School Board Race Features Newcomers With Experience

By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 20, 2006

Six candidates are vying for four open seats on the Falls Church City School Board, which crafts policy and sets a budget for the high-performing school district.

Kathryn A. Chandler, board chairman and a member since 2002, is the only incumbent seeking reelection on May 2. All candidates have been involved in youth or school activities and two have served on school boards in other states.

Falls Church City public schools, a small district that serves about 1,850 students, has four schools including George Mason High School. Candidates with the most votes will join three board members whose terms expire in 2008. The chairman is elected by the board.

Among the candidates is Ronald W. Peppe II, a former school board member in Frederick County, Md., who moved to Virginia about two years ago. He said that to maintain its high-quality schools, the district needs to constantly pursue improvements in services for all students, including gifted children, regular education students and children with special needs.

"It's a big challenge in a small district, where you don't have unlimited programs," Peppe said.

Jane L. Johansen, a lawyer with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is a political newcomer who has two children in the schools. She said that one of her priorities would be retaining talented teachers, possibly by improving salaries or benefits or by helping new teachers to find affordable housing.

Rosaura Aguerrebere, a former teacher in New York and Los Angeles, said she would push for more teacher training and more time for teachers to work with colleagues and plan lessons. "I've seen how teachers are so isolated in their classrooms, and they really need to see what good practice looks like," Aguerrebere said.

Chandler, who headed the search for Superintendent Lois Berlin, hired in 2004, said she would retain institutional perspective on a seven-member board with newcomers. Three longtime board members are not seeking reelection. "My experience is important right now," Chandler said.

Susan P. Kearney, vice president of marketing for Voxant, said she would encourage collaboration with local universities and the Falls Church Education Foundation, a community group that gives money to schools so that they can offer children opportunities that are not part of the traditional curriculum.

Victoria Kwasiborski, project manager for the American Physical Society, said she would work to enhance the Extended Day Care Program, which offers care before and after school by providing more academic elements. One possibility for enlarging the academic offerings, she said, would be to ask parents who have expertise in a subject such as geology or writing to work occasionally with students.

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