With a little more than two weeks left before the Prince William School Board elections, a longtime Montclair resident has announced his intention to enter the Dumfries race as a write-in candidate.
James V. Cech, a retired naval officer who is a systems engineer in Springfield, said he is entering the race to offer voters a choice to incumbent Joan R. Ferlazzo, 47, a teacher at Manassas Park Middle School. Cech, 48, finished second to Ferlazzo in a 1997 special election. He has lived in Montclair since 1987, and one of his daughters, Elizabeth, is a junior at Hylton High School.
Cech said he hadn't considered a candidacy before two weeks ago. But Cech said he continued to hear concerns about Ferlazzo, especially about her decision not to run an active campaign, even though she was unopposed.
"What everyone was waiting for was for her to take the opportunity to say, 'I'm here, I'm going to be elected, what do you want me to do,' " Cech said.
Although he is a write-in candidate, Cech has drafted two experienced politicians to lend legitimacy to his campaign. Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan (R-Dumfries) and Del. John A. "Jack" Rollison III (R-District 52) plan to appear with Cech at a community meeting Oct. 24 at the Southlake Recreation Association to talk about the new high school in the district, Forest Park.
For Caddigan, endorsing Cech is a departure from her usual hands-off approach to School Board elections, she said. Caddigan did not endorse anyone in the 1997 race, which was held to complete the term of a retiring member. At the time, the School Board appointed Ferlazzo to fill the seat until the special election.
Caddigan described her relationship with Ferlazzo as "very, very cool."
"Unfortunately, I don't have a relationship with Joan Ferlazzo. I wish I did," said Caddigan, who was a member of the School Board for seven years. "Mrs. Ferlazzo has made it very clear that she doesn't want me to get involved."
Caddigan said that she often fielded calls from Dumfries District residents who wanted help and thought they weren't getting it from Ferlazzo.
"I just feel some dissatisfaction," Caddigan said. "I think Jim will listen to the people, and this time around I wish him well."
Rollison was out of town last week and could not be reached for comment.
Ferlazzo said she thinks Cech's involvement in the race has less to do with her performance and more to do with politics.
"I think if he was real serious about doing this he would have entered the race months ago," Ferlazzo said.
Ferlazzo said she chose not to run an active campaign precisely because she was unopposed. As for her relationship with Caddigan, "I don't know what being cool is supposed to mean," she said.
"If there's a question that has to do with the board of supervisors, I give people her number," she said. "When I see her, I do speak to her."
Ferlazzo said she doesn't get a lot of phone calls from her constituents.
"I don't get a lot of complaints, which leads me to believe I'm doing a good job," she said. "I do want this job, and I feel I've done a good job."
Cech said he would be an active addition to the School Board.
"When I watch the School Board meetings, I see a very small majority of the members asking the largest number of questions," he said. "I want to be someone who helps formulate that agenda."
He said his technical expertise can help as the curriculum for Forest Park is developed. Forest Park is slated to be an information technology speciality school when it opens next fall.
Cech plans to spend the days before the election knocking on doors and handing out literature.
"I love talking to people in the community," he said. "I'll be telling people, 'You have a choice.' "