Our 2011 School Board Candidates

Thanks to strong Democratic leadership, Fairfax County public schools are consistently ranked among the best in the United States with high test scores and graduation rates.  Our high performing school system is one of the main reasons five Fortune 500 companies have moved to Fairfax County in the past few years.  This election year is very important to make sure our schools continue to thrive.  Every voter in Fairfax County can vote for three ‘At-Large’ candidates and one candidate in your Supervisor District.  Please read and learn more about our great candidates for the Fairfax County School Board.  The Fairfax County Democratic Committee has endorsed the following eleven candidates: (click on a photo below to jump to that candidate)


Janie Strauss – Dranesville (Current Chair)

Fairfax County Public Schools are and will remain among the best in the country.  My eighteen year school board record shows that I know how to keep the focus on the classroom and how to fight for our students.

I have brought full-day kindergarten to all Dranesville schools.  I helped lead our schools through the recession. Tough decisions were made. But the programs that make Fairfax remain intact. Core instruction is strong and the arts, foreign language, and athletics were not cut. Herndon schools received additional support through the Priority Schools Initiative. Student achievement is at an all time high. Our teachers and staff will get a raise after two years of a pay freeze.  Central offices have been reorganized and reduced to the lowest level in 10 years. To ensure continued efficiency, the School Board Audit Committee has been expanded.

Dranesville schools have also received considerable capital dollars. Renovations for Langley, Haycock, and Forestville have been accelerated. Renovations are underway at Longfellow and Marshall; are about to begin at Thomas Jefferson; and have been completed at Franklin Sherman, and Great Falls. Common-sense changes have been made to the student discipline process.

My goals for next year are to reduce class size, lessen the overemphasis on high-stakes tests, maintain the focus on high-level thinking skills, support STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), help reshape the stifling No Child Left Behind requirements, provide the mix of honors, advanced placement and international baccalaureate classes high school students want, expand online learning and support childhood wellness initiatives on diet, exercise, and sleep.

Our schools cannot stand still. We are preparing our children for life and work in a global environment. Success is no longer defined by what you know, but rather by what you can do with what you know. Our students need tomorrow’s classrooms today. I ask for your vote so I can lead our schools forward.

 


Ilryong Moon – At Large (Current Vice Chair)

The 12 years I have served on the Fairfax County School Board have been a blessing.  This school system is one of the country’s finest, and yet somehow year after year with good and sensible stewardship it continues to improve.

The school board election this year is critical because half of the 12 incumbent board members have chosen not to run for re-election.  In November, it will be vital to elect the right people to continue providing a first-class education to our more than 177,000 students.  Our country’s future and the quality of our lives depend upon the success of our students.

I am a former ESL student, an immigrant, an attorney, a small business owner, the father of two Fairfax County public school graduates, and the spouse of a public school teacher. This diversity has always made my perspective a valuable asset to the school board. With so many board members not returning, my learning over these past 12 years will help me offer more to the board than ever before.

I am proud of the accomplishments that I have helped our schools make. Academic achievement has been increasing every year – for everyone, not just for high-achievers.  The minority achievement gap has been narrowing.  We have expanded full-day kindergarten countywide.  Businesses continue moving into our county largely because of the school system.

Moreover, we have been able to accomplish all this in spite of the decrease in the per-pupil spending over the last several years due to the tough budget situation. Insisting on efficiency, we directed as much money to the classroom as possible—and it has paid off.

Over the next four years, many difficult decisions will need to be made. I need your help to ensure that experienced, responsible and progressive leadership remains on the board.  Please vote for me on November 8.

 


Ryan McElveen – At Large

I am an experienced student advocate, a graduate and former employee of Fairfax County Public Schools, and the son of a county teacher. I began my advocacy on behalf of students at Marshall High School fighting to improve outdated school facilities. That experience inspired me to improve the educational trajectory of future generations by spearheading campaigns throughout Virginia promoting curriculum internationalization, classroom diversity, and academic freedom.

My experience spans the public- and private sectors, nongovernmental organizations, and academia. I currently work in the International Operations and Policy office of the Boeing Company and serve as a Mandarin Chinese tutor to middle- and high-school students. I’ve worked at Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute, the Clinton Foundation, and the Clinton Global Initiative, as well as for Sen. Carl Levin on the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. I have also served as assistant director of the Chinese language program at the University of Virginia Center in Shanghai, China, and worked on educational programming initiatives for the China Institute in America.

I will fight to correct the inequities in our schools. We must increase teacher compensation in order to continue attracting the best teachers in the country. We must eliminate athletic fees to stop punishing the families of our most active students. We must reform our discipline system to be transparent and incorporate due process. And we must hire an independent auditor to eliminate redundancies and save taxpayer dollars.

We need a school board made up of individuals who know what skills our students need to succeed in the 21st century. As a speaker of Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Korean, I understand the work it takes to acquire those language skills. I may be the youngest candidate in the School Board at-large race, but I am in-tune with the needs of our students and have the energy, experience and perspective to restore our county’s trailblazing spirit.

 


Ted Velkoff – At Large

I ask for your vote Nov. 8 for an at-large seat on the school board.  My wife Patricia and I moved to Fairfax County to raise our family almost 20 years ago.  We knew then what remains true today: excellent schools strengthen our community and make Fairfax County a great place to live.  Whether you are a parent, grandparent, homeowner, teacher, student, or member of the business community, I want to represent you as an at-large member of the Fairfax County School Board.

As a school board member, I will work to ensure that Fairfax County Public Schools:

  • Remain among the best schools in the country,
  • Graduate students with essential skills such as critical thinking, communication, and creativity,
  • Provide students opportunities to participate in the arts, athletics, and other extracurricular activities,
  • Give teachers the support they need to resist teaching to the test, and
  • Reduce class size and increase compensation for our teachers.

More than 10 years of involvement with our schools has convinced me that the school board needs strong leadership.  I am committed to ensuring that all of our children receive the same quality education that my daughters received.  I will build positive, constructive relationships with parents, teachers, citizens, other school board members and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, just as I have done for years as PTA president and treasurer at my daughters’ schools.  I will solve problems with deliberation and creativity, just as I have done working as a software engineer for almost 25 years.

I promise to be a thoughtful and independent voice to ensure our schools continue to be the center point of our community, the economic driver of our county, and most importantly the foundation for life-long success of our students.

 


Megan McLaughlin – Braddock

I am seeking election to the Braddock District School Board position because of my passion for public education. Since moving to Braddock District in 2000, I have worked tirelessly as an education advocate on important issues impacting our students, teachers, and community. In addition, my professional and personal background has given me a broad array of experience in the field of education. As a former Georgetown University admissions officer, I understand the need for strong curriculum offerings and academic competitiveness.  As a social worker, I understand the importance of a healthy learning environment to enhance student success.  As the daughter of a public school teacher, I recognize the value of competitive compensation and manageable workloads for our teachers. And as a parent of three sons currently in the school system, I understand the ever-increasing challenges presented by No Child Left Behind and the current economic climate.

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is a nationally recognized school system, with an annual operating budget of more than $2.2 billion dollars and an increasingly diverse 177,000+ student population. It requires effective and responsive leadership.  In recent years I have served in numerous leadership roles focused on strengthening our schools including:  PTA president, president and co-founder of FAIRGRADE (which successfully improved FCPS grading policies that impact college admissions/scholarships), chairman and co-founder of Fairfax Education Coalition (parent, teacher, and community advocates), co-chair of the Woodson Bus Depot, RENEW (Renovate Woodson), 2003 Braddock District School Bond Representative, and special advisor to Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform (school discipline reform).

As a full-time school board member, I will work to narrow the student achievement gap, ensure competitive compensation for teachers, improve FCPS’ discipline policies, restore high school honors courses in English and Social Studies, provide healthy school start times that sustain after-school activities and athletics, reduce class size, and improve accessibility to special education services.  I will also advocate for better accountability, transparency, and community engagement in FCPS decision making in order to strengthen our public schools. For these reasons, I will greatly appreciate your support and your vote on November 8.


 


Pat Hynes – Hunter Mill

I am running for Fairfax County School Board to represent the Hunter Mill District.  Stu Gibson is retiring after 16 years as our school board representative.

I am the mother of two graduates of James Madison High School in Vienna, a former lawyer, and currently a teacher at Forest Edge Elementary School in Reston.  I have served as PTA president and was a founding member of the Vienna Teen Center Foundation.  If elected, I will be the only school board member with recent classroom experience, an important perspective at the policy table.

We have an excellent school system, but we have our challenges.  The new school board will spend the next four years recovering from the past several years of budget cuts, growing enrollments, overcrowded classrooms, increasing pressure to teach to standardized tests, and lost income for our employees.

Advocating for the school system’s $2.2 billion budget is always a challenge, especially in a tough economy.  I believe the next school board should hire an independent auditor, who would report directly to the school board, to help assure the community that our education dollars are allocated efficiently where they are most needed.

The current school board has begun an important discussion with the community about reinvigorating classroom instruction to focus on 21st century skills.  I am excited about participating in building a rich, project-based curriculum that will develop skills in collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity.  We must bring classroom teachers and students into that discussion.

I also would like to see the next school board take the lead in addressing our kindergarten readiness gap.  We know that early education is critical to success in school.  We have to meet children where they are – in day care or at home – and enrich those environments where needed.

 


Tammy Derenak Kaufax – Lee

You deserve a dedicated advocate to keep our schools strong so that our community stays strong.  I am asking for your vote to be that advocate on the Fairfax County School Board.  I have lived in Lee District for 21 years with my husband Alan and our two children, who both attend Fairfax County public schools. I am a graduate of Penn State University with nearly 20 years of experience as a marketing professional and business owner. Through my work experience and volunteer service as an activist for children’s causes and educational issues, I have a proven track record on managing budgets, creative problem solving, and consensus building.  I will use my experience to keep our schools among the finest in the nation.

I believe that the goal of our schools should be to make certain that all of our children gain the knowledge and skills they need to reach their fullest potential that is to be prepared to compete in today’s global economy and ready to pursue their passions upon graduation. I will work to ensure that this is a reality for all children in our county.

If elected I will strive to accomplish the following objectives: achieving equity of program offerings; recruiting and retaining the best teachers and providing competitive compensation; increasing parental involvement in the education process; establishing common sense discipline reform; building collaborative trust between communities and county officials; reducing the achievement gap and increasing HS graduation rates; reducing class sizes; improving literacy skills and ensuring school readiness among our youngest children; and working to reform high stakes testing.

I am committed to these objectives and will work tirelessly to be part of the solution for better, stronger schools – one in which children, teachers, and entire communities work together for a successful future.

 


Sandy Evans – Mason

I have been honored to serve as the school board member for Mason District for the last year and a half. During this time, I have been blessed to work with so many active parents, teachers, and other community members on meeting the unique needs of Mason District’s students and schools.

We have come through some tough times together, facing funding cuts even as our number of students climbed. We have worked together to find solutions for overcrowding at many schools, and celebrated the construction of an elementary school at the Lacey Center site.

But more needs to be done. I will continue to be a much-needed activist voice on the board. We must make sure our dollars are spent wisely. We must be sure every child is getting the level of instruction he or she needs and is achieving at his or her highest potential. We must work with our teachers’ organizations on adequate compensation as well as making sure teachers have time to focus on the classroom. We must have true reform of student discipline to better involve our parents and keep kids who make mistakes from falling into an academic and emotional hole. We must prepare our students for a rapidly changing 21st century. We must make sure that our school environment is healthy for our students, from providing enough recess time for our little ones to establishing healthy school schedules for our teens.

My background prepared me well for this job. As a professional journalist for two decades, I know how to get answers to the right questions. As a long-time Mason District resident, I know my community. As a mom and active public school parent, I know our schools. As an advocate, I know the issues and how to address them.

For me, being on the school board is a full-time commitment, and I hope to continue to serve you. I ask for your support and help getting re-elected on Nov. 8.

 


Dan Storck – Mt. Vernon

It has been my honor to represent you and the Mount Vernon District on the Fairfax County School Board since 2003.  I have also served as chairman of the school board from 2007 to 2009, chaired its first audit committee and initiated the Board of Supervisors-School Board “Smart Savings” Task Force, saving $1 million.

I have been a local activist, community leader, and business executive for more than 20 years serving on numerous county and district committees and boards including as president of West Potomac High School PTSA, president of Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services, coach for the Fort Hunt Youth Athletic Association for 17 years, and Abraham Lincoln presenter in our schools and community.  I am married to a Mt. Vernon District school educator, parent of three former Fairfax County public school students, founder and president of two successful local businesses, and have an MBA degree.

My first two terms have resulted in major accomplishments for students and residents including:

  • Full-day kindergarten for all,
  • Increased student achievement learning options with more advanced academic courses and lead efforts that resulted in huge increases in career-technical education certifications,
  • Reduced central administration and increased accountability,
  • Keeping our children safe while advocating for greater parent participation and more appropriate discipline, and
  • Building new schools at South County Secondary, Laurel Hill Elementary, and leading the efforts resulting in a new South County middle school opening in 2012.

My focus for the next four years is keep our schools the best in the world by securing the support and funding needed for our students and staff.  My priorities include increasing parent participation and student achievement, reducing achievement gaps, ensuring that honors and technical education classes are available to all, and starting high school classes at a later hour.

 


Kathy Smith – Sully

As the Sully District Representative to the Fairfax County School Board since March 2002, I have focused on using our resources strategically to ensure that we are able to meet the needs of our diverse student population. My four children attended Poplar Tree Elementary School and Rocky Run Middle School and are graduates of Chantilly High School. Through my involvement in the PTA at each of these schools I was able to learn about the school system and grow my passion for parent involvement in our schools.

It is vital to provide not only a strong academic program, but also a rich program in the arts and extracurricular activities.  My priorities are ensuring that teachers are provided the tools they need to be successful, continuing our path of closing the achievement gap, and communicating with the community about our schools so that they are engaged in the decisions that are made.  These challenging fiscal times require experience with setting priorities and making difficult decisions.  In the face of increasing enrollment and declining revenues, student achievement has been increased, gaps have been closed, and we have been able to implement salary increases for our employees.  My goal is to ensure that our students have the skills they need to be engaged, productive citizens when they graduate.

I currently serve as the chairman of the School Board Governance Committee.  Previously, I served three terms as school board chair and two terms as vice chair. I am a former PTA/PTSA president at Poplar Tree Elementary School, Rocky Run Middle School, and Chantilly High School. My background is in education: I have a BA from Muhlenberg College in Sociology and Elementary Education and was an elementary school teacher for seven years.

 


John Wittman – Springfield

I am a 23-year resident of the Springfield District with 35 years of business and professional procurement experience.  Giving back to the community is important to me.  Currently vice chairman, I serve on the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Career and Technical Education Advisory Committee (5+ years) and previously served on the Business and Community Advisory Council (2009-10).  I am also a member of the board of directors at Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia.  I own a small business that allows me to commit to a schedule of working for the Springfield voters, parents, and students.  My own education includes an MBA from Johns Hopkins and an engineering degree from Michigan State University.  My wife of 42 years is a FCPS special education instructional assistant, and my two children were educated in our public schools.

I am qualified for this office because of my long-term experience with the processes of financial and procurement management, risk assessment, and contingency planning.  I look to build trust and consensus, and handle “hot button” issues in a professional manner.   When the school administration provides information or makes decisions, I believe in checking the facts and demanding transparent reviews of the issues.  I encourage active community involvement and insist that the FCPS administration be even more accountable to the school board.

I want students to succeed in reaching personal goals as they advance through our schools.  With limited funding, challenges rest with us, the voters and taxpayers of Fairfax County, to ensure that our students absolutely have the opportunities and resources they need.  Unless the school board and FCPS administration are vigilant, we risk eroding our status as a world-class school system, year by year.  We must:

  • Seek lower student-to-teacher classroom ratios to increase student achievement,
  • Enact common sense policies and protocols for curriculum, test taking, and good citizenship,
  • Identify innovative classroom programs and promote strategic local partnerships, and
  • Retain and expand a talented, motivated and committed teaching staff.

I promise common-sense decision-making and ask for your vote on November 8.