THE FAIRFAX County School Board can point to a number of accomplishments over the past four years. Among them: its smart selection of Karen Garza as schools superintendent, the overhaul of student discipline, later high school start times, new audit controls, caps on elementary class sizes and expanded access to prekindergarten. That these matters seem to be getting short shrift in next month’s elections underscores how the contests have devolved into an increasingly ugly slugfest centered on the board’s (to our mind, correct) decision to be more inclusive of its transgender students and staff.
All 12 members of the board are up for reelection on Nov. 3, but three incumbents — Tamara Derenak Kaufax (Lee); Sandy S. Evans (Mason) and Elizabeth L. Schultz (Springfield) — are unopposed. Particularly competitive are the three at-large races and the two open seats in Mount Vernon and Sully caused by the decision of members Daniel G. Storck and Kathy L. Smith to run for the county Board of Supervisors. Ostensibly, the races are nonpartisan, but endorsements by the two parties and inflammatory rhetoric, notably from the anti-LGBT Traditional Values Coalition, have given an unfortunate tinge to the debate.
In the crowded field for the three at-large seats, incumbents Ilryong Moon, Ryan L.McElveen and Theodore J. Velkoff deserve to be reelected. On the board since 1995, Mr. Moon’s deep knowledge of the system gives him insights into solving operational challenges, and his background as an immigrant brings an important perspective. Mr. McElveen is energetic, with creative ideas on engaging students and alumni in school improvement, while Mr. Velkoff has been a quick study, with a collaborative approach to decision-making. Of the challengers, we were most impressed with Jeanette M. Hough, a physical therapist with a keen understanding of students with special needs and an analytical approach to the budget.
In the Braddock District, incumbent Megan O. McLaughlin is the clear choice. Smart and collaborative, she has been an effective voice for student growth and health as well and an advocate for better oversight of spending.
Dranesville member Jane K. Strauss has been an invaluable member of the board for more than 20 years, with a clear understanding that changing county demographics require new approaches.
In Hunter Mill, incumbent and current board chairman Pat M. Hynes gets our endorsement. Her work as a teacher has brought a needed perspective to the board, and her clear-eyed approach to solving problems has made her a natural leader.
In Mount Vernon, Karen L. Corbett Sanders, a parent-activist and retired executive, is the better choice to replace Mr. Storck. Ms. Sanders puts a priority on ensuring equal rigor and opportunity for all students, and we fear the needs-based staffing so critical to schools with the most needy students would be at risk if her opponent were elected.
Providence District voters have two good choices with incumbent Patricia Reed and challenger Dalia Palchik, but the edge goes to Ms. Reed. She brings a smart, data-driven approach to budget issues.
For the open Sully seat, we endorse Karen Keys-Gamarra . A guardian representing the interests of children in neglect, custody and abuse matters, she has knowledge of the challenges posed by Fairfax’s changing student population and the need to look out for vulnerable students.