The candidates for nine seats on the Loudoun County School Board are set. Only one race is uncontested, for Jeff Morse in the Dulles district. All the candidates responded to a series of five questions to help voters decide on Tuesday, Nov. 4. Candidate responses are listed below alphabetically by district. Read more about the issues facing the School Board here: Security, Equity Shape School Board Election.
Why are you running for election to the School Board?
Atoosa Reaser:I believe that education is the way for every type of learner to reach their full potential and give back to their community. I believe in taking care of children’s teachers and all Loudoun County Public Schools employees. And, I believe in giving the community a voice in making educational policies. I am running for the School Board to translate these beliefs into a reality at LCPS. Based on my experience and background in both education and law, I believe I am uniquely qualified to accomplish this goal.
Melanie Turner: I have witnessed firsthand the challenges the school system is facing meeting the academic needs of our children. Not only as a mom of four do I have a vested interest in the schools but, as an active volunteer and community leader I have always been interested in serving the community. I know the parents of the community have high expectations because I am one of them, and I want to work to meet those expectations. I believe it is within the power of the School Board to facilitate the needs of our children through academic excellence, the arts, and athletic programs.
Eric Hornberger:I am running for re-election because I am committed to ensuring the success of our public school division that has educated my kids, employs my wife, serves my community, and is critical to the long-term health of our society.Over the last eight years, I have gained tremendous respect for the complexity of public education and also the terrific job Loudoun County Public Schools has done and continues to do in educating Loudoun’s young people. I believe that I have personally made a significant contribution to that work and am eager to continue doing so going forward.
Harris Mahedavi: Every successful organization lives and dies because of their culture. I am running to improve the culture of LCPS. I am running because I want schools:
• to “appreciate and care” every student, not just the high achievers,
• to “elevate” our school programs so we can offer more STEAM opportunities for all students,
• to “invest” in our students’ future by retaining and hiring the best teachers,
• to “open” every communication channel to reach and engage with parents and citizens and,
• to “uplift” our children’s mental health through counselors, social workers and other support programs and make it a safe place.
Denise Corbo:I am running for School Board because educating our youth directly impacts their future and the future of our communities, county, and nation. To provide every child with the education they deserve, LCSB members must have a vision, create structures to support that vision, and be accountable to the public. As a 33-year Loudoun resident, 25-year LCPS public school teacher, and mother of three Loudoun graduates, I have spent my entire career touching the lives and hearts of children in the county. I will bring transparency and accountability to the board through a lens of an experienced educator.
Kenya Savage:I am running for the At-Large seat because the opportunities for all our students are not being equitably addressed. Motions are being made without regard for what is best for our students, our teachers, and our district. The School Board race is supposed to be nonpartisan. Our students, our teachers, and our community deserve a representative who represents them without regard to political party and who works to make Loudoun the best district in the nation. Enabling, encouraging, edifying, empowering and equipping our students to be the best Loudoun graduates and meet with excellence any college or career endeavor.
Julie Sisson:I’m running because our schools need common-sense leadership from someone who is service oriented and financially qualified. I spent my career as a CPA, providing services to clients and running a small business. The LCPS budget is now more than $1.2 billion. I am the only financial professional running and can bring a unique skillset to the board. I’ve also spent more than 15 years volunteering in leadership positions in our schools, donating my time in support of our students and staff. I want to continue my legacy of service, making sure the next generation has the best opportunities possible.
Ian Serotkin:I’m running for School Board because I truly believe that we can make LCPS into the best public school system in the country. Over the past six years, I’ve seen the results of underfunding our schools again and again: my daughter having a 4th grade class with 31 students; unsafe school walking routes of more than a mile through the woods; storage rooms turned into classrooms; 53 students in one elementary school art class; lessons being given in hallways due to a lack of space. We can, and must, do better than this.
Ram Venkatachalam:I am running to help make LCPS the best public-school system in America by ensuring that the School Board has a well-informed, focused and long-term commitment to the education of our children in a safe, nurturing environment; that we attract and retain the best teachers and other personnel; and that there is more effective guidance and oversight of LCPS administration, budget and planning.I also have a personal stake in the success of LCPS as I am married with two young children, the oldest of whom attends elementary school.
Andrew Hoyler:I am running because I have the experience to initiate meaningful change that will benefit the students, teachers, and administrators of LCPS, as well as taxpayers who rely on Board members to lead in a fiscally responsible manner.As an adult, I often reflect on my twelve years in LCPS and realize that while LCPS is great in certain aspects, there are many areas where we need to improve. On a personal level, I dealt with bullying and abuse as a student. It would be selfish of me to not contribute to the betterment of LCPS for current and future students.
Leslee King:I was scheduled to be at the Pentagon at 9 am on September 11, 2001. The Army technical group I was scheduled to help lost seven people that day. Why I wasn’t one of them is a true blessing and one of the reasons I want to give back.We live with many challenges and we need experienced leaders to work through these difficult times. Our children are our future and they need to be protected and encouraged. I am running because I believe that my experience as a teacher and a leader in technology is needed on this School Board.
Jenna Alexander:I am running because Catoctin families need a knowledgeable, unwavering advocate on the School Board who has their collective best interests at heart. As Virginia PTA’s Vice President of Advocacy and former Hunt District PTA Director, I’ve supported PTAs at 52 Loudoun schools and worked with elected officials at all levels to create better opportunities for our students, with focus on mental health, small school staffing, renovating aging schools, school safety, supporting teachers and advancing equity and diversity. I understand the unique needs Loudoun’s schools and am dedicated to the success of every student and ensuring parents have a voice.
John Beatty:I’m running to provide a unique perspective to the board’s governance, as a LCPS parent, a computer science teacher, and a school IT Director. I have a deep desire to see that the best schools are available for all the children of Loudoun County, and I will make sure that they are given as many as opportunities as we can give them. By emphasizing creative thinking and problem solving, I aim to provide the students of Loudoun County with the skills they will need for the future.
Zerell Johnson-Welch: I feel all students deserve a classroom experience where they feel safe, welcomed, and inspired to dream big! This especially includes children with special needs, ELL, gifted and talented, rural learners, underrepresented learners in STEM, the economically vulnerable and children in need of social-emotional support.As a 12-year resident of Catoctin and an attorney by training, I have found my passion advocating for students in LCPS. My children, LCPS graduates, recently completed their undergraduate studies at Virginia Tech, UVA and William and Mary. Serving as an elected school board member is my opportunity to give back and assist other students and families.
Jeff Morse: I’m running again because I believe we are having a positive impact on our school division. With a new School Board and many new initiatives underway, I believe some board experience and continuity are essential. I look forward to working collaboratively on the hard challenges that face the board and expect the new board will have a strong impact on the strategic goals for LCPS. I have spent a lifetime in public service, and seek to continue serving as the Dulles District representative to build on the successes of the current board with the vision of a new board.
Beth Barts:I have been involved with LCPS and the community for more than 20 years. I have worked for children in my roles as a PTA officer, classroom volunteer and as a Girl Scout Troop Leader. I coordinated a middle school grocery outreach, ran high school fundraisers and was a LEAP representative to name a few of my advocacy roles. I have spoken before the board over the years on suicide prevention, funding concerns, program retention and transparency. At some point you have to decide to join the bigger conversation and seek to have a seat at the table.
Joe Newcomer:I am running for School Board because I am invested in the success of LCPS and I possess a skill set, and the ability to listen, that can be greatly beneficial in solving the problems our schools face. I originally started running to address the topics of Seclusion/Restraint, the expansion of programs for both Gifted and Special Education, increasing pay and keeping benefit costs low for employees, the recruitment and retention of qualified staff, and expanding DE opportunities. Since then, I have added the topics of school safety, the improvement of communications between LCPS to both staff and parents.
Mike Neely: As a community member, I care deeply for the quality of life of my Sterling area neighbors, which includes the condition of educational opportunities available to their children and my own. Schools are often the centerpiece of our neighborhoods, with the ability to attract growing families or discourage them from putting down roots.I would like to take on the challenges of ensuring schools across Sterling have consistent policies to address students’ academic success. Sterling is a diverse district, and we should have policies and programs in place that empower teachers and support student success.
Brenda Sheridan:During my first two terms, I believe the School Board made many improvements to LCPS, but my main motivator is the issue of equity and leading the newly formed Ad Hoc Committee on Equity.
What do you hope to accomplish if elected?
Atoosa Reaser:If elected, I will work with fellow board members to improve the relationship between the school district and various stakeholders. With experience as an at-large representative to the Loudoun County Community Policy and Management Team, and as a former member of the Antonin Scalia Law School’s Alumni Board of Directors, I know how to work with teams to achieve strategic goals.Furthermore, I will work with the new board to establish measurable and specific objectives using data to evaluate whether Loudoun County Public Schools is achieving success with regard to its Strategic Goals and Core Beliefs.
Melanie Turner:If elected, I will work hard to ensure we can provide a strong core academic curriculum in addition to the arts, athletics, and other extracurricular activities that support the educational development of our children. As a School Board member, I would first and foremost want input from the parents, soliciting ideas and listening to concerns. I would also welcome the input of concerned citizens and especially educators in facilitating transparency and pushing core academics.
Eric Hornberger:If re-elected, I hope to continue the refinement and successful implementation of our Strategic Plan to best meet the needs of Loudoun’s students.Specifically, I look to prioritize the effective roll-out of our core instructional initiatives of project-based learning (PBL), personalized learning (PL) and performance-based assessments (PBA) with increasing emphasis on metrics to gauge success, ensure that all students have equal opportunity to access the curriculum and programs LCPS offers, pursue competitive and fair compensation to recruit and maintain a professional workforce, and ensure that our schools remain a safe and effective learning environment for all.
Harris Mahedavi:I want our school system to care for the wellbeing of all children. Remove the test anxiety and stress from not only the students but the teachers as well. We as a community need to focus on developing and improving the emotional intelligence of our students during the early elementary years of education. So, when these students arrive at high schools, they are ready to take on more challenging curriculum and tasks. But more importantly, when they graduate, they are well prepared for the future and are ready to be leaders of our country.
Denise Corbo:Transparency and accountability begin with understanding the issues. My slogan is, “A Voice for All,” because I plan to implement a method of communication where transparency and data become part of the board’s decision-making process. How can our school board make the best decisions for our children without allowing for employee and community input and data to drive their decision making? When elected, I will create an innovative framework where the board actively solicits the input of all stakeholders through a simplified communication system.
Kenya Savage: I will govern to foster a culture of trust and accountability through policies and working in coordination with board members, to ensure our students achieve their fullest academic potential for higher education, career, or military service. Likewise, I will fight for training and professional development opportunities which will allow our teachers, principals, and district leaders to authentically connect with students. Lastly, I will coordinate with other board members and our local Loudoun County emergency management offices to develop a crisis management system policy that improves communication and school safety.
Julie Sisson:My ultimate goal is to provide our students with as many choices as possible. As such, over time, I want to increase the course offerings and pathways available to them—whether that be STEM or nursing or fine arts or something new. In order to do that, we need to get our financial house in order. Over the last 10 years, our student enrollment and school-based staff increases have been consistent, but our admin costs have skyrocketed. What does that say about our priorities? My philosophy is: I don’t want to spend more; I want to spend better.
Ian Serotkin:I hope to make steady progress towards making LCPS the best public school district in the country, to make the school board and administration more data-driven and scientific in their decision-making processes, and to regain the trust of the community at large. My biggest priorities include fully funding the schools every year, reducing overcrowding, lowering class sizes, and paying our employees a living wage so they can afford to live in Loudoun County. I also want to increase STEAM opportunities at all schools, kick-start social and emotional learning (SEL) programs, and improve our gifted education and special education services.
Ram Venkatachalam:My key priorities include the following:
• Keep LCPS focused on its core mission: the education of our children.
• Minimize school boundary changes and overcapacity, and keep class sizes down.
• Ensure that educators are fairly compensated to attract and retain the best.
• Ensure that safety measures are put in place to better protect our children and schools, and that mental health issues are more effectively and compassionately addressed.
• Require more proactive and informed communication from LCPS administration to parents, students, teachers and the School Board.
Andrew Hoyler:It would be irresponsible for me to promise specific accomplishments because I realize this isn’t just about what I want to do today. While the priorities and needs of the LCPS are constantly changing, I do have some core initiatives that I am passionate about:
• Working with staff to tackle the bullying epidemic.
• Implementing a program for smarter spending for classroom/school resources. This includes avoiding unnecessary expenses that burden taxpayers while also recognizing that sometimes you spend less long term if you invest more up front.
• Expanding the scope of the academic offerings for students.
•Improving communication/transparency within our community.
Leslee King:To accomplish the following:
• Discover and expand upon current LCPS successes for continuous improvement.
• Increase equity so all students are able to work up to and beyond their capabilities.
• Improve communications within the Loudoun community. This is a common complaint I hear and in my own research, I found that it was not very easy to gather information.
• Some of the websites have not been updated in months.
• Provide a safer environment for learning. Follow up on the current Threat Assessment Program. Check out if improvements are being implemented and prioritize what still needs to be done.
Jenna Alexander:In addition to addressing the unique challenges facing the Catoctin district and the larger division-wide problems of safety, transparent communication, diversity and support for English language, gifted and special education students, I think we need to shift from STEM/coding to being STEAM focused by improving opportunities to engage in the arts and offering world languages beginning in elementary school. I would also like to better support Loudoun’s rural economy by incorporating agriculture education themes, expanding career technical education and collaborating with the County to increase the amount of local foods served in our school cafeterias, Loudoun’s largest restaurant.
John Beatty: I want to provide the oversight that the board is expected to provide. I want to make sure the policies in place are followed, and to understand how they can be improved otherwise. I want to expand the options parents have for educating their children. I want to work to keep budget growth in line with student enrollment, and I want to explore better ways for teachers to match their classrooms with their student’s learning styles.
Zerell Johnson-Welch: I intend to prioritize school safety. This means a more comprehensive and preventive stance towards safety issues, with an emphasis on listening to the community’s concerns. Outreach in this area is critical as well as implementing best practices that support our student’s social and emotional wellness.I will support fully funded school budgets that promote the distribution of equitable resources and ensure all learning communities have the requisite tools to address their needs. I hope to build collective teacher efficacy, whereby our teachers feel valued, and are compensated appropriately so that they can focus on how to build meaningful ‘teacher-student’ relationships.
Jeff Morse:There are several areas in which LPCS is experiencing challenges; I hope to focus our efforts on solving them. The last few years have seen significant changes in our security and mental health needs. Other longer-term challenges include special education and equity. Additionally, I look for the board to continue to create more transparency, competitive salaries, a clear commitment to staff training, a focus on restoring confidence in our engagements with SPED families, a mitigation of overcrowding, and metrics-based assessment of new programs.
Beth Barts:I will be working towards:
• Expanding Career and Technical education and STEM education at every high school.
• Helping families save on higher education costs by expanding Duel Enrollment courses and keeping them free.
• Supporting small schools.
• Addressing the increasing anxiety and depression we are seeing in our students.
• Continuing to improve the services we provide to special education students.
• The standardization of policies and practices across all schools in the district.
• Exploring ways to expand on the connection between an Arts education and greater academic achievement as we prepare students to be lifelong learners.
Joe Newcomer:I think my greatest accomplishment will be returning the focus of the district to the success of all students collectively, but especially to special education, EL and minority students I want every child to have good options on their educational path, and for those options to convert into success I also believe that I will be able to allocate more money for equipment and supplies for the classrooms so teachers are able to succeed in their jobs—and I believe I can do this by reallocating resources that are not being used well now, not simply by expanding the budget.
Mike Neely:I hope to be a voice for parents and affect communication improvements from LCPS administration to parents. I will be a staunch advocate for STEM, MATA, and other traditional and non-traditional career-oriented programs to ensure students from across the district are set up to succeed in the workforce. This includes competitive compensation packages to ensure LCPS is acquiring and retaining our incredible teachers in our schools. In addition, I would like to find ways to encourage interscholastic athletics participation in Sterling District high schools.
Brenda Sheridan:I look forward to making changes that directly impact the issues brought forward by the Equity Assessment.While the issue of racism is not new to LCPS, we are finally addressing the issues that our students, parents and staff identified in the audit. It’s the most important works we have tackled in my time on the School Board.
What are the top issues facing LCPS?
Atoosa Reaser:Generally, our school district needs to improve communication and outreach, so parents, teachers, and students have access to information and the opportunity to provide input. With improved information flow, we can better address specific situations.Moreover, LCPS is operating as 92 schools within one division, rather than one division of 92 schools. We need more parity of experience from one school to the next.Finally, we need to ensure that every child has access to an excellent educational experience, whether vocational or traditional, STEM or in the arts—regardless of their learning ability or goals.
Melanie Turner:As Loudoun continues to grow, we face challenges of overcrowding and a lack of mathematics, computer, and science courses at all levels to meet the needs of our diverse population. Our schools need to be competitive. I also believe that safety must be a matter of continued discussion in which we listen to concerns and constantly improve procedures. The new board should focus on transparency in the budget and work with the community to allocate funding for exciting mathematics, computer, and science courses.
Eric Hornberger:LCPS faces many challenges and opportunities. We continue to experience the challenges of prolonged growth in terms of opening new schools, hiring large numbers of highly qualified staff, appropriately serving an increasingly diverse student population, and effectively scaling and equitably pursuing new initiatives.We also face increasing demands from a variety of stakeholders in a number of important areas. The next School Board needs to continue to utilize the Strategic Plan and its associated Strategic Actions to prioritize the school division’s work and benchmark success, while remaining sensitive to the changing needs and demands of the community it serves.
Harris Mahedavi: Below are some of the major issues LCPS is facing today.
• Children Safety and mental health – Protecting children from guns, bullying and cyber bullying, from adults who prey on children at school. Improve access to mental health initiatives, access to counselors and social case workers.
• Communication – Open all communication channels, review the communication process, and make information more timely and easily understood.
• Attract and Hire Teachers – Hire great passionate teachers and compensate them well
• Diversity and bias training – Loudoun’s school population is diverse, we need to acknowledge and prepare the schools for that.
Denise Corbo: The rapid growth within our county and the high turnover of upper-level administration have caused disconnects throughout the school division. We are spending a lot of money on too many new initiatives that lack program data and are challenging for our teachers to manage. Often, these new initiatives are unnecessary, and are not supported by data. In addition, the county must address minority achievement, diversity, school safety, mental health support for students and employees, and a strong budget analysis that looks closely at spending and provides checks and balances of programs so unnecessary spending can be cut.
Kenya Savage: Working with several commissions, boards, and nonprofit organizations in our community, I understand top issues facing our Loudoun County students—which includes believing their district does not see them and value their uniqueness. Our district continues to evolve and expand in enrollment and diversity. Diversity not just in race, but in students’ abilities. Our District must support all students individually and provide access to broadband internet services. Other issues include an enormous tie to smartphones, social media validation which leads to mental health concerns, middle school bullying, and high accessibility to illicit drugs, alcohol and vaping in high schools.
Julie Sisson:LCPS currently has a big issue with accountability—not only accountability to parents (e.g. school safety, IEP adherence, staff behavior), but also accountability of Admin to the School Board. In order to make informed decisions, the SB needs detailed information and underlying data. The fact that even they cannot get what they need (re: TJ) is untenable to me. In addition, new initiatives and policies should be proactively and clearly communicated – and then followed. We are all rightly concerned with what we’re seeing in the news lately, and the platitudes are frankly insufficient.
Ian Serotkin:I’ve already mentioned overcrowding, class size, and staff salaries as top issues. Another top issue facing LCPS system-wide is communication. There’s a real perception—justifiably—that the school board doesn’t communicate effectively with the community. The school district has struggled greatly to release needed information in a timely fashion when incidents have occurred in our schools, from sexual assault in locker rooms to individuals carrying firearms into the school buildings—to the point where the school board has lost the trust of the community. To get that trust back, it must be a major focus of the new board.
Ram Venkatachalam:LCPS is a large bureaucracy that requires effective oversight of its day-to-day performance, communication with stakeholders, and long-term planning.The next School Board needs to do this more effectively and be focused on core curricula, enrichment programs, and the safety and best interests of our students, teachers and schools.
Andrew Hoyler:The Academies of Loudoun will continue to be an area of focus, ranging from the admissions process to how best to balance resources between enhancing AOL and continuing to fund support for similar options. The new board should focus on how to expand the in-county offerings at AOL and make them available for a wider variety of students while not removing choices for our community members who wish to explore other options. School safety will always be a priority, and I expect that we will act quickly to further protect our schools and communities from avoidable incidents.
Leslee King:The new board must focus on the needs of LCPS students, teachers, administrative staff and parents.Top issues facing LCPS are the following:
• Keeping and hiring good teachers and staff.
• Striving to keep classrooms a manageable size while dealing with population surges.
• Updating schools to make them safer.
• Providing mental health counseling and encourage kindness.
• Establishing open and easy communications.
Jenna Alexander:Nothing is more important than the safety of our students and staff! LCPS needs to expedite the construction of security vestibules and renovation of aging school buildings, re-evaluate bus transportation routes and continue to invest in mental health programs, reducing overcrowding and prioritizing small classes sizes. We also need to stay focused on closing the opportunity gap, hiring a diverse workforce and providing teachers with mentoring, professional development and nationally competitive salaries. It’s critical that the School Board stretch beyond its current communication style to connect with parents and staff, hear their concerns and partner with them in policy development.
John Beatty:I’d like to make sure the curriculum is actually preparing our children for our ever-changing, modern world. Throughout my career, I’ve realized that fundamentals subjects and soft skills tend to be the most important areas of study. I will make sure music and arts programs are not crowded out, and that our children graduate with a well-rounded education.
Zerell Johnson-Welch: Safety. Many parents have expressed their concerns about the safety of their students while attending school. The board should focus on a comprehensive and proactive approach that includes the collaboration with law enforcement, parent engagement, outreach to our children, and equipping all staff and students with the soft skills necessary to identify troubled students and seek help.Loudoun County’s exponential growth has burdened the educational system. Classrooms are crowded. Some teachers do not have assigned classrooms. LCPS struggles recruiting and retaining teachers especially teachers trained to address the specific needs of our most vulnerable students.
• Student Learning: addressing shortcomings and inconsistencies in SPED and ELL services; perfecting personalized learning across the division; removing distractions so that educators can teach to all students at a pace best suited for their optimal learning.
• Workforce sustainment: continuing to recruit, hire, and retain the best employees in a tightening job market;
• Security: both physical infrastructure and procedural improvements to improve confidence in the safety of our students and staff;
• Communications and Transparency: providing clear, timely, accurate, and trusted communications to the community; getting ahead of social media rumors, misstatements, and blatantly false information.
• Better Communication as a school division.
• Ensuring school safety and security.
•Recruiting and retaining highly qualified educators.
• Making sure all students are making progress in their learning regardless of their starting point as we focus on equity in our schools.
Joe Newcomer:First, school security and safety measures need to be revised, as all students and teachers deserve to learn and work in a safe environment. Second, we need to address existing equity concerns and improve opportunities for all students. Third, let’s work towards or exceed the strategic Initiatives regarding pay, benefits, class sizes, and mental health. Fourth, enhance learning opportunities for all students, including but not limited to: Special Education, Gifted Education, General Education, and Trade Education. Where possible, we need to push all quality learning, not just STEM, into the lower grades to help each student find their strengths.
• Accountability and Transparency: these two things go hand-in-hand to build stakeholder trust in LCPS leadership. Parents should know that their values are respected and their input is encouraged.
• School Safety: In addition to secure buildings and trained first responders, LCPS needs policies/tools that effectively reinforce safe boundaries between staff and students.
• Mental Health: Northern Virginia can be fast-paced, competitive, and stressful, particularly for our high school youth.
• School Zone Boundaries: It’s challenging to accommodate diverse interests and needs in areas of continued residential development or other communities experiencing a rise in the number children.
Brenda Sheridan:Equity. Salaries, and resolving the sag in the salary scale while continuing to increase and keep our salaries competitive.
What are the main priorities you’re seeking to accomplish for your district or local community?
Atoosa Reaser:In order to prioritize needs within my district, I have toured the buildings, met with the principals, attended PTA meetings, and conferred with parents, staff and teachers, at most of the schools in the Algonkian District. Based on these exchanges, my priority is to make sure our principals have what they need for their specific student bodies andfacilities. For example, our district has infrastructure needs that need to be prioritized even if they are not considered critical.I will continue to stay current by maintaining a strong presence with regular in-district opportunities for face-to-face exchanges for all stakeholders.
Melanie Turner:My main priorities are lobbying for competitive core academic programs to push Loudoun Schools as the best schools. By providing strong academics it will provide more opportunities for our students to prepare for the challenges of college and future careers. Additionally, school safety has certainly been raised as an important issue. The complex threats our students face today from violence, substance abuse, suicide, depression and anxiety are not issues we can ignore. I would love to be able to focus on implementing policies that don’t that unfairly burden students, teachers and provide solutions to the challenges we are all facing in our schools.
Eric Hornberger:Now that the Ashburn District finally has sufficient capacity to end the chronic overcrowding that plagued the district for decades, we must now ensure that our schools are the best they can be.We are blessed with very good schools, and they can be even better. By appropriately integrating and refining the use of the school division’s core instructional initiatives of PBL, PL and PBA in all our schools, the education that our students receive should be increasingly engaging, relevant, personalized and comprehensive to move from very good to great. That will be my focus if re-elected.
Harris Mahedavi:Ashburn is not immune from other districts challenges. Schools should be a safe place for our children as they spend almost one third of a day in schools. Students suicides (e.g. at Stone Bridge couple years ago) or the recent issue of Trailside have no place in our society, even one is too many. I am going to work tirelessly in creating an environment that is stress free, stress from unnecessary testing; eradicate bullying, include cyber bullying. I would like to make sure Ashburn schools have proper access to mental health programs and professional staff to help students.
• A Voice for All – Implement a simplified communication system allowing for everyone’s voice to become part of the board’s decision-making process.
• Technology – Ensuring that teachers and students have technology and tools that work and meet their instructional needs. Provide teachers, students and parents with adequate and appropriate technology training.
• Equity and Diversity – Take action by hiring diverse employees, require diversity training, implement a culturally-responsive curriculum to celebrate differences, and provide opportunities where all learners have access to programs.
• Budget Evaluation – Budget analysis to ensure programs have a positive impact and are data driven; unnecessary spending must be cut.
Kenya Savage: My main priorities are coined in #SavageACTS!
• Accountability – Partner with, assess, and adjust school system’s readiness through policy to raise student achievement and opportunity at each elementary, middle, and high school;
•Choice – Empower and educate students and parents with District resources to make smart choices to strengthen student learning;
• Training – Leverage business and industry partner relationships better to promote professional development and educational opportunities for teachers to remain relevant and proficient in their careers; and
• Safety – Overhaul policies and agreements with local county and town government offices to ensure the safety and security of our students remains the priority.
Julie Sisson:While district candidates will naturally be more locally focused, it is important to have someone who can see the big picture. We have very different issues in the east vs. the west. There are few one-size-fits-all solutions, so we need to be creative and flexible. I want to facilitate and encourage networking and collaboration among our schools to help our teachers see what has worked elsewhere. I also want to institute a way for our stakeholders to provide honest feedback without fear of retaliation. We also need to make improvements in arenas such as substitute teachers and relevant professional development.
Ian Serotkin:Overcrowding is a major issue in the eastern half of Blue Ridge (Brambleton, Willowsford, Aldie areas) and one of my main priorities. I’m also fully committed to protecting our small schools in the west from the constant threat of closure. I first became involved in organizing my community to fight to keep western Loudoun schools open back in 2014, when the school board was considering closing four community schools due to the $38-million underfunding of our schools that year. To close these schools would be to ignore their vital role as the beating hearts of their communities.
Ram Venkatachalam:Enhancing the safety of every school in Blue Ridge District is a high priority. That includes hardening access to every school and putting a School Resource Officer in every elementary school as well and middle and high schools.New school openings and boundary changes is another priority, along with fiscally responsible capital improvements. Blue Ridge has more than doubled in population since the last census, so capital needs will be an ongoing priority.Being respectful for differing approaches to education is another priority, along with the safe transportation, which is a greater challenge in Blue Ridge due to many long bus routes and weather-related road concerns.
Andrew Hoyler:The Broad Run District will likely experience significant changes with the 2020 census- the types of changes that typically result in angst and frustration for many. The District is still growing, and with this growth, we will see many school and school boundary changes (Eagle Ridge is getting many new classrooms added!). Change is inevitable and timely communication about these changes helps to set expectations. With these changes and growth, our district needs someone who will prioritize constant communication and will provide timely updates. I am already demonstrating my commitment to ongoing and unfiltered communication on my campaign Facebook page.
•Lead the county in successful programs by discovering current LCPS successes and expand them in Broad Run schools.
• Increase equity so all students are able to work up to and beyond their capabilities
• Improve communications within the Broad Run community. Use technology efficiently and effectively within my district.
• Provide a safer environment for learning. As a follow up, check out each school in my district to assess their current status and set priorities.
I will focus on the schools in my district by visiting them often, attending staff meetings, PTA meetings and school events.
Jenna Alexander:I want us to move beyond threatening school communities with closure every few months and instead put that energy into identifying systemic operational cost savings. Building facilities are not neutral, we need to renovate the oldest and most deteriorated schools now instead of waiting until 2030, as currently planned. Bus transportation routes and driver compensation need to be revamped so students have shorter commutes without long walks down gravel roads. Families across the Catoctin District have also expressed strong support for bringing more local foods into the school cafeterias and increasing career technical education opportunities.
John Beatty:I live in the rural part of Catoctin, and I will work to support our rural small schools; treasures loved by students, parents, and teachers. I will work to provide the necessary repairs and in place upgrades they need in order to mitigate buying bonds for distant buildings. I also want to improve the bus transportation system. My goal is to maintain a balance between efficiency, safety and quality of life for families.
Zerell Johnson-Welch: I will be seeking to ensure that our district utilizes every resource available, thwarting potential threats in our schools, and cultivating a school community that understand the need to connect and support social and emotional wellness.I plan to approve a budget that addresses the equitable needs of the various student populations. I will ensure our annual funding plan supports the reinvestment and modernization of all schools, especially those in my Catoctin District.
Jeff Morse: My district suffers from fluctuating school boundaries, and overcrowded classes due to high growth and slow construction. My goal is to ensure Dulles District students and teachers find relief from overcrowded classes and schools, and return to class sizes commensurate with the rest of the county.
Beth Barts:With new schools being opened each year including recently the Academies of Loudoun, I often feel that existing schools do not get the resources needed to provide an equitable learning environment. I feel there is a real potential for encouraging companies and businesses who are moving into Leesburg or right outside our town boundaries to work with the town schools to build partnerships to assist with this. I would like to develop a stronger relationship with the Leesburg Town Council as a first step towards this goal.
•Partnering with local businesses to help our disadvantaged families.
• Updating our older schools in Leesburg from both an infrastructure and security perspective.
• Expanding Career and Technical Education and STEM Education at our high schools and pushing it down to the elementary and middle schools.
• Helping families save on college costs by expanding Dual Enrollment courses and keeping them free.
• Supporting small schools for parents who have children who thrive in a smaller school environment or just need an alternative environment.
• Addressing the increasing levels of anxiety and depression we are seeing in our students.
• Maintain high academic standards for every school within an exceptional learning environment.
• Provide a supportive and rewarding work environment for LCPS staff.
• Inform and empower parents so that their voices and choices are incorporated throughout policy creation and implementation.
• Fiscal efficiency and transparency as a responsible steward of taxpayer funds.
Brenda Sheridan:The Sterling District is unique as I represent all eight Title 1 schools in LCPS.Ensuring the schools in my district continue to benefit from differentiated staffing and allotments is a top priority.Every LCPS student should have the save opportunities regardless of zip code.
Why should voters choose you at the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 5?
Atoosa Reaser:With my background in education, as a lawyer, a community leader, and PTA parent, I am already advocating for Loudoun families. I have continuously worked hard over the nine months since I declared my candidacy to become even more qualified and familiar with current board member experiences, the Superintendent and his cabinet, principals, PTAs, and constituent concerns.I ask for your support to continue doing so as your School Board representative in the Algonkian District!
Melanie Turner:If elected, I will push for fiscally responsible and practical options for recruiting and retaining talented educators and implementing competitive academic programs. As a board member, I will advocate to take the well-being of our students seriously and be open and responsive to community members, and further push for ways to improve our Loudoun schools.
Eric Hornberger:As a parent, community activist and civic leader, I joined the board with demonstrated ability to work for positive change. That has increased significantly in breadth and depth as a member of the School Board over the last eight years. It is one thing to recognize a problem or challenge. It is another to be able to work diligently to come up with the solutions needed to address it and effectively collaborate with others to make them happen. It also takes dedication to pursue a vision. That is exactly what I have done and will continue to do if re-elected.
Harris Mahedavi:We have had the same visionless policy and decision-making process in LCPS for over 8 years, the progress has been real slow and not in line with the changing diverse Loudoun population. As an elected official, I would bring in fresh perspective to create progressive and forward-looking policies that help improve the quality of education, elevate our children’s learning experience and keeps them safe. I will work to make myself available to my constituents through town halls, and other channels; to listen to them and represent them well, and bring smart change to LCPS.
Denise Corbo:As the 2018 Loudoun County Teacher of the Year, founder/president of a national nonprofit and a history of favorably impacting educational practices county-wide, no other candidate has the same experience or expertise. Since 1992, I have worked in 11 LC schools, designed a lesson-plan template to close the gifted, minority identification disparity, introduced the first Loudoun County elementary electronic report card, and helped create and implement the current LCPS mentor program.Many candidates speak to the issues; however, no one has the level of education, business experience, and history of positively impacting the LCPS school division, students and families that I offer.
Kenya Savage: Voters should choose me because I get it! I’m your advocate. Advocating for our children, our teachers, and our schools. I’m like you, foot stomping when things aren’t going well. I will listen all the time, not when it’s convenient or popular. I will keep our students the priority, lead with integrity and ethics all the time, advocate for a greater district, and build relationships with government leaders to ensure LCPS is incorporated as a priority in larger county wide growth initiatives. If we have #SavageACTS, we have the tenants to grow our District writ large for a greater Loudoun.
Julie Sisson: After 15 years of service to our students and staff, I have a deep understanding of our school system. I’ve been involved in nearly every capacity—from PALS tutor to PTA president, from Fine Arts advocate to Volunteer of the Year. In addition, being a CPA sets me apart. I know what questions to ask and when I’m not being answered. Every voter—whether they have children in LCPS or not—is affected by the quality and cost of our schools. Lastly, I’ve built strong relationships across Loudoun because I’m transparent, accountable, and responsive to the concerns of our citizens.
Ian Serotkin:Our kids need someone who will fight for them. I have advocated for changes in our schools, and I’ve won—both in getting laws passed in Richmond and school policies changed here in Loudoun. As a result of my efforts as a leader of the More Recess for Virginians advocacy group, Virginia passed a new state law last year that allows local school districts more flexibility in providing recess. Then, I worked with the Loudoun school board to pass a new recess policy in June 2018 that more than doubled the amount of recess time students receive in elementary school.
Ram Venkatachalam:I have a proven record of listening to all stakeholders, working hard and always doing what’s best for our communities. As a resident elected VP and director of the Brambleton HOA, I served as a community leader in one of Loudoun’s largest and fastest growing population centers. I’ve served on other local bodies with a consistent approach to public service—i.e., listening, learning, seeking consensus to effectuate positive change, then working diligently to get the job done. I’ve also spent more than one year preparing for this race by learning more about the critical issues, challenges and opportunities facing Loudoun and by regularly meeting with all stakeholders.
Andrew Hoyler:Thanks to my 12 years in LCPS, I have first-hand experience of what our students go through but are too afraid to address with the adults in their lives. As such, I am comfortable addressing uncomfortable issues on behalf of our students and staff. As a recent graduate, I am aware of the areas where LCPS can improve in order to better prepare its graduates for life. Finally, as a pilot, I understand how to navigate competing priorities, overcome adversity, and to value the needs of the many who put their trust in me on a day to day basis.
Leslee King:Vote for experience. I was a grade school teacher and a Systems Integration Engineer. I created and taught technology classes, and mentored many techs sharing my in-depth knowledge of integrating and troubleshooting large network systems.I am a single parent of three children who graduated from Fairfax County Schools. My knowledge of budgeting and finance began with my Economics minor. I have years of experience performing assessments with successful results and I will use this experience to navigate the many areas which involve LCPS. I will bring common sense to the school board.
Jenna Alexander:I have been a tireless advocate for our students and schools, first serving as Hamilton PTA President through multiple closure threats and more recently, as Director of the Hunt District PTA, which I’ve transformed into a respected voice of the parent/volunteer community. I will bring that same passion, collaborative work style, attention to detail and drive for innovation to the School Board. I will ensure you are educated on the issues, that LCPS meets the needs of every learner, that policies are respectful of the beliefs of every family and our tax dollars are used in a fiscally responsible manner.
John Beatty:Great leaders come from the front lines, making tough decisions, and facing the results of those decisions. I believe I’ve been on the fore front of all aspects important to education, as a parent, a teacher, and an administrator. My experience and educational background make me uniquely qualified to make sure technology is put in its proper place in education and society at large. I’ll provide leadership on the board to make sure that our children will finish school with the grounding and guidance needed to navigate a complex, modern world.
Zerell Johnson-Welch: I came from a family where education was not optional, hard work was expected and community service was practiced. I am a parent first. I understand the value of parental collaboration and engagement. And more importantly understand the potential of each can exceed expectations when they feel valued, safe and welcomed in their classroom. I bring a commitment of outreach and engagement, and traditional hard work. I would be honored to have the opportunity to serve my community in this capacity, advocating for your child’s success.
Jeff Morse:Education in Loudoun is improving. Superintendent Williams and his staff (including the new Director of Special Education, the Equity Director, and the Communications Director) are believers in continuous improvement, with which I am completely supportive. I prefer to make decisions based on accurate and complete data (when possible). I will apply policy changes and resources to solve real issues. My commitment is not to a segment of our student or teacher populations, but to the entire LPCS community. I hope to continue that commitment with new board members as we forge a new leadership for public education.
Beth Barts:I have invested significant time and energy into our community as a volunteer, an engaged parent and an education advocate on issues that impacted programs and resources in our local schools. I will bring that same to attention to detail and commitment when representing the Leesburg district on the School Board. This is a nonpartisan seat that needs representatives who can work together as a collective group to make sure LCPS is providing a quality education for all students and I hope to fill that role.
Joe Newcomer:Because they are interested in doing what is right for the Leesburg district and entire school system. I look ahead and plan for the long term, and I’m a lifelong learner. I want to do what is right for the district, not what is most expedient. I am a pragmatist with real world experiences, but I also have vision for improving LCPS. I’ve built strong relationships with other school board candidates, current school board members, the Leesburg Town Council, and the Board of Supervisors: I know how to cooperate with and appreciate others. It’s how to get good work done.
Mike Neely:Through my years in human resources and acquisition, and charitable work as an active member of the Knights of Columbus (a fraternal Christian charity), I have gained valuable experience working with people from diverse backgrounds and with varied needs.I offer a new perspective for Sterling District that seeks to empower parents and taxpayers, respect their diversity of values, and work as a team with the other school board members to promote academic success and employee satisfaction, to deliver accountable and transparent leadership, and to demand the highest integrity of LCPS staff. Even one arrest is too many.
Brenda Sheridan:I have lived in Sterling for 21 years. My children attended Forest Grove, Sterling Middle, and graduated from Park View. My family has experienced how special the schools in my district are, and I’m here to advocate for the families that are currently enrolled and those who are coming in the future. I have spent my time over the last 16 years as a volunteer, substitute teacher, and as an advocate for our community. I am committed to ensuring the students in our schools have a high-quality education.
Analysis: Election to Bring New Dynamic to School Board(add link to analysis article)
Question for Current Members:What are your top accomplishments during your current term, and why does your experience matter?
Eric Hornberger (Ashburn):I am most pleased with our success in dramatically expanding advanced STEM and CTE opportunities through the Academies of Loudoun, making LCPS the leader in offering dual enrollment within the state, expanding secondary school mental health supports, reforming our elementary school math and gifted education curriculum, achieving full-day kindergarten, improving the competitiveness of compensation for our teachers, reducing average class sizes, launching core instructional initiatives that should propel greater student engagement and success, and multiple safe-routes-to-school projects in the Ashburn District to improve student safety. I have been personally involved in each and worked collaboratively to make them happen.
Jeff Morse (Dulles), Chair:I am most proud of the quality workforce that LCPS enjoys. Sustaining a superior workforce while experiencing rapid growth is a formidable challenge. Next, the Academies of Loudoun has already begun to rapidly expand opportunities for gifted education and continuing technical education. And finally, being selected chairman by my peers for the last three years has been a great honor, albeit with some “cat herding” moments… From the dais, I saw nine very different perspectives with a strong sense of commitment to our mission: enabling all students to make meaningful contributions to the world.
Brenda Sheridan (Sterling), Vice Chair:The accomplishments I’m most proud of are universal full-day kindergarten, differentiated allotments for Title 1 schools, and full-time parent liaisons in Title 1 schools. My experience matters because I haven’t just spent my time as an elected official representing the Sterling District at meetings. I have spent my time in our schools in various leadership positions, volunteering and working beside teachers as a substitute. I get it.