The Prince William County School Board last week named a former Woodbridge High School teacher to temporarily replace a board member who is on military deployment in Africa.
School board members voted 7 to 0 early Thursday to appoint Shawn L. Brann as the stand-in for Gilbert A. “Gil” Trenum Jr. (Brentsville), a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
Trenum announced in June that he would serve in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, in his first deployment in 14 years as a reservist. He also said Virginia’s Division of Legislative Services in Richmond told him he could continue to hold office while deployed, but that he could have an interim appointee serve in his stead.
Trenum identified Brann and two others as possible temporary board members.
School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers (At Large), however, said he was not sure Trenum had any say on how a replacement would be appointed, and a heated political debate followed. Prince William Republicans urged that one of Trenum’s preferred candidates be appointed, and Sawyers called for an opinion on the matter from the Virginia Attorney General’s Office. Although school board members aren’t elected as nominees of political parties, Trenum has been endorsed by the county GOP, and Sawyers by local Democrats.
The opinion that Sawyers sought came last month. It said the school board as a whole, not Trenum, had the authority to determine how the temporary replacement would be chosen.
Following that guidance, the board solicited applications for the interim appointment, and five candidates from the Brentsville district came forward. One later dropped out, and Brann was chosen from the remaining four, which also included Christopher Park, whom Trenum also recommended; Douglas Porterfield, a parent with three sons in Prince William schools; and Tara Ann Tadlock, who has lived in the county since May.
Although the Trenum issue was controversial in August, with Sawyers and GOP state lawmakers trading barbs, Brann’s appointment came Thursday after little discussion.
Before the vote, Sawyers said the decision to seek input from the attorney general’s office was an effort to make sure the appointment process was conducted appropriately.
“It wasn’t the ‘who,’ but the ‘how,’ ” he said.
Board member Justin David Wilk (Potomac) said choosing Brann was a “no-brainer.”
Brann lives in Bristow and is a technical writer for government contractor General Dynamics. He taught language arts at Woodbridge High, and he served as a teacher on administrative assignment at the school, which means he performed all the duties of an assistant principal. He also has been a high school lacrosse coach.
Brann, 44, is a graduate of George Mason University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English and speech communications and a master’s in education.
He said his first step as an interim board member will be to communicate with Trenum, who will retake the Brentsville seat when he returns from Africa.
“Now that things are official, we’ll chat,” Brann said.
Trenum, who is in his third term, is expected to return before the 2017-2018 school year begins. Because he retains his elected position while deployed, he said in the summer that it was important for the school board to appoint someone with whom he had a good rapport.