group, and the Audit Committee. He served as the Vice Chair of the Board in 2017-2018 and as Chair of the Board in 2019-2020. Mr. Cathey and his wife, Katherine Londos, have two children, who are graduates of Patrick Henry High School and of the University of Virginia.
Michael L. Cherry II
Mr. Cherry was appointed to his first three-year term as a School Board Trustee from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2024. He currently serves as the Operations Supervisor for Optum. Mr. Cherry holds a Master of Arts in Human Services, a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, and is pursuing a Doctorate of Ministry from Virginia University of Lynchburg. He has eight years of experience in Roanoke City law enforcement, both juvenile and adult corrections, and is also currently the Senior Pastor at Altha Grove Baptist Church. Additionally, Mr. Cherry has served as a resident advisor, campus ministry leader, and student leadership and engagement coordinator at Ferrum College. In his application for appointment to the School Board, Mr. Cherry stated, "My goal and philosophy of education is with the right support, every child succeeds, and when the child succeeds, every family wins." His personal motto in life is "not self, but others." Mr. Cherry and his wife, Brittany, have twin daughters, who attend school in RCPS.
Natasha N. Saunders
Ms. Saunders was appointed to serve her second three-year term as a School Board Trustee from July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2026. Ms. Saunders earned a bachelor of science from North Carolina A&T State University, a master's in human environmental sciences from the University of Kentucky, and a certificate from the London College of Fashion. As she indicates, she is a "proud product" of Roanoke City Public Schools, having attended Fairview and Roanoke Academy elementary schools, Breckinridge Middle School, and graduating from William Fleming High School. Ms. Saunders currently serves as a Senior Education Consultant for Carilion Clinic. Her civic activities include serving as co-founder and CEO of TRIFECTA, Inc., a group that drives social change through creative avenues as innovators in youth empowerment and community sustainability throughout the Roanoke and New River valleys. She is also a member of the Lucy Addison Middle School PTSA, the Dumas Hotel Legacy Group, the Task Force to Reduce Gun Violence, and the Roanoke Chapter of the North Carolina A&T Alumni Chapter.