The Neabsco District, Prince William's smallest and most densely populated magisterial district, is home to a wide-open School Board race: With no incumbent, three candidates are vying for the seat.
Property manager Carlos J. Labiosa, 52; Defense Department manager Bruce N. Warner, 50; and retired Dale City Elementary School teacher Mary F. Williams, 67, are all running for the position vacated by John Harper Jr. Harper stepped down a month before his term ended because of long-running health problems.
Labiosa, who has a previous School Board campaign under his belt, cites a long list of community activities that he says prove his commitment to the job. Labiosa is on the board of the Prince William Crime Prevention Council and the county Human Rights Commission, among others.
"I've been in the community working for 16 years," Labiosa said. "I have a well-balanced knowledge of the issues."
Labiosa has proposed creating a program similar to ROTC to attract teachers to Prince William. In return for paying for students' college costs, they would be required to teach for a period of time in the county.
"If it hasn't been done, what's wrong in trying it?" Labiosa said. "I'm looking at new ideas. Change for the better is change that must be done."
Labiosa also suggested holding school activities later in the evening to attract parents who have to work during the day. Labiosa also says he wants to push for a new track at Gar-Field High School.
Warner, who serves as chief of research and development for the U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Systems Management College, says he's a candidate who is not connected to any of the county's political machinery. "There's no potential conflict of interest," he said.
Warner has made a back-to-basics approach the core of his campaign, saying schools need to produce graduates who write, read and, most important, solve problems. With those skills, "there is no limit to what that child can do," he said.
Warner said he also is willing to come up with creative, unusual solutions to perennial problems. For instance, to relieve crowding, he throws out two proposals: year-round schools and "shift schools" that begin early in the morning and end later in the evening.
He acknowledges that neither idea has much support right now but said School Board members need to think of different ways of looking at an issue.
Williams says her years in the classroom make her particularly qualified for the School Board position. She said the biggest concern she hears is that parents believe the School Board and school administrators aren't listening to them. For instance, at School Board meetings, the board usually makes no response after public comments.
"We need to at least tell them, 'All of your concerns will be taken under advisement,' " she said.
Williams said also that the School Board needs to be active in moving to revamp the Standards of Learning tests that will determine whether or not a school gets accreditation from the state.
"We need to have some standards that make sense," Williams said. Though she supports standards-based testing, "the test should not be the only requirement."
Labeling a school as "non-accredited" only produces stress and negativism, she said. "It doesn't accomplish anything."