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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fairfax County Democrats endorse school board candidates

Ilryong Moon
The Fairfax County Democratic Committee (FCDC) voted to endorse three candidates for at-large positions on the Fairfax County School Board—Ilryong Moon, Charisse Espy Glassman, and Ted Velkoff—but there was a bit of controversy over the process. More on that later.

The six candidates who were vying for the endorsement, which also included Maria Allen, Greg Brandon, and Ryan McElveen, gave short speeches and answered questions from the audience.

Moon, an incumbent, said that because half of the current school board members are not running for re-election, it’s important to have someone on the board with experience.

When asked how he would make tough budget decisions, Moon said budget cuts should target the administration, rather than schools. When asked how he would improve academic achievement of disadvantaged and minority students, he proposed providing more individualized instruction tailored to each student’s needs.

Espy Glassman said her main issues are the need to close the achievement gap, reduce class sizes, and end the zero tolerance approach to student discipline. She told the audience that FCPS Superintendent Jack Dale’s proposals to revise the discipline policy “doesn’t go far enough,” adding it doesn’t require parent notification and doesn’t address prevention. Her plan for reducing the achievement gap calls for investing more in children in prekindergarten through grade 3.

Velkoff supports increased compensation for teachers and wants to ensure teachers “have the support they need to resist teaching to the test.” When asked how he would improve the academic achievement of disadvantaged and minority students, he suggested setting aside an hour a day for remedial help, a strategy that worked at Chantilly High School when he was the school’s PTSA president.

After the six candidates spoke, the delegates voted for their top three choices. Under previously approved rules, anyone who received a majority of votes would receive the committee’s endorsement. If, necessary, another ballot would be distributed.

Only one candidate, Moon, received a majority under the first balloting and four candidates—Brandon, Espy Glassman, McElveen, and Velkoff—received enough votes to be considered for the second ballot. After that vote, none of them received a majority.

At that point, a motion was made calling for the FCDC to endorse the two highest vote-getters, which were Espy Glassman and Velkoff.

Several people objected, noting that it would be undemocratic to depart from the previously agreed-upon procedure and would be unfair to the people who had already left the meeting. Those who opposed changing the endorsement process at the last minute proposed revisiting the endorsement vote at the committee’s next meeting in July. Several people suggested it might have been fairer if the vote to accept the two people with the most votes had been conducted before it was announced who they were.
Charisse Espy Glassman
In any event, a vote was taken, and by a show of hands, the committee agreed to accept the two candidates who had the most votes in the second balloting.
The candidates who were not endorsed had previously agreed to drop out of the race and support the Democratic candidates.

The FCDC also endorsed the school board candidates that had been endorsed by Democratic committees of the county districts, including Sandy Evans, who represents the Mason District on the school board, and Megan McLaughlin, who is running for the Braddock District seat held by Tessie Wilson, who is not running for re-election.

The Fairfax County Republican Committee is slated to select candidates to endorse in July.

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