As debate in the state legislature heats up over whether to allow certain counties to elect their school boards, some county residents are pushing to get Loudoun included.
The state Senate is expected to begin consideration next week of a bill that would open the way to elected school boards. A similar bill was approved by the House of Delegates last week.
Some Loudoun parents have begun circulating petitions in support of the initiative. Others called for elected boards at a School Board meeting last week, in reaction to the unexpected firing of Superintendent David N. Thomas.
Lisa Payne, of Purcellville, who is heading a petition drive, said she supports elected school boards because she wants Loudoun's board to be more responsive to parents and taxpayers. Virginia is the only state that still appoints its school board members, she said.
"I feel we should go for it . . . . You've got to do it," Payne said. "I feel the children are not getting the education I feel they deserve. Their parents don't have the voice . . . . I don't feel the parents are heard."
Susan Hoffmann, a parent of three students in eastern Loudoun, said the firing of Thomas triggered her interest. She helped distribute hundreds of fliers calling for elections, and at least six residents told the School Board they support the idea.
Most speakers at the board meeting were angry that parents were not consulted before Thomas was fired. "It really brings to light how they are not accountable to us. They're not," said Hoffmann, one of the speakers. "There is no accountability."
School Board members listened to the remarks, but later stood by their long-standing opposition to elections. Board member William A. White (Broad Run) distilled the board's opposition, saying elections would politicize the board.
"I think it's a shame that we bring politics into educating our kids," he said. "It causes the School Board members to posture, and that clouds the issues even more . . . . What you will see is the School Board used as a springboard to political careers."
Ann Curley, the administrative aide to Sen. Charles L. Waddell (D-Loudoun), said her office has received dozens of letters and phone calls urging the senator to argue for the inclusion of Loudoun in any Senate bill for elected school boards. The House bill included Fairfax, Arlington, Prince William and three other counties.
Curley said Waddell has been lobbying for an amendment to include Loudoun in the list. But the bill's sponsors want to limit the number of counties involved, saying the bill will have a better chance of passage, she said. The bill was expected to go to a Senate committee Tuesday.
Del. Linda M. Rollins (R-Leesburg) did not push to include Loudoun in the House of Delegates bill, saying she was following the wishes of the sponsor, Del. David G. Brickley (D-Woodbridge). But she wrote to Waddell last week and asked him to offer an amendment in the Senate to include Loudoun. Del. Robert T. Andrews (R-McLean) opposed the House measure, saying it could lead to single-issue candidates and could politicize school boards.
"There is a growing interest," Curley said. "Whether that will materialize in votes on the floor, I don't know."