A Leesburg dad who’s known in town for the Toys for Tots donation campaign his son runs out of his home has announced plans to run for the Loudoun County School Board.
Joe Newcomer, 55, is entering the race for the Leesburg District seat, which is up for election in November 2019. Tom Marshall, who’s held the seat for two nonconsecutive terms, has not yet announced whether he plans to seek re-election.
Newcomer pointed to several concerns, both as a parent of a Loudoun student and spouse of a school system employee, that prompted him to run. The two biggies, he said, are the “ballooning budgets” and the recent news stories that highlighted the seclusion and restraint of some special education students.
“I’ve gotten to a point where I think enough is enough. We need out-of-the-box thinking and I don’t see that much on the board,” he said.
Of the school system’s operating budget, which is $1.187 billion for the current fiscal year, Newcomer said the School Board too often adopts the spending plan drafted by Superintendent Eric Williams with little scrutiny. “They kind of stamp it and move on, and as a taxpayer that’s very concerning.”
One of his ideas to find savings in the school budget is to create more pay scales. For example, adopt separate scales for school-based administrators from central office administrators. “Then you have more flexibility and can adjust pay scales between multiple areas. It may not fly, there may be several reasons why, but you have to look at all alternatives.”
Newcomer’s top priority is improving school safety. He noted that some of the county’s oldest school buildings have outdated design that make classrooms more vulnerable to attacks. He suggested the school system consider contracting out more school security to private firms.
“You have well-trained people who are guarding the Pentagon, the CIA, NSA, and other major corporations and government entities. Why can’t they guard the schools also and free up those [school resource officers] to go back on regular patrol?”
He also wants to see more creative thinking to maintain universal full-day kindergarten. The School Board adopted a plan to deliver a full, academic day to every kindergartener this next school year, but Williams has said that will be tough to maintain as the county’s student population continues to grow.
Newcomer suggested the School Board consider adding trailers to elementary campuses or using space in older, vacant school buildings. “It’s a give-and-take to try to solve this one,” he said. “I don’t know what the right answer is, but I hope to bring those out-of-the-box solutions up to be considered.”
He also sees a lot of room for growth in how special education students are treated. His wife, Diane, works in the Pupil Services Department, which includes the Special Education Department. Newcomer said, in addition to individual education plans, special education students should receive a crisis intervention plan that details a students’ triggers and what works to calm them.
Newcomer said his experience working in project management and risk management in the private and public sectors would bring a fresh perspective to the board. “I bring the breadth of abilities, from project management to finance to information systems that a lot of people don’t have,” he said.
Newcomer has served in the U.S. Marine Corps., is a former board member and treasurer for the Potomac Station Homeowners Association, has served more than 10 years as a Cub Scout leader and has been the treasurer for Boy Scout Troop 982 for more than three years.
He and his wife have lived in Leesburg for 20 years. Their 16-year-old son, Matthew, is a student at Heritage High School and the Academy of Engineering and Technology. Matthew first made headlines as an elementary school kid when he created an elaborate train display in his parent’s dining room. He invited the public to check out the display in exchange for donations for Toys for Tots, which delivers gifts to children in need.