School board election

I spent the evening at a forum for candidates for the local school board.  For some odd reason, Alexandria elects its City Council and School Board on a cycle completely separate from the state and national elections — every 3 years, in May.  (The official explanation is that the local races would be overshadowed by national ones and wouldn’t get as much attention.  The unofficial explanation is that it keeps more control in the hands of the local party committees, by depressing turnout.)

The Alexandria School Board has 9 members, divided into 3 geographic regions.  (This is a compromise between having board members representing specific neighborhoods, and having city-wide elections, which would make it harder for minorities to be represented.)  None of the three current members from my district are running for reelection, so all three seats are open.  There are five candidates running:

It was interesting to see what everyone had to say.  There wasn’t a whole lot of controversy — everyone supports fiscal responsibility, improved communications, reducing the achievement gap, challenging all students, retaining good teachers, etc.  Everyone agreed that the laptop inititive had been poorly implemented.  No one supported intelligent design.

Overall, I was most impressed by Branch.  I particularly liked what he had to say about individuation in the classroom.  I’m torn between Rivera, Gorsuch and Horn for my other two votes.  Rivera’s bio is impressive, but she did such a good job of staying on message with her three priorities that I didn’t get as much of a sense of her overall.  Horn’s a teachers, which is a plus for me.  His literature talks a lot about improving school lunches, but he didn’t mention it at all.  Gorsuch seems like a classic PTA lady, but showed an impressive understanding of details.  Newsham didn’t seem to have any specific goals that he wanted to accomplish, but just talked about general management experience.

If there’s anyone reading this who wants to sell me on one of the candidates, I’m definitely up for listening.  More generally, what do you look for in a school board candidate in the absense of burning controversies?

3 Responses to “School board election”

  1. merseydotes Says:

    How did you find out about the school board forum? I’m in District B and wondering if there is something similar scheduled for my part of the City.

  2. landismom Says:

    Interesting question. In my extremely small (15,000 ppl) town, the school board is populated by local business owners, PTA ladies, and a cop. (why a cop? I’m not sure. I didn’t vote for him.) I personally tend to vote for people who have lived experience with the schools (ie–teachers from other school districts, ex-principals, active parents) over the local business types.

  3. dave s Says:

    Arlington also is set up for insiders – elects all School Board and County Board members at-large, on a four-year cycle. It generally keeps us Reep-free, which is part of the plan, but it also means that members can ride their hobby horses unchecked for long periods and that no one really has to respond to neighborhood concerns. Most impressive is the Dems’ use of a firehouse primary, which keeps turnout very-very-low (who is going to drive to Ballston, fight for parking, and go into vote on a Saturday in May?) and makes it usually an insider’s game.
    We have 2 main candidates for the Dem nod this time, Sharon Davis and Sally Baird. I am planning to vote for Baird, partly because she has young children (her boys are 5 and 3) and Davis’ are out of the system. So Baird, if elected, will have to eat her own cooking, always a plus. Davis’ literature also is all about all the swell committees on which she has served, and says little or nothing about things she plans to try to do or change, Baird’s is more forward-looking. Both of them look quite a lot like your characterization of the ‘PTA lady’, Davis I think more than Baird.

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